This article is by Erica Sunarjo.
It’s a common mistake believing that writing is a simple, straightforward process. People usually imagine writers sitting in front of their laptops and writing what comes to their minds at the moment, as their inspiration takes over. The truth is writing a piece of work takes a lot of planning, correcting, adding, and rewriting. Everything needs to be planned out to the smallest detail, in order for the work to be believable and gripping.
Same goes for the characters – and not only the ones with good intentions. Antagonists are just as important as the protagonists. Generations have fallen in love with villains starting from Hannibal Lecter to the Joker. Now it’s your turn to make a killer antagonist (pun intended!).
Here are 7 tips on how to make your antagonist more prominent.
1. Physical Appearance
Your readers need to know exactly what they’re dealing with so make sure to go into detail when describing the physical appearance of your antagonist.
Use vivid descriptions and don’t miss out on any details. Give your readers everything:
- What’s his face like?
- Is he tall, short, strong, muscular, thin…?
- What’s he wearing?
- Does he have a birthmark? What is it?
Try making him as unique as possible. Just like Cruella De Vil, with her pale face and furry clothes, we’ll never forget!
2. Make Him/Her Three-dimensional
A believable and intriguing antagonist is so much more than just a person opposite of the protagonist. In order to create a prominent eye-catching protagonist, you need to add dimensions and layers to his or her story.
Here’s what we have in mind:
- Provide a backstory – Where does he come from? What was his life like before?
- In-depth personality analysis – What kind of a person is he? What are his virtues, if he has any?
- Vulnerability – Everyone has a week spot- come up with one for your antagonist.
Harry Potter’s Lord Voldemort is a perfect example. We know all about his unfortunate childhood, first encounters with magic and how he became so evil.
3. Make Him/Her Passionate
A true antagonist has to have a mission that they’ll do anything to complete. In most cases, his mission interferes with the protagonist’s mission. Your audience needs to feel the passion and blind dedication to achieving the goal the antagonist has set.
In order to make this happen, you need to:
- Clearly define the mission
- Make the antagonist consistent in his attempt to achieve it
- Have him put the mission before anything else
- Fight for it with all he’s got
On top of all, the antagonist needs to believe that
- his way is the only right way to go.
A truly passionate antagonist has no doubt whatsoever that he’s the one doing the right thing. Everyone else is just a distraction or an obstacle.
4. We either like him or hate him
Your readers need to develop strong emotional bonds with the antagonist. You can’t have them be indecisive. Either they love him (yes, it’s possible to make a loveable antagonist), or they hate him.
Make your antagonist steer your readers’ emotions and have them on the tip of their seat.
Just like we couldn’t help but love Captain Hook in Peter Pan, or couldn’t stand the thought of the Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter and the Order of Phoenix. It’s either or!
5. He needs to grow and develop
A character transformation is something the readers love seeing unveil in front of their eyes.
You can consider one of the following options:
- He starts as the protagonist and slowly progresses to becoming the antagonist
If you’ve seen Breaking Bad, you know what we’re talking about. Walter White started off as the shy, clumsy and unfortunate chemistry professor and grew into a full-on drug-dealing, murderous criminal master-mind.
- Vice versa
Severus Snape, anyone? We hate him the entire time, only to find out he was one of the good guys at the end. A great plot twist and a way to make him unforgettable.
6. Skillful, Powerful and Capable
Admiration-worthy. Fierce. Unstoppable. You name it.
Your antagonist needs to be a true threat to your protagonist and his mission, and a worthy opponent. You have to come up with:
- his super-powers
- his strengths
- what he’s capable of
- the depth of his anger, revenge-seeking or pure evil
Jadis The White Witch is a perfect example. She’s mercilessly cold and apathetic – so much that it makes her unstoppable.
7. Your Readers Want Him to Lose
Even though your readers might begin to love hating the antagonist, you still need to make them chose the protagonist as the winner.
Drawing the fine line between making him likable or making the readers love him is a skill not every reader can brag about.
So, no matter how much we liked Captain Hook, his absurd bad luck and hilarious lines, we still choose Peter Pan at the end.
The quality of your characters can easily define you as a writer. It either makes you or brakes you. This is why you need to create a believable, prominent, and relatable antagonist for your readers.
Try using the tips we’ve provided. Detailed planning will help you come up with some of your own. Make sure to create the perfect mixture of good antagonist qualities in order to make a never-before written character everyone’s going to remember.
About the Author:
Erica Sunarjo graduated from South Texas College majoring in Marketing and Creative Writing. She used her knowledge to make a difference in the realm of business copywriting and invested heavily in traveling and language learning. At present, Erica is fluent in French and Spanish, studying Chinese and working her way to being a multilingual copywriter. She keeps track of the latest trends in IT and technologies, blogs about efficient strategies in education and business coaching, holds educational webinars. Right now Erica is the most effective writer at The Word Point.