It’s Antagonist April, and all this month, I’ll be doing a deep dive into those characters that give our heroes and main characters opposition to their goals. This week, I’ll provide three days of writing exercises to explore antagonists further.
Exercise #1 – Your Antagonist’s Backstory
- Who is your antagonist?
- What were they doing before your story began?
- What major life events led them to the point where they enter your story as the primary Opposition to your protagonist?
Write a short biography or autobiography that gives you an idea of who this person is and what caused them to be antagonistic to those they encounter. You can write it in paragraph form or bullet points, and it is for you to reference and have in mind as you write your story.
It’s important to have an idea of who this character is so they have a past, are dimensional, and feel real within the story’s context. You don’t want to create a one-dimensional by-the-number villain. You want them to have successes, failures, fears, likes, dislikes, etc., as they enter your story’s world.
Exercise #2 – What’s Their Motivation?
- What drives your antagonist?
- What makes them want to win?
- What has motivated them in the past?
- What do they fear most when it comes to losing against your protagonist in the present?
- If they do win against your protagonist, what is their next move in life?
What could motivate your character to oppose what your hero has set out to accomplish? Remember, the antagonist doesn’t have to be a Bond-level villain. It could be a parent, a friend, or the main character’s boss. Their motivation to prevent the hero from achieving their goal could be selfless and positive in their eyes.
Having a strong motivation for your antagonist can help the reader or viewer connect, empathize, sympathize, and relate to your antagonist on some level. Even if they don’t 100% agree with their tactics to stop the protagonist, having the audience understand the adversary’s POV is important.
Exercise #3 – The Arc of Your Antagonist
Last week, we looked in detail at the arcs of three antagonists in different films. We explored how these characters entered the story and their final fate by the story’s end.
This exercise is much more intensive than the previous two since you will explore your antagonist’s role as the opposing force to your hero throughout your story.
If you are developing an outline for your manuscript or screenplay, take some time to jot down a basic arc for your villain. Or, if you are just in the early phases of creating a story, you can brainstorm these concepts as well:
- How does the antagonist enter the storyline?
- What is their initial relationship to the main character and their goal?
- At what points does the antagonist pop up to cause trouble or create roadblocks for the hero?
- What is their overall motivation for doing this? Are there moments when they appear to have won?
- How does the antagonist’s arc conclude?
- What happens during the final showdown between protagonist and antagonist?
- Is the antagonist defeated?
- Do they come to an understanding?
As your story evolves, these aspects of your antagonist and their role will also evolve. It’s important, however, to have the basics down to reference when needed so you at least have a strong starting point once you dive into the drafting phase.
There’s more to come! Antagonist April continues on Friday. See you then!