Antagonist April: Links & References

Below, you will find links for the 12 blog posts from Antagonist April:

Week #1

Antagonist April: Week #1 – What is an Antagonist? – Part One

Antagonist April: Week #1 – What is an Antagonist? – Part Two

Antagonist April: Week #1 – What is an Antagonist? – Part Three

Week #2

Antagonist April: Week #2 – Developing An Antagonist – Part One

Antagonist April: Week #2 – Developing An Antagonist – Part Two

Antagonist April: Week #2 – Developing An Antagonist – Part Three

Week #3

Antagonist April: Week #3 – Antagonist Case Study #1, Veronica Corningstone (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy)

Antagonist April: Week #3 – Antagonist Case Study #2, Paul Dreyfus (Dante’s Peak)

Antagonist April: Week #3 – Antagonist Case Study #3, Colm Doherty (The Banshees of Inisherin)

Week #4

Antagonist April: Week #4 – Antagonist Writing Exercise: Do Your Own Case Study

Antagonist April: Week #4 – Antagonist Writing Exercises, Part One

Antagonist April: Week #4 – Antagonist Writing Exercises, Part Two

In several posts, I referenced a variety of sources when discussing antagonists. Below is a list of those books:

  • Abrams, M.H. A Glossary of Literary Terms.  Harcourt Brace, 1999.
  • Dancyger, Ken & Jeff Rush. Alternative Scriptwriting. Focal Press, 2007.
  • Edson, Eric. The Story Solution. Michael Wiese Productions, 2011.
  • Egri, Lajos. The Art of Dramatic Writing. Simon & Schuster, 2004.
  • McKee, Robert. Story. Harper Collins, 1997.
  • Truby, John. The Anatomy of Story. Faber and Faber, 2007.
  • Vogler, Christopher. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Michael Wiese Productions, 1998.

I hope you enjoyed this adventure into antagonists as much as I did. Happy Writing, and I’ll see you in June!

Antagonist April: Thank You

Thank you for joining me this past month as we did a deep dive into story antagonists, their functions, and how to make them more effective in your story.

I enjoyed researching, writing, editing, and posting these articles over the past month.  Wednesday’s post will include direct links to all 12 articles and a list of all the books used in my research.

I will be taking the next month off to finish my current WIP and visit family.  I will see you in June!

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next month!

Antagonist April: Week #4 – Antagonist Writing Exercises, Part Two

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.

Let’s continue!

Exercise #4 – Elevating Your Antagonist

  • What makes your antagonist unique?
  • Do they have any hobbies?
  • Do they collect anything interesting?
  • Do they like music?  What kind?
  • Do they have any quirks that make them more relatable to an audience?
  • What do they do for fun?
  • When they’re not being antagonistic, what do they do in their private time alone from the world?

Humanizing your antagonist is a great way to make them relatable and real to your audience.  While we explored some of these items in the previous post’s exercises, here’s your opportunity to examine and find aspects of this important character that bring them out of the realm of cliché and sculpt them into a flesh-and-blood individual.

While you may not utilize everything you think of, these elements can be dropped in from time to time in your story to give the audience a little insight into who this person is when they’re not being oppositional.

Exercise #5 – Your Antagonist’s Opposition

  • Who is your antagonist opposing?
  • Why are they trying to prevent them from achieving their goal?
  • What is their relationship to the antagonist?
  • Why does the hero feel compelled to fight against the antagonist and win?
  • What would happen if the antagonist won?

While the protagonist of your story is the most important character, the antagonist must be a formidable foe there to try and stop them from reaching their goals.  As you develop your main character, think about ways your antagonist can make their lives miserable throughout the story.

Too many times, new writers are afraid to make their main characters suffer, go through trials and tribulations, and have to work to get what they want.  I used to have this mindset, but it changed when I realized something important about fictional characters: THEY AREN’T REAL!  So go for it!  Make them suffer.  Make them fight back, dig in their heels, face horrible moments of doubt and pain, wanting to quit when things seem to be at their worst.

And who can dish out and inflict all those things on your main character?  Your friend, the antagonist.

These two characters need each other.  The story can lose its impact, conflict, and dramatic effect if no one is present, throwing opposition in their way.  

Depending on the type of story, these oppositional forces can be literal or figurative.  Still, they need to exist on some level for your hero to have something to fight against and through to get to the end.  

And it’s your job to give them an antagonist that enhances the story and helps drive the action forward as events unfold and your hero battles through to the end.

Week #4 Wrap-Up

We’ve covered a lot over the past month, all culminating in this final week of exercises you can use to create a strong, effective, and interesting antagonist for your story.  

As you take the time to create and craft the Opposition, never forget to have fun and enjoy the experience.  If you have fun, your audience will as well.

Happy Writing, and I’ll see you next week!

Antagonist April: Week #4 – Antagonist Writing Exercises, Part One

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.

Let’s continue!

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!

Antagonist April: Week #4 – Antagonist Writing Exercise: Do Your Own Case Study

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 writing exercises to explore antagonists further.

Let’s get started!

Last week, we looked at the antagonists from three different films.  Now, it’s your turn to write your own Case Study.

Pick a movie, any movie.  It can be your favorite film or one at random.  Watch it from beginning to end, just experiencing the film as a whole.  Next, rewatch the film, focusing on the story’s antagonist closely.  

ANTAGONIST’S NAME: Who are they?

RELATIONSHIP TO PROTAGONIST:  How do they know the hero?  Are they a love interest?  A boss?  A friend?  A coworker?  A universal threat?  

THE ANTAGONIST’S ARC: Here’s where the work comes in.  How are you introduced to the antagonist?  Outline their interactions with the protagonist, lines of dialogue, and actions that indicate their opposition.  Does their relationship with the hero change throughout the story?  What is the antagonist’s goal?  Motivation?  Why do they oppose the protagonist?  How does the antagonist’s story end?

THE ANTAGONIST’S FATE:  Where does this oppositional character wind up by the end of the story?  Have they been defeated?  Arrested?  Killed?  Compromised with the hero?  Found common ground or understanding?  Fallen in love with the hero?  Note that here.

COMMENTS:  Any thoughts or revelations about the antagonist and their role in the story can be added here.  This is a place to wrap up your analysis with anything you didn’t see directly in the film.

You can also use this to analyze antagonists in novels, short stories, and plays.  I have included a .docx template below you can use.

Back on Wednesday with another Antagonist-themed writing exercise!  See you then!

Antagonist April: Week #3 – Antagonist Case Study #3, Colm Doherty (The Banshees of Inisherin)

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, we’ll analyze the roles of three antagonists in three films. Our final entry is The Banshees of Inisherin

Let’s continue!

[SPOILER ALERT: Since this is a new film, I will forewarn you that MAJOR plot elements will be discussed]


RELATIONSHIP TO PROTAGONIST: Colm is Pádraic’s best friend and drinking buddy.


  • We first meet Colm as he sits alone in his home; his best friend, Pádraic, comes to get him to go to the pub, and Colm outright ignores him. Despite Pádraic’s pleas through a window, Colm doesn’t respond.
    • This is our first inkling of the conflict between these two characters, especially since it’s made clear that these two have a history together and a daily routine that Colm is suddenly disrupting for no apparent reason.
  • Colm eventually arrives at the pub. When Pádraic arrives and goes to greet him, Colm greets him with, “Sit somewhere else.” Pádraic has no interest in moving, so Colm exits and sits outside.
    • We’re not that far into the story, and our antagonist has already caused quite a disruption to the protagonist’s daily routine. Since an antagonist’s goal is to throw the hero off-balance, Colm has definitely achieved this task.
  • Undeterred, Pádraic follows Colm outside and confronts him about his behavior. Colm tells Pádraic: “I just don’t like you no more.”
    • Now, the protagonist and antagonist are on the same page regarding why they are at odds. Still, Pádraic is not about to let this statement stop him from inquiring further, which helps increase the conflict between the two throughout the story.
  • The next day, Colm is seated on a stone wall with his violin as Pádraic passes him with his livestock. Pádraic – who noticed the previous day was April 1 – asserts that Colm was joking with him the previous day about not liking him anymore. Colm remains silent at the suggestion, and Pádraic interprets the silence as confirmation of his theory.  
  • Later, at the pub, Pádraic attempts to sit down with Colm, which doesn’t go as Pádraic had planned. The two argue about having better things to do than just sitting together at the pub, “wasting fecking time.” Colm shows Pádraic what he’s been doing instead of wasting time: he’s writing a song to play on his violin. After playing some for him, he tells Pádraic: “Tomorrow, I’ll write the second part of it. And the day after, I’ll write the third part of it. And by Wednesday, there’ll be a new tune in the world, which wouldn’t have been there if I’d spent the week listening to your bollocks.”  
    • Colm has given us more of his motivation as an antagonist and his opposition to the protagonist: he wants to do something with meaning and creativity, something he feels his friendship with Pádraic has been preventing him from doing. This only causes further conflict – and Pádraic calling it a “shite tune” doesn’t help, either – between the two since it’s clear they are now on disparate life paths.
  • Colm decides to talk to Pádraic and clarify things further since it’s clear his former friend isn’t comprehending the new situation clearly. After making it clear that he was too harsh the previous day in telling Pádraic he didn’t like him anymore, Colm says, “I just have this tremendous sense of time slippin’ away on me, Pádraic. And I think I need to spend the time I have left thinking and composing. Just trying not to listen to any more of the dull things that you have to say for yourself.” Pádraic makes a case for “good, normal chatting,” to which Colm says: “So, we’ll keep aimlessly chatting and my life’ll keep dwindling. And in 12 years, I’ll die with nothin’ to show for it but the chats I’ve hat with a limited man, is that it?”
    • During this interaction, it becomes quite clear that Colm is making some valid points about life and not wasting it, while Pádraic doesn’t see any problem with how things are.  
    • Even when Colm gives evidence about Pádraic’s aimless chatting – “two hours you spent talking to me about the things you found in your little donkey’s shite that day” – Pádraic is undeterred, saying, “We’ll just chat about somethin’ else then.” [Pádraic’s donkey, Jenny, is an important part of the story and escalates the conflict later in the story]
    • I love this conflict. It’s realistic. It’s relatable. And it’s one where you can connect at some level with both characters and their positions. Pádraic doesn’t want things to change. Colm does, but Pádraic refuses to let go.  
  • After a church service, Pádraic asks the priest to press Colm about the rift between them while Colm is in the confessional. This only increases Colm’s frustration with Pádraic and his inability to leave him and the situation alone.
  • Colm confronts Pádraic at the pub, and here’s where things begin to escalate as Colm makes it clear to Pádraic and the other bar patrons if Pádraic doesn’t leave him alone: “I have a set of shears at home. And each time you bother me from this day on, I’ll take those shears and I’ll take one of me fingers off with them. And I’ll give that finger to ya. A finger from me left hand. Me fiddle hand. And each day you bother me more, another I’ll take off and I’ll give ya until you see sense enough to stop. Or until I have no fingers left…I feel like the drastic is the only option left open to me.”
    • This is a major turning point in the story. Colm has now escalated the situation and given Pádraic clear instructions on what not to do and the consequences if he violates them. This also raises the stakes of the story and for both characters to a whole new level.
  • The next day, in town, Pádraic has a run-in with a local cop, and Colm witnesses the beatdown. Colm loads Pádraic onto his wagon and proceeds to drive him home. Once Pádraic starts crying, however, Colm hands him the reigns and walks away.
    • Colm shows that he still cares and has compassion for Pádraic in this moment, even if he doesn’t want to be friends with him.  
  • A drunk Pádraic confronts Colm later that night at the pub, doing all he can he not be dull. The next day, Pádraic goes and apologizes to Colm for his behavior, and again, Colm asks him, “why can’t you just leave me alone?”
    • Unfortunately, this is the wrong tactic to try when a man has threatened to chop off his fingers if you talk to him…
  • Colm arrives later at Pádraic’s home and throws his first sheared finger at the front door, then walks off in silence.  
    • This is the mid-point of the story and the point of no return. Pádraic’s actions have resulted in something that cannot be reversed.
  • Pádraic’s sister, Siobhán, goes to return Colm’s finger. But before she goes, Colm reiterates that ending his friendship with Pádraic is “about one boring man leaving another man alone, that’s all.”
  • Pádraic visits Colm at home, to which Colm asks him if he’s “fecking mental.” Once Pádraic leaves and goes to the pub, Colm chops off the remaining fingers on his left hand and tosses them at Pádraic’s front door.  
  • Unfortunately, Pádraic missed one of the fingers when he picked them up, and his donkey, Jenny, got ahold of one. She chokes on it and dies, which enrages Pádraic.
    • This is the next big turning point in the story. Colm has inadvertently killed Pádraic’s favorite pet, and now, with his sister off to work elsewhere and his friendship with Colm over, he has no one. And he’s pissed.
  • Pádraic confronts Colm at the pub. Colm tells him, “let’s just call it quits and agree to go our separate ways, for good this time.” Pádraic refuses, telling Colm about his donkey being killed by Colm’s “fat fingers.” Pádraic tells him this is the beginning of things: “I’m going to call up to your house and I’m gonna set fire to it, and hopefully you’ll still be inside it. But I won’t be checkin’ either way.”
    • Another escalation, this time from the protagonist’s side. Pádraic, at this point, has nothing and nothing to lose. He even tells Colm: “To our graves we’re taking this.”
  • And, true to his word, Pádraic goes to Colm’s house and sets it on fire…with Colm inside.
    • We’re at the climax of the story.
  • But Colm escapes the fire, and Pádraic sees him later on the beach near his burned-out home. Colm says, “Suppose me house makes us quits.” To which Pádraic replies: “If you’d stayed in your house, that would’ve made us quits.” Colm apologizes for Pádraic’s donkey, but Pádraic doesn’t care, telling Colm, “Some things there’ no movin’ on from. And I think that’s a good thing.” Colm thanks Pádraic for watching after his dog in the wake of the fire, and Pádraic replies, “Any time,” then walks away.
    • The story ends in a draw between the protagonist and antagonist, as most real-life scenarios do. While the conflict does escalate, they are both men who care about each other, even if one is determined to move on with his life and end the friendship.

THE ANTAGONIST’S FATE: With all the fingers gone from one hand and his house burned, Colm and Pádraic eventually come to an impasse and appear to go their separate ways for now.  

COMMENTS: Despite its period setting, the situation is one that people go through every day around the world today. Most of us have been in Pádraic’s shoes; other times, we’ve been in Colm’s when it comes to the ending of a friendship.  

While Colm takes his desire to no longer be friends with Pádraic to the extreme, audiences can still empathize with him and his need for more out of life. Colm’s motivation for creativity and his interests, working on his music, and teaching others is reasonable and justifiable.   

Pádraic should have given him space to pursue his endeavors, which might have resulted in a more peaceful resolution and Colm retaining all his fingers.

I think it’s also important to note that just because a character is an antagonist, it doesn’t make them a bad person. Just being in opposition to the main character and creating a conflict with them can cause a character to be seen as the antagonist in a story.

ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE: Could the case be made that Pádraic is the film’s antagonist? Yes. His inability to accept Colm’s life changes and leave him alone can appear oppositional at times. Still, he’s the one whose life is upended by Colm, and he’s the one who has to adapt and change to this new situation throughout the story. That makes him the protagonist, in my view.

What do you think?  

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s Case Studies! I’ll be back next week with some Antagonist-related writing exercises as we close out Antagonist April. See you then!

Antagonist April: Week #3 – Antagonist Case Study #2, Paul Dreyfus (Dante’s Peak)

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, we’ll analyze the roles of three antagonists in the films.  Today, it’s Dante’s Peak

Let’s continue!

ANTAGONIST’S NAME:  Dr. Paul Dreyfus

RELATIONSHIP TO PROTAGONIST:  Paul is Harry Dalton’s boss at the United States Geological Survey.  He sends Harry on the assignment to check out the seismic activity around Dante’s Peak.


  • We’re introduced to Paul via answering machine, asking Harry Dalton for his opinion about “something in the Northern Cascades.” He orders him to “get down here as soon as you get this message,” which tells us he’s the boss in this dynamic.
  • Once in the office, Paul tells Harry about “activity around Dante’s Peak.”
    • These two scenes are the only ones we get with Paul for some time in the film.  Our protagonist is now sent on his mission to see if there’s any voracity to the activity and if Dante’s Peak is in danger of eruption.
    • Paul leaves the story at the seven-minute mark and returns around the 21-minute mark.
  • After Harry sees a number of potential issues regarding the volcano, he calls for a city council meeting.  In the middle of the meeting, while Harry asks them to consider “the possibility of an evacuation,” Paul shows up and takes Harry aside.  Paul asserts his authority: “I sent you up here to have a look around, not to scare the city council.” After Harry explains why he made the decision, Paul continues to push back: “There are dozens of reasons that would account for what happened.  Anything from a mild earthquake to a slight seismic shift, and not one of those reasons means that the mountain will blow up next week or next month, or the next 100 years.”
    • While the city council opposes Harry’s proposition, Mayor Wando is on his side, making her an ally.  Since Paul is Harry’s boss, his authority is given more weight by the city council when he reassures them that “if the time comes to call for an alert, if the time comes, it will be based upon scientific evidence, and not upon anyone’s opinion.”
    • Paul has now publicly embarrassed Harry, dismissing his initial views and opinions about Dante’s Peak, which makes them even more at odds with each other.  Paul’s role is to be skeptical of Harry, which is why he’s the story’s antagonist.  He even tells the city council about previous evacuations that have ruined cities, which makes them even more upset toward Harry and the Mayor.
  • When Paul runs into Harry at the local bar, Paul further explains, “Until you understand that there are delicate politics involved, not to mention economics, you’re only going to do these people more harm than good.” Paul once again asserts his authority and makes it clear to Harry who’s in charge now.
  • When Harry and some of his team members are up on the mountain, they experience an earthquake, and a rockslide injures one of them.  Paul is back at home base.  When he reconnects with Harry, Harry makes it clear that they should put the town on alert.  Ever the skeptic, Paul rebuffs him, telling Harry that he doesn’t “want to cause a panic over minor tectonic quakes.” Paul doesn’t want to scare everyone “over guesswork and hunches,” he then tells Harry, “Another 48 hours will tell the tale, and you get a grip.”  
    • The conflict between our hero and the opposition escalates further, their views on handling the situation vary widely.  It’s important to keep in mind that Paul is Harry’s boss, which is why Harry doesn’t try and override him.  
  • After a week of no major activity from Dante’s Peak, Paul says, “first thing in the morning, we are out of here.”  
  • Paul’s opinions quickly change that final night when Harry appears at his hotel room and shows him “scientific evidence” that the town’s water supply is now contaminated by sulfur dioxide, which is “the same thing [Harry] saw in the Philippines on Mount Pinatubo before she blew.”  
    • Now shown proof that Harry has been right all along, Paul now works in tandem with Harry to figure out what to do next when it comes to evacuating the town.  He even tells Harry to “call the mayor. Have her put the town on alert.”
    • It should be noted here that had he listened to Harry in the first place, they could have avoided the chaos that eventually occurs (but that would make the film less exciting). 
  • Once the chaos begins, Paul attempts to reach Harry via radio, where he tells him: “Harry, listen.  For whatever it’s worth, you were right and I was wrong.  I’m sorry.”
    • This is the last conversation between the two characters, and the antagonist admits defeat.  The skeptic is now a believer on the hero’s side.
  • Ultimately, Dante’s Peak was what Paul was skeptical about, so the eruption and aftermath cause Paul’s demise.

THE ANTAGONIST’S FATE: Paul’s attempt to save the van as the bridge breaks apart cause his ability to escape to safety untenable, and he washes away downriver (listen closely, and you can hear the classic Wilhelm scream when he falls into the water).

COMMENTS: Paul’s role as a skeptic questioning Harry’s finding around Dante’s Peak makes him the antagonist.  Unlike Harry, he has to work within the politics of the job, ensuring not to cause unneeded alarm to the citizens and bureaucrats of the community.  

Ultimately, his skepticism is found to be incorrect, and the resulting eruption of the volcano leads to death, destruction, and Paul’s demise.

Come back Friday as we look at the antagonist for the film The Banshees of Inisherin!  See you then!

Antagonist April: Week #3 – Antagonist Case Study #1, Veronica Corningstone (Anchorman)

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, we’ll analyze the roles of three antagonists in the films, starting with Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.

Let’s get started!

ANTAGONIST’S NAME: Veronica Corningstone

RELATIONSHIP TO PROTAGONIST: Veronica is initially seen by Ron Burgundy as a potential love interest, but he quickly finds out that Veronica will be part of his news team, which is a no-no in Ron’s male-dominated new world.


  • Ron first meets Veronica at a pool party, where his attempts to hit on her are met with her being wholly unimpressed and walking away.
    • This sets up an awkward and sexist dynamic between Ron and Veronica before her position at the TV station is revealed.
  • When Veronica arrives at the station and is introduced to everyone, the men – especially Ron’s news team – are not happy (“It’s anchorman, not anchorlady, and that is a scientific fact!).
    • What makes this film such an interesting cultural satire is that the sexist men are seen as the film’s protagonists. In contrast, the woman is seen as the Opposing Force there to upset their established dynamic. If this were a drama, we would probably be following Veronica’s journey, and Ron would be the story’s antagonist.
  • Veronica gives us insight into her mindset dealing with the sexism she faces at each station: “Women ask me how I put up with it. Well, the truth is, I don’t really have a choice. This is definitely a man’s world. But while they’re laughing and grab-assing, I’m chasing down leads and practicing my nonregional diction. Because the only way to win is to be the best. The very best.”  
    • We now know what Veronica’s motivation is regarding her career and why she’s willing to deal with the sexism that dominates her chosen field. Along with that motivation, we are shown her goal: “to be the best. The very best.” We know that Ron and his team are already beloved by San Diego – especially Ron – so what will Veronica have to do to achieve the same level of respect and love from the community?
  • After being ordered to cover the story of a cat fashion show, which she is opposed to doing, she runs a gauntlet of sexist pick-up attempts by Ron’s news team. She handles each sleazy attempt with ease and uniquely rebuffs each man.
  • It’s a nice run of scenes that shows that Veronica isn’t a woman who is easily distracted by or privy to their usual chauvinistic tactics. Here she shows that she is not a woman to be messed with and demands a level of respect that the men seem incapable of showing to her.
  • It is Ron’s attempt to hit on her that causes a visceral reaction from Veronica. She makes it clear to him: “You are pathetic. This has to be the feeblest pick-up attempt that I have ever encountered. I expected it from the rest of them but not from you.” But Ron turns things around and gets Veronica to take a tour of San Diego with him.
    • Both Ron and Veronica have differing motivations for this outing together, Veronica making it clear that it’s not a date, while Ron clearly thinks otherwise.
  • [While it’s not a scene with Veronica, it is a scene of foreshadowing of what’s to come involving her and Ron. At the end of a newscast, someone accidentally wrote a question mark at the end of Ron’s outro, making him say, “I’m Ron Burgundy?” The station head makes a point to tell the control booth (and the viewer), “For the last time, anything you put on that prompter, Burgundy will read.”]  
  • The next set of scenes shows us that Veronica is better educated and more aware of the world than Ron is.  
    • Since she is the antagonist, it is important that she be more skilled and better equipped than the hero, which she clearly is. But he has the skill of playing the jazz flute that impresses her.
  • In this scene, Ron reveals his life’s goal: “To one day become a network anchor.” And it seems that he and Veronica “share the same dream.” Now we know that the protagonist and antagonist have a similar goal, which means they will both eventually end up in conflict to achieve this goal.
  • In the end, Ron and Veronica wind up sleeping together and going to Pleasure Town. Veronica clarifies afterward that “it’s very important that I be viewed as a professional” and that “we should keep it fairly quiet around the station.”
  • Ron, of course, yells at the top of his lungs at the station the next day that “Veronica Corningstone and I had sex, and now we are in love!” and on the air when he tells the viewers, “we are currently dating and that she is quite a handful in the bedroom.”  
    • Both moments tee up Veronica’s anger toward Ron in the following scene, where she is upset about his declaration on the air. She is concerned about this hurting her goal to become a network anchor, fearing that people will only see her as Ron’s “bimbo gal pal.”  
  • Ron woos her back and earn her forgiveness. They remain a couple.
  • In Ron’s sudden absence at the station, Veronica makes her case to the station head and demands to anchor the news. She gets her chance and nails it, resulting in a rift between her and Ron when he finds out. In his mind, her goal of becoming an anchor “was a joke,” which leads to their break up.
    • This is a big moment in the story and when the conflict between Ron and Veronica really heats up. Now, they are at war with each other.
  • Veronica is announced as co-anchor of the news, which infuriates Ron even more, causing his childish behavior to escalate against her. Luckily, Veronica overcomes his immaturity and continues to thrive.
    • Veronica’s oppositional behavior toward the sexism in the office has a strong effect on the other women working there, which causes the men to become more frustrated with her. Veronica is not just an Oppositional Force in Ron’s life but a Change Agent against societal norms. Neither bodes well for our chauvinist hero.
  • When Veronica demands to use the tape machine Ron uses to watch his Emmy acceptance speech, the two get into a fight in front of the entire newsroom. Her final insult against Ron telling him his hair looks stupid leads to a literal fight between the two.  
  • In the next scene, Helen asks Veronica if she’s ever considered “fighting fire with fire.” Then she proceeds to tell Veronica that Ron “will read anything that is put on that Teleprompter.”  
    • As we discussed, this was foreshadowed earlier to establish that this was true. Now, we see this insight possibly being used as a weapon by our antagonist against the hero.
  • And that’s what Veronica does, sabotaging this Teleprompter and causing Ron to say, “Go fuck yourself, San Diego” instead of “You stay classy, San Diego.”
    • It’s a huge blow against the protagonist by the antagonist, resulting in his immediate firing from the station and destroying his reputation in the city. For the time being, it looks like the antagonist has won.
    • Veronica does regret what she did afterward. However, her sabotage still gets her to her goal of being the lead news anchor for the station.
  • When the panda, Ling Wong, goes into labor at the zoo, Veronica goes to cover the story and ends up being pushed into the Kodiak bear paddock by a rival news anchor. Trapped and unable to yell for help out of fear of waking the hibernating bears, Veronica is eventually rescued by Ron, his news team, and Ron’s dog Baxter.  

THE ANTAGONIST’S FATE: Veronica and Ron end up a couple once again, and she winds up co-anchoring the network news with him. Both achieve their goals.

COMMENTS: Veronica’s role as the antagonist in the story is clever. She’s not evil; she’s the opposition primarily because she’s a woman in a male-dominated field. This helps add to the conflict between her and Ron due to their office romance and her desire to anchor the network news.  

Their fates ending up in the same place – as a couple and as co-anchors – shows the protagonist’s growth as a character and also shows that the antagonist has reached their goal as well. Both are happy at the story’s end.  

Come back Wednesday as we look at the antagonist for the film Dante’s Peak! See you then!

Antagonist April: Week #2 – Developing An Antagonist – Part Two

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, we’ll discuss developing a compelling antagonist for your story.

Let’s continue!

The Arc of the Antagonist

Once you’ve established where they came from and their motivations, you have to decide where the antagonist is in their life when they enter your story.  Much like the protagonist, they are doing something else before they come across their current situation and are determined to reach a goal by the end of the story.

Both characters, of course, are out to prevent the other from achieving their primary goal.  And, like the protagonist, the antagonist should be “as complex and as valuable as the hero” (Truby 89).  So, while your main focus when writing your story should be on your hero and their actions, motivations, goals, and arc from start to finish, it’s also essential to give time to the antagonist and see what’s going on with them as the story unfolds.

After all, if they are human, they are experiencing emotions, feelings, setbacks, and victories, too.  For readers to connect with the antagonist on some level, we have to be given insights into them as the story unfolds.

Look at Scar’s arc in The Lion King.  His backstory – being second-born and having a nephew in line for the throne – motivates his desire to wipe out Mufasa (and Simba, too) so he can become king of Pride Rock.  And his plan actually works!  But he’s an ineffective leader.  Once Simba returns from his self-imposed exile, Scar must face the consequences of his actions and is ultimately vanquished.

When it comes to “[a] novel, play, or any type of writing, really is a crisis from beginning to end growing to its necessary conclusion” (Egri 117).  Giving readers a strong hero is important, but the opposition has to be equally as compelling and interesting to keep the story moving.  You want to keep the audience in suspense, unsure how that hero will defeat their adversary or if evil will win in the end.

Think about other films or books where the antagonist has a strong story arc.  These are usually the ones we remember best and have become a part of pop culture.

The Elevated Antagonist

What makes us like a villain?  What makes them intriguing to us?  What aspects of who they are can make us sad to see them go?

They aren’t just cookie-cutter, boilerplate bad guys. There’s something more to them.  Something about them that connects with the audience.  They make us laugh.  They have a way of speaking or emoting that captivates us.  We know they are the antagonist of the movie or book, and we know that we should be rooting against them.  But when they’re around, we can’t look away.

The antagonist’s stance is “powerful and compelling, but ultimately wrong,” but that doesn’t mean they have to be a one-dimensional character (Truby 90).  Finding ways to draw the audience into their world and humanizing them is a great way to give this character something more.  

As you develop their backstory, jot down other activities they enjoy.  Do they cook?  Garden?  Play board games?  Do they enjoy dad jokes?  Puns?  One-liners?  These are all things that can influence who they are and give readers a stronger sense of who they are as people.

The villain in your story “can only be humanized by making them vulnerable” (Vogler 74).  Maybe they’re lonely and long for love, friendship, or happiness.  Could you give us a relatable connection to them?  It can still inform their actions and motivations even if it’s not mentioned outright.

Who are some antagonists that you have connected with and why?

There’s more to come!  Antagonist April continues on Friday and all month long.  See you then!


Egri, Lajos.  The Art of Dramatic Writing. Simon & Schuster, 2004.

Truby, John.  The Anatomy of Story.  Faber and Faber, 2007.

Vogler, Christopher.  The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers.  Michael Wiese Productions, 1998.

Antagonist April: Week #2 – Developing An Antagonist – Part One

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, we’ll discuss developing a compelling antagonist for your story.

Let’s get started!


A strong narrative “requires that the Adversary be an actual person,” and it’s essential for you as the writer to know who they are and where they came from (Edson 57).  This may be information that only you know; past experiences, traumas, or victories this individual had in their life before the story you’re writing.  But these elements help add dimension to your antagonist.  These aspects can assist you in deciding how the antagonist approaches problems, makes decisions, and how they react to a variety of situations.

You don’t have to travel back to when they were born, but if there are events in the antagonist’s childhood that explain why they are the way they are, then jotting those moments down can be helpful.

By giving your antagonist a past, you lift them out of the realm of a one-dimensional villain.  There’s something in their background that affected them to the point that they have decided that your protagonist is their current opponent.  The person who’s preventing them from getting what they want.

Taking the time to think through a bullet-pointed timeline of the antagonist’s life can also come in handy if they need to explain themselves at any point during the story.  There has to be some legitimate reason – in their mind – why they are doing what they’re doing.  Having those moments decided ahead of time gives you a story from their past to utilize.

In Avengers: Infinity War, Thanos has a moment like this with Doctor Strange.  

In this brief conversation, Thanos reveals aspects of his backstory that inform his quest to acquire the Infinity Stones and eliminate half of all life in the universe.  Notice how Thanos perceives himself versus how Doctor Strange perceives Thanos and his plan.

What’s My Motivation?

What is the reason the antagonist is doing what they’re doing?  Why do they oppose the hero and their goals?  Something happened in the antagonist’s life, either in the past or currently, that has driven them to the point where they must stop the main character at all costs.  It could be something the protagonist did to them (Changing Lanes).  It could be a plan the antagonist had in place that the protagonist tries to stop (Die Hard).  No matter what it is, the antagonist must be motivated in their actions against the hero.  There has to be a WHY!

While they can have the motivation to stop the main character, there has to be something larger in the antagonist’s world that they want to achieve.  This is the element that the protagonist’s actions are preventing.

What motivates them?  Greed?  Power?  Revenge?  Those are fine motivations.  But suppose we don’t know why they are motivated toward these goals.  In that case, the character lacks any real weight, dimension, or interesting qualities.

Let’s look at Syndrome from The Incredibles.  When he was younger and went by the name Buddy (aka Incrediboy), he wanted to help Mr. Incredible.  Instead, he was told to “fly home.”  

This rejection by his favorite superhero motivated Buddy to become Syndrome.  His backstory influenced his motivation to transform into a supervillain determined to exterminate all superheroes from existence except himself.  His final goal and motivation are given in the video below:

Notice that Syndrome and Thanos both have motivations based on past events that influence their behavior and goals in the present.  This is why taking the time to create a backstory for your antagonist can often assist you in crafting a strong motivation for them as the opposition in your story.

We’re getting started!  I’ll be back on Wednesday as we continue to explore antagonists all month!  See you then!


Edson, Eric.  The Story Solution.  Michael Wiese Productions, 2011.