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Writing from the "antagonist's" POV?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Zak9, Dec 27, 2013.

  1. Zak9

    Zak9 Scribe

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    I have a common character throughout my stories. I'm not sure if others experience this, but in every recent story idea I've thought of I have the same antagonist- same face, similar bodies, very similar personalities, the same character over and over again acting as the antagonist. I realized in my most recent idea that I'm developing her personality and motifs far more than my protagonist in the story. I'm not even paying attention to my protagonist.

    Would it be a wise move to tell my story through her POV, making her the protagonist, even though she's evil (with some redeeming qualities to motivate her evilness)?
     
  2. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Having the villain be the protagonist is a perfectly valid approach, and it can work out very well and be a lot of fun. One thing to consider, though, is that the protagonist, whether good or evil, should have some sort of character development -- possibilities include a search for redemption (whether it succeeds or fails is up to you), or a deliberate nosedive into deeper evil.
     
  3. Nagash

    Nagash Sage

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    Writing from the POV of a character always means that you will have to work on their psychologism/psychism. Thus, when writing from the protagonist POV, there is a number of commonly accepted states of mind/emotional disposition, etc... The example of the modest hero, or the tortured taciturn character come to mind. They can be either brave, strong (classical hero) or a little more cynical, grim, devil-may-care - which would identify to textbook antiheroism. The same process applies to narrating a story through the POV of a villain.

    In many ways, this means you'll have to break down the mysticism, and explore the mind of the antagonist. This also means you have to explain the logical at work behind the simple mask of "bad guy". Why is he acting this way ? Who is he really, deep inside ? Is he morally corrupted, or simply tortured ? Is he a tragic villain, or simply a devilish character ? Is he even conscious about his doing ? Or is he just downright crazy ? Was he once a great man ? etc... All these questions must be asked and answered through this narration occurring within the mind of the villain.

    As Ireth pointed out, it can be great fun, and an exceptional way of telling a story, for it gives a lot of depth to the villain. If he identifies to the concept of the tragic villain, this would make him an extraordinarily compelling character, maybe even more than the typical naive protagonist would be. I for one love well crafted tragic villain, desperately looking for redemption, vengeance, or a way to mend their broken heart. Many figures come to mind : Arthas Menethil, Ulfric Stormcloak (special case, since he ins't exactly a real antagonist), Heathcliff (Weathering Heights), Captain Ahab (madness), Davy Jones, Darth Vader, Khan (Star Trek), The Phantom of the Opera,...
     
    Last edited: Dec 27, 2013
  4. Zak9

    Zak9 Scribe

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    I've decided that the way my story is structured, it would be impossible to make her the protagonist. I plan on making her the successful one in the end, though. Perhaps in the next story, she becomes the protagonist. This would work because she will lose her power when she escapes...thoughts?
     
  5. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

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    Wouldn't this make them the antihero?

    Any way. Yes, you can do it, and yes, it can work very well. But, a word of caution. Sometimes the reason people gravitate to the "villain" is because the bad guy is the one who has goals and is active in pursuing those goals. Sometimes it's harder to come up with goals for the "good guy" to pursue and that's why they fade to the background and are uninteresting.

    This may not be a problem for you, but when you make the "bad guy" the protagonist, you may run into the same problem of them becoming bland.

    A simple test to do is to ask yourself two questions. "What does character X want?" and "How does character X plan to get what they want?" If the answer to those questions isn't obvious to you for each character, then that's a good indication of why a certain character may be not working.
     
  6. Spider

    Spider Sage

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    I actually asked about this in a post a while back, which you can find here.

    IMO, I think it's a great idea. Like the others said, it adds a lot of depth to the character. Just remember that in the antagonist's eyes, she is the protagonist. Make sure her goals are realistic and her actions are justified, unless you're going for a more psychopathic or "pure evil" character. Remember that even if she is the antagonist, the readers should want to root for her. After all, they're going to be following her for the entire novel (or more).

    This is a bit vague, so I can't comment much on this. However, I think the transformation from antagonist to protagonist is a good idea since it's evidence of character development.
     
  7. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    "Protagonist" is a term that comes from ancient Greek drama and means "first or chief actor". So whoever is the chief focus of your story is the protagonist. And whoever is in conflict with the protagonist is the antagonist. It doesn't matter whether they are "good" or "bad".
     
    Spider and T.Allen.Smith like this.
  8. SnappingTurtle

    SnappingTurtle Acolyte

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    If you have fleshed her out that much, then why not? Your story would also stand out from all those fantasy works that have this perfect, saintly being as the protagonist.

    I am actually in a similar situation. The main character of the first book of my planned trilogy commits several extremely heinous acts, including ruining the life and reputation of his direct supervisor, the human resources specialist that works with his division, and the CEO of the company where he works, emotionally torturing his ex-wife and manipulating her into committing a series of actions that leaves her destitute and unemployable, nearly drowning a teenage boy and leaving him severely brain-damaged, and kidnapping and physically torturing another teenage boy. By the beginning of the third book, he transforms into a malevolent entity bent on bringing about the end of the world.

    A large portion of people who read this would absolutely hate him, but I am hoping everyone else would be able to understand why he did the things he did, and even root for him to be successful. I think, with your "protagonist", that if you write her in the correct light, you can also get people to understand her and even identify with her. For this character that I'm creating, I'm portraying him as someone who has been mistreated his entire life, and some of his victims are people who have inflicted some sort of harm upon him; for example, the two teenage boys that he leaves seriously injured attacked him and left him for dead, and his supervisor had constantly bullied him at work.

    I figure that if people hate him, then even that would be better than people being apathetic toward him.
     
  9. AnneL

    AnneL Closed Account

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    I've been writing some chapters from the villain's point of view, and it's a lot of fun and makes him much more developed than some distant menace who operates through minions. I think he's a lot scarier, too. BUT having the other 2 main characters do something themselves rather than just reacting to what he's doing or sit around discussing their options has been a challenge.
     
  10. Motley

    Motley Minstrel

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    Everyone is the hero of their own story. Someone famous said that I think. (googlegoogle) John Barth, American novelist.

    I enjoy writing from the 'bad guy's' POV. My current novella is the tale of an extremely twisted guy. I think the important thing is to still make the character sympathetic to the reader. Tony Soprano was a lying, cheating, misogynistic killer, but the audience still loved him.
     
  11. Zak9

    Zak9 Scribe

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    Thanks for everyone's responses, they're very interesting.

    What I'm now considering I need some advice on. What if I were to switch POVs between the "good guy" in the story and the "bad guy", creating two protagonists each against each other's goals?
     
  12. Noma Galway

    Noma Galway Archmage

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    I'm actually doing this with my WIP. The character who starts out the "bad guy" is on her way to becoming one of the "good guys", and the original protagonist is pretty much staying good. Now that I have them both as almost the same type of character, even (I think Bri and Noma are getting more and more like each other every day, and Bri has a moral code I didn't know she had before. She has more of a moral code than Noma), I've started transitioning a different character into the antagonist role. I like it this way, but the new antagonist started out as a good friend of Noma (my original protagonist). Pretty much, a lot of people died, and now my story is different: all since I started writing from Bri's perspective.

    I think I got a bit off topic, but I think it will be helpful if you can follow my thought process. It's really fun to write from two differing perspectives like that, and I personally think it works well.
     
  13. Zak9

    Zak9 Scribe

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    Yes, I think it would be nice experiment. I do plan on making a trilogy, though. Would it be inconsistent to have two protagonists in the first story, and the other two have only one POV?
     
  14. Noma Galway

    Noma Galway Archmage

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    Well, I think if one of your protagonists die, it wouldn't be inconsistent, which is what it sounded to me like you were doing.
     
  15. Zak9

    Zak9 Scribe

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    Neither of my protagonists die in the first story. But I think I may have two protagonists through the trilogy to shine light on the anti-hero...perhaps to even convince the reader that what they're doing is justified.
     
  16. Noma Galway

    Noma Galway Archmage

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    So are you saying you're keeping the dual POV throughout the trilogy?
     
  17. AnneL

    AnneL Closed Account

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    Just look at GRRM, who has about 50 different POVs at least. Multiple first person narrators is pretty common too. Some books switch back and forth between 1st person point of view for one character and 3rd for another. The issue is believablity and engaging the reader, not consistency. I would really not worry about book 2 or 3 of the trilogy until you have book 1 drafted. It might turn out that one of the characters is a lot more interesting to you and you want to write only in that person's voice, or you may discover that some minor character really needs to get top billing in 2 or 3.

    If you want them to be equally balanced against each other's views and not more clearcut hero/villain, then the trick is making us see how each point of view is a legitimate one under the circumstances.
     
  18. Zak9

    Zak9 Scribe

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    Good point, I shouldn't be focusing so much on my next stories in the timeline.
     
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