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Do You Need an Antagonist?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by johnsonjoshuak, Sep 1, 2016.

  1. johnsonjoshuak

    johnsonjoshuak Troubadour

    So while I let my last novel sit on the shelf before edits, I've been working on the next one.

    It's a Gunpowder Fantasy Politics story, about an elected official who is rigging and election and trying to consolidate power; it's very heavily influenced by Republic of Thieves and House of Cards.

    The problem I've run into is that the main character has plenty of things to do, but no real opponent. There are those who are on the other side of the election, there are those within her own party that don't trust her and want to limit her power. But I don't have a big bad, and I'm not sure that I can create one with the current storyline I have.

    Do you really need a singular "antagonist"? Or would small opponents in the various aspects of her quest be enough?
  2. Reaver

    Reaver Kwisatz Haderach Moderator

    You don't need one antagonist. Any opposition to your MC's goals is enough to be considered antagonistic.
  3. Miskatonic

    Miskatonic Auror

    A mountain that someone is trying to climb, like Everest, could be considered the antagonist that's standing in the way of the protagonist's goal, which is to climb to the top.
  4. Saigonnus

    Saigonnus Auror

    I have toying with idea for literally years now, and written up several tens of thousands words. Basically the "antagonist" no longer exists. He founded the order, he created the various types of baddies and gave them the ideals, and then he died.

    The council of scions keeps up the illusion that he exists (through magic) so the baddies don't splinter into smaller groups, and of course to have dominance over them.

    I think it's important to have opposition, whether it comes from a single source, or many; as long as it makes sense in the scheme of the story.

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  5. You don't need one "antagonist."

    But, the antagonistic force has to have some sort of personal aspect. The personal aspect is how we relate, connect and invest in a story.

    This doesn't necessarily have to be a human who is part of the antagonistic force or aiding it, though it can be. If the antagonistic force is a disease, the story can have someone the MC loves get infected to give that personal dimension. If there aren't people part of it, let us meet the people affected by it.

    In my WIP, I chose to have a Big Bad. The Big Bad often mirrors the hero; they will have goals and motivations that they are desperate to accomplish, they will have good traits and bad traits, they will have hopes, fears and relationships..,or at least that's how I write it. I like to write villains as almost a flipped image of the hero. You could turn the story around and see it from his side and get a very different story, but it still would be a compelling story.
  6. SaltyDog

    SaltyDog Sage

    It could be a group of small antagonists who with their number, create something like a big bad antagonist. That could work, like your MC isn't fighting one big dude, but actually a bunch of people who by them selves are weak and not a problem, but together they are strong and a problem. Like a corrupt part of the election that doesn't favor your MC, or like a cartel, but then there would probably be someone big at the top.

    Well I hope this kinda helps.
  7. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    A Mary Sue or Gary Stu character, done poorly, is someone who has absolutely no problem overcoming any obstacle and who always knows what to do in every situation. This bores people.

    But the antidote is to create obstacles, difficult and/or confusing problems, a trying environment and clever/strong/persistent/irritating opposition. I.e., antagonistic forces.

    So think about what might make your character's pursuit of his goals challenging, and you're about 99% on your way to finding the right antagonists.
    SaltyDog likes this.
  8. johnsonjoshuak

    johnsonjoshuak Troubadour

    Thanks for all of the responses. Looking back at my outline, I realized that my character didn't face any real opposition or defeats. I'm going to build up some resistance among existing storylines and have her fail a few times as well.
  9. X Equestris

    X Equestris Maester

    You've already described some potentially antagonistic forces: her electoral opponent and opposition within her own party. Just make them credible obstacles, and you're on the right track.
  10. Addison

    Addison Auror

    It's not just how many antagonists or where they are that's important. It's also how they oppose your character, how effectively, permanently and deeply.

    Remember there are three kinds of opposition: man vs man, man vs self, man vs nature. Given your story the nature antagonist could be the voters, the battlefield which is getting high-powered supporters and making a speech in a city or town which-thanks to bad mouthing from other candidates-doesn't look promising.

    An opponent that's mainly another Character or Nature could pose an obstacle in another antagonistic area. An argument with a jerk-character could suddenly have your hero doubting and questioning his skills and future. A sudden speech, or lost at sea, could have the character encountering a character or questioning why/what the heck they're doing there to begin with.

    An antagonist is, and needs to be, as deep, well thought and planned as your hero and every scene. I hope this is helpful, Happy Writing. :)

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