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Very stuck, I've created a monstrosity of an antagonist


I'm starting to think the reason why so many writers default to and evil race that is an obstacle that must be defeated or fought is it gives the protagonist a defined opponent. I'm basing this of my own WIP, I've created a nightmare of abstract antagonists that has grown beyond my control. I've been thinking that the only real paragon to describe my antagonists is a terrorist organization or a pathogen. I've been stuck for months trying to figure out how I can resolve my story. My physical antagonists are based of the seven deadly sins, they basically go around and corrupt people towards that sin, (very simplified). Sometimes it can be one person other times given an entire city. It takes time for them to corrupt people and after a certain number an exponential growth takes over. These seven are also the most ordinary people, they are like the granny next door that turns out to be a cannibalistic ax serial killer, no one suspects them. Their affects on the people they corrupt are visible after a while, some become zombie like with the flesh rotting of their bodies. The abstract part is that they are also something intrinsic to human nature. So my antagonists are both human nature and the phiscial bodies of human nature. They are parts of human nature taken to an extreme absolute evil.

My problem is I have no idea how my protagonists can fight such an enemy. I really want to stay away from throwing the ring in mount doom ending, the heroic last stand where they kill evil overlord. See this is where they start to seem like a terrorist organization, because each acts independent of the other, and they can be anyone. How do you fight that? The way I've created them it doesn't make sense for them to pursue the MCs they would simply push their corrupted minions to create chaos or suffering while vanishing into the mists. The setting is a low tech, very early dark ages, low magic.

So I'm thinking of two solutions. One make the seven something that can be killed and banished, still that leaves how to do it.
two. Don't even try, instead have the heroes focus more on the people and realms of man trying to eradicate the corruption in it's infancy.

The thing is I really want to do this in a way where I don't destroy everything I have built. I really like the symbolism between the seven and human nature so I don't really feel that killing them would work. But the way I created them you cannot really just leave them alone and focus on the realms of man because well eventually they will take over.

I don't know what nor how to do this.
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When you speak of an enemy that can be hidden amongst any population like Mao used to talk about the revolutionary, you can consider having the portags have to kill large groups of people to be sure to get the one they want (kill them all God will know his own). Great moral dilemma to play with.

Or you go make the defense against them spiritual or allegorical.

It is a tough challenge you have created for yourself.
So, I'm a little confused...Are these antagonists impersonal forces, or do they actually take physical form (as people?) or do they possess people to have a physical form?

My first instinct is to ask how your protagonist's journey ties into this threat. Is he/she in danger of being corrupted? are his/her family/friends? If its simply a problem threatening your world, why does your protagonist want to eradicate them?

I realized early on in my WIP that the main plot wouldn't be centered around protecting the larger world, but around the protagonists' personal lives. The over-arching conflict is very much a grey vs. grey type conflict, but the characters are caught in the middle of it.

Delve into your symbolism. How are the darker aspects of human nature held at bay? Is it a battle that is ongoing or does it end? Why haven't the seven taken over already? How does the corruption affect society negatively--honestly, besides the zombie thing, it doesn't seem like very much would be different with people being corrupted toward a sin, there's plenty of corruption in the world already. Can the seven be made weaker somehow? What if they grow stronger the more people they control? Is the entire world threatened or just a part? Again, your protagonist's goals are what make the story what it is, and the answer will be different depending on that.

Also, if they're people (still not clear on that) what relation are they to the protagonist? If one of them had a personal relationship to the protagonist, that would give the evil a face...

What are their motivations for enslaving the world, or do they simply have no motivation? It's best to have some kind of figurehead to the antagonistic force, able to have goals just like the protagonist.

What relation are they to each other? Do they compete to win more people over to the sin they represent?

Are corrupted people just sad, enslaved zombies or do they become dangerous too?

Does everyone realize the corruption is happening, or does it look like a normal society on the outside?

In my personal opinion, what makes a story compelling is the personal/human aspect, so if your antagonist is more of a force than a person, you'll need some kind of personal aspect to the story. Either give the antagonist a human face, or center the conflict around the character's relationships...

I'm just throwing out random questions now. Take what applies, leave what doesn't.
It's an interesting dilemma.

Maybe you could take the Dune approach. The heroes threaten to destroy everything, thus removing all potential victims from these antagonists who, after all, need victims. Victims are their raison d'etre.

Alternatively, you could create a brand new antagonist, a horrible villain, and pit him against those others: he's the one attempting to destroy everything, so they go to war with him and they destroy each other. All the heroes have to do is survive the conflict while trying to protect as many people as possible.

A more elegant approach would be to have these seven go to war with each other, destroying each other. This might require a rather complex restructuring of the story, however, and postulating that they can recognize one another and perhaps "steal" each others' victims or have some other reason for growing into one another's antagonists.

But you could leave it a tragedy. The heroes and those closest to them, and perhaps a small population of others become refugees, sailing for another continent and abandoning their homeland. Perhaps this could give you time to conceptualize the sequel, their return. :D
Can individual humans become infected by more than one of these antagonists?

Maybe that's how the new villain comes into being. He's the first to have been touched by all of them. And he becomes something they don't expect. This might further the symbolism/motif. "Frankenstein's monster" + "Every revolution carries within it the seeds of its own destruction."

Plus, this villain might be killable for the heroes.

But I wonder if I've read something like that before.

I'd overlooked the fact that you don't want these antagonists killed. Perhaps they are altered in some way, less contagious, or else some sort of detente happens instead of their complete destruction.


....Why not just have them be mortal and killable? You have the perfect setup for a deep and difficult hunt for them, following subtle clues, suspecting the least likely person, false accusations, witch hunts, despair when the corruption takes hold when they know they could have stopped it if they found the right person earlier, etc. There's so much you could do with it--to some extent, you are imposing these limits on yourself. Your instinctive concepts of them aren't law; what's law is the Story and what will benefit it.

If there are Story reasons they have to be immortal, that's one thing. But if there aren't, you can still make it incredibly difficult on your heroes and stay away from an ending of utter triumph. Maybe these creatures reincarnate after a while--maybe the heroes just want to get them out of their land/kingdom/village. Maybe one of them escapes to a faraway land, to return some day. Maybe one of them achieves huge political power and can't be stopped. Not sure. But try to ask yourself what truly Must Be, and what's just become entrenched in your mind at the expense of a better idea.


Can individual humans become infected by more than one of these antagonists?

Maybe that's how the new villain comes into being. He's the first to have been touched by all of them. And he becomes something they don't expect. This might further the symbolism/motif. "Frankenstein's monster" + "Every revolution carries within it the seeds of its own destruction."

Plus, this villain might be killable for the heroes.

But I wonder if I've read something like that before.

Alternately the protagonist could be the one who is touched by multiple sins, and being corrupted angers them and leads them to seek retribution.

'Open the door to the gates of hell' XD
You could play around with the fact that they're unstoppable, it makes for a great clever message. But then, a story with no chance of hope is not much of an interesting read, you have to make your character think they've found a solution at the very least.

And to do that is that you need to create limitations on this unstoppable force. They take over humans and turn them evil, but is it one human at a time? How long does it take in between people? How do they effect the mind, do the humans still have some sort of control? You need to establish rules for this antagonist, and then find a way to exploit those rules.


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Who says your protagonist has to stop them? Victory takes on many forms. Sometimes simple survival is good enough. I don't know what your plot is so forgive me if I'm off base.

The story could be akin to a zombie movie where the protagonist and their small band of friends is surrounded by the evil, and they have to escape into safe territory.

You can have the sins be like a disease with no cure. The only thing you can do is stay out of its way and let it run its course. Once there's no one left to infect, the disease/sins go dormant again until something or someone wakes them.


Another idea is to trap the antagonists in some way, like inside a hero, and then seal away the hero in a tomb, beneath a mountain or something?

Otherwise I would suggest that drag the antagonist back to the drawing board and give it some weaknesses that the heroes can use against it.


This is what I would do, fwiw.

I think you should personify these things concretely. I couldn't work out if you did do that, but have each one as a person that moves around corrupting people. I would have the seven of them working together, not necessarily in the same place, but they know each other and approve of each other. After all, all the seven deadly sins, and all sins, in theology have the same one source and work to the same end.

Now for the climax, I would have them basically turn the world into a cesspool of sin, until your protagonist and his friends are basically the only thing left untainted and so the seven sinmen naturally end up facing off with them.

So you have a final showdown of all seven versus the protagonist & friends.

Now as to the problem of how they can be defeated, well this is fantasy so you have options of just making up things powerful enough to kill them.

But given the content I would personally give it some reflection of theology. At the end of the day, sin is a choice, so can be defeated by someone choosing not to do it, no matter how strong the temptation. I would have your 7 guys influence people, but not compel them absolutely, so they retained some semblance of free will. So I would make their final defeat somehow linked to the protagonist choosing not to indulge in the sins despite overwhelming pressure to do so.

If you really wanted to base it on theology, then really the only defeater of sin is God. It would be hard to avoid Deus ex Machina, but with some foreshadowing I think it could work, by having the protagonist prove himself worthy of divine protection and empowerment or something.

That's just one idea I came up with in 5 minutes :)

It's an interesting concept, using antaonists based on the seven deadly sins which are from memory Greed, Pride, Sloth, Gluttony, Envy, Wrath and Lust. My immediate thought would be to ask ifyou've read the Piers Anthony books of the Incarnations of Immortality. I'm not sure that the outline of the various deities exactly matches what you're doing, but it may still provide some clarity as to how a man can be both say a force such as Death and a human being at the same time. Some things are done in the world by the individual incarnation's will, and some things occur simply as a sort of automatic function. So long as the post of Death is filled for example, people will continue to die in the normal way, without needing Death's explicit intervention.

The next thing that occurs to me is that maybe you need to look at some of the philosophy of religion about immanence and transcendance (inside and outside the universe in essence.) So maybe your seven antagonists were transcendant forces / ideas which somehow became embodied in certain people. Maybe Greed for example somehow became connected to the greediest man alive. I think doing this matters to your plot because the moment you define how a transcendant impulse or being becomes immanent, you also find a way to fight said impulse or being. Note, I saidfight - not destroy. You can't kill Greed, but maybe if you can somehow sever the link between the transcendant impulse of Greed and the human incarnation of it, you've won a war.

Last, and this may be helpful in framing your battles, there are also seven Heavenly virtues - Humility, chastity, Temperence, Charity, Diligence, Patience and Kindness. Maybe what is needed to fight your manifest deadly sins are manifest virtues.

Cheers, Greg.


Ascanius, have no fear because it can be done! It's just going to take a bit of brainstorming like you're doing now. Have you considered focusing on one of the deadly sin antagonists per book? So they're a greater force but maybe your main character(s) come across a particular one in this book and destroy them individually in the following books?