Antagonists: In our own stories

So this week we’re looking at how to make our antagonists as awesome and effective as they can be. Let’s see what we can do with the antagonists we’ve got in the one-liners we’re developing.

1. Our human-rights-attorney story:

When the money runs out before the case against his transgender partner is over, a human rights lawyer joins a prestigious and wealthy law firm not knowing that the managing partner is the devil behind the lawsuit.

Our Thematic Premise:

Courage leads to self empowerment;
cowardice leads to disempowerment.

Our Antagonist Breakdown:

  • Antagonist:  The devilish managing partner of the prestigious firm.
  • Goal:  To win the case.
  • Motivation:  Money, success, triumphing over others.
  • Justification:  His client is paying him to win; it’s his professional duty to pursue his case diligently.  If we’re pushing the “devil” angle: it’s his job to destroy people.
  • Formidable:  Sure, he’s got money, power, prestige, and perhaps some devilish tricks.
  • Crucible:  They’re opponents, on opposite sides of the same case.  They’ll be butting heads until resolution.
  • Note of Goodness:  Hmm… maybe he’s got an office dog.
  • Pushes Hero to Act and to Change:  Usually our hero gives up at the slightest pushback, he’s a coward.  But our antagonist is picking on someone important to our hero, so the more the antagonist goes after our hero’s partner (and the more we establish the partner’s importance), the more the hero will have to step up and change.
  • Shades of Negativity:  We should go with empowerment or courage, since these come from our thematic premise.  Let’s do empowered.
    • Positive:  Empower
    • Contrary:  Undermine
    • Contradictory: Disempower
    • Negation of the Negation:  Use? Scapegoat?

How about Courage?  Courage sounds more like something you’re in control of rather than something someone else does to you, so let’s tease it a bit so it becomes something an antagonist might do.  Let’s see…

  • Positive:  Encourage
  • Contrary:  Confuse, mixed signals, the back-handed compliment
  • Contradictory: Discourage
  • Negation of the Negation:  Intimidate or Humiliate

This is fun.  Let’s do some more.  How about Protection, since our hero wants to protect his partner.

  • Positive:  Protect
  • Contrary:  Neglect
  • Contradictory:  Endanger
  • Negation of the Negation: Attack or Destroy

How about Winning, since both hero and bad guy want to.

  • Positive:  Win
  • Contrary:  Tie
  • Contradictory:  Lose
  • Negation of the Negation: Not trying

2. Our diamond bullets story:

When his brother’s gang develops a diamond bullet that can penetrate bulletproof vests, a scholarship student must decide whether to help his brother avenge the death of their gang-leader father or protect the father of his girlfriend, the Police Commissioner of New York City.

Our thematic premise:

Acceptance leads to family;
Revenge leads to loss of family.

Our Antagonist Breakdown:

  • Antagonist:  The brother.
  • Goal:  To kill the police commissioner.
  • Motivation:  Revenge.
  • Justification:  He believes the police commissioner is responsible for his dad’s death.
  • Formidable:  He’s our main character’s older brother, higher up than him in the gang hierarchy, no stranger to violence.
  • Crucible:  Again, he’s the main character’s brother.  Our main character may also rely on him for financial support.
  • Note of Goodness:  He’s coming from a place of love, as misguided as it might be, because he loved his dad.
  • Pushes Hero to Act and to Change:  The brother could assign our hero tasks, starting with spying on the girlfriend and the family and ending with killing the police commissioner.  This will force him to decide: will he accept things as they are now, and his new path that is taking him away from his brother and the life he knew with his dad, or will be become a murderer?
  • Shades of Negativity:  Again, our thematic premise says we should explore Acceptance or Revenge.  Or maybe we can do both at once….
    • Positive:  Acceptance or Forgiveness
    • Contrary:  Avoidance or Denial
    • Contradictory:  Revenge, eye-for-an-eye style
    • Negation of the Negation:  Revenge, and-your-whole-family-too style

We could do Peace, too, since we decided last week that’s what our main character’s internal motivation is.

  • Positive:  Peace or Harmony, Agreement
  • Contrary:  Indifference or Withholding, Reservation, the Silent Treatment
  • Contradictory:  Disharmony or Discord, Disagreement
  • Negation of the Negation:  Manipulation?  Forcing others to agree with you? Tyranny?

And we could do Loyalty, since that’s part of his internal struggle, whether or not to be loyal to his brother, and all that stands for, or his girlfriend, and all that stands for.

  • Postive:  Loyal
  • Contrary:  Neutral
  • Contradictory:  Disloyal or Betrayal
  • Negation of the Negation:  Trickery or Premeditated Betrayal?

Heh… that was fun.

Well, that’s it for me.  What about you? How are you creating the best antagonist we’ve seen since Hannibal Lecter?  Tell us in the comments!


We’ll look at a different kind of character:  Setting.  See you then!

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