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Writing in the Antagonist's PoV

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Spider, Jun 9, 2013.

  1. Spider

    Spider Sage

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    What's your opinion of writing a story in the PoV of a character who would normally be portrayed as the antagonist? Do you know any books that are written like this?
     
  2. Alex97

    Alex97 Troubadour

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    I think it's an interesting alternative if done well. I think a change from the normal PoV is always welcome.

    I believe the Broken Empire series is from an "evil" point of view, but I haven't got round to reading it yet.
     
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  3. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

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    One of my POV characters is an antagonist. I think it adds another level to be shown the other side of the story and whatever it is your hero is struggling for and against. Plus it can up the stakes of failure somewhat.
     
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  4. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Staff Leadership

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    We normally call this an "antihero," don't we?
     
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  5. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator

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    Nope. An antihero is a protagonist that doesn't display the normal traits of a hero. Instead of being courageous, they may be opportunists. Instead of being generous, they may be calculating. Instead of being chaste, they may be....otherwise. You get the idea. In the end, they're the protagonist.

    To write from the PoV of a protagonist, you have to do a lot of balancing on the blade's edge. You have to let create a plot where the goal of the antagonist is not desired by the audience, but the character is relatable.
     
  6. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror

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    Nope...

    Basically an anti-hero is a hero with dubious morals. (What Ankari said).

    And, the antagonist stands in opposition to the protagonist.
     
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2013
  7. Chessie

    Chessie Guest

    Oh man I love povs by the antagonist. I have such a deal going in my WIP. She doesn't think herself wicked which is the best part for me. The only thing is keeping the play cards close so the readers still have some surprises. I agree with an above comment in that if done well, the antagonist can provide a refreshing pov.
     
  8. Alex97

    Alex97 Troubadour

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    In my WIP, I'm also going to write from the antagonist's POV (though not primarily). As I've said in another recent post, he's going to start out as a character the reader roots for, but then betrays the other main characters. I'm hoping to balance some degree of empathy for the character but overall he should be hated.
     
  9. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

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    In my opinion, you can write in any character's POV as long as you can do two things:
    1) Make the character interesting
    2) Generate character sympathy for the reader

    It' not uncommon for writers to enjoy writing about villains and antagonists. If you think about why, it's in large part due to the proactive nature of that character type. Antagonists and villains are the cause of the story. They are the ones who (generally) put events into motion that force the protagonist to action. Being proactive is one of the key elements for creating reader sympathy.

    There are pitfalls with writing an antagonist POV though. First and foremost, consider the viewpoint you'll be writing in. For example, if you're going to use a first person POV or a third person POV (especially a close 3rd) then the character knows everything that the antagonist intends or knows...to do otherwise is just cheating as a writer. If your POV character knows, your reader should also be aware of the same information.
    That's not to say that this still can't be done effectively. It's just much harder to do sipmly because a character that's a primary cause and driver of your plot has to share information with your reader. After all, we're in that character's head. This limits the writer's ability to surprise the reader unless the author is exceptionally clever.
    Another way to circumvent this little problem is to create an antagonist that is commonly referred to as the "Unwitting Villain". In this case, the antagonist truly believes what they are doing is right & needs to be done. Perhaps they misguided or demented...perhaps that are being used by larger forces behind the scenes. Either way, the POV needs to have some level of confusion or limited knowledge concerning what is going on. Otherwise, the plot and story is too transparent and will hinder reader enjoyment.

    Remember, your reader knows what your POV knows.
     
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  10. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Staff Leadership

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    OH! So we're not talking about the POV for the entire book, right? Sorry, I'm having a special week.
     
  11. Spider

    Spider Sage

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    Actually we are :) Or at least I am.
     
  12. Motley

    Motley Minstrel

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    I usually write novels with multiple POVs and almost always include the antagonist as one of them. I think it helps to keep them 3-dimensional and real rather than just "the bad guy."
     
  13. Gato Cat

    Gato Cat Dreamer

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    I think the antagonist's POV can add valuable insight into a character. If you were going for a multiple POV series for example, having the reader's already establish an image of a villain, only to shatter it as we see what they're really like on the inside keeps the readers guessing. Take for example George R. R. Martin's Jaime Lannister. Who ever thought they'd end up sympathising with a man who ruthlessly threw a young boy out of a window to cover up his incestuous relationship? Or, heaven forbid, actually started to like him?

    At least, this is if you want to give your villain a touch of humanity. I read the first book from the Broken Empire series, which is indeed completely from the POV of a villain protagonist and, although he had good circumstances for ending up as twisted as he was, his actions left himself completely unrelatable to me by the end of a book. His endless and remorseless 'burn, rape and pillage' policy was dark, but at least understandable as an established villain. Then he started overtly betraying his followers without consequence or anyone calling him out on it. I'm not sure if it was the result or bad writing or not, but at the last page I uttered the Eight Deadly Words, closed the book and did not bother with rest of the sequels.

    Sorry for the semi-rant! Long story short, a book completely from the villain's perceptive is an interesting concept and could be highly entertaining if done right. However, I think there's the trap of writing the character in such a way that makes them alienate your readers and leave them completely unrelatable. A surprisingly sympathetic villain is fascinating, a villain rife with dark humour is gruesomely entertaining... pointless and consistent cruelty can get stale, very quickly.
     
  14. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    Sure, you can do it. Look at Jaqueline Carey's Banewreaker, which takes a Lord of the Rings style story and tells it from the antagonist viewpoint. Nicely done, as well.
     
  15. Somniphil

    Somniphil Acolyte

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    I could not overstate how profoundly intrigued I have always been with the idea of an antagonist main character and/or point of view. In John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost, one might arguably sympathize with Satan, the antagonist par excellence. I am no Satanist by any means, but I have always been fascinated with Satan as a character and a villain. In Milos Forman's film Amadeus, a story about Mozart is told from the antagonist, Mozart's rival, Salieri's point of view. I hope to write something with an antagonist main character in the not too distant future.

    Thank you for your post! And thank you to those who posted examples! I'm eager to check them out.
     
  16. Ireth

    Ireth Myth Weaver

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    Dunno if it's been mentioned yet, but Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is a great musical from the POV of the eponymous supervillain antagonist. you really want him to win, even though he's actively working toward evil and being thwarted at every turn by the superhero Captain Hammer.
     
  17. A. E. Lowan

    A. E. Lowan Staff Leadership

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    Dr. Horrible FOREVER!!!
     
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  18. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

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    I think one thing that gives the story possibilities and can engage the reader is the apparent incongruity in it. Here you have Lucifer, son of the morning, who must have been intelligent and magnificent in his own right. He's not an idiot, by any stretch of the imagination. Before the Fall, he occupied a lofty position among his peers.

    Then he decides to go up against an all-powerful, all-knowing being. I guess the explanation is 'pride,' but that doesn't seem to cut it. How and why does a supremely intelligent, cunning individual go up against an all-powerful force that can't be defeated? There are any number of stories in there.
     
  19. Spider

    Spider Sage

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    Thanks to everyone for all the great posts!
     
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