The good bad of your antagonist

Few better examples than this guy

My original goal for February was to complete the second draft of the low-budget comedy. But as always, things didn’t go as planned.

I’d finished the initial edit, but then got hit with a nasty cold that put me out of commission for about a week, followed by all the activity involved with my daughter’s Bat Mitzvah (where she did a fantastic job), so writing-wise, things came to a screeching halt.

But we’re in a new month, so lots of new opportunities abound. Here’s hoping I can work this script into shape by the 31st.

I’d gotten some very helpful notes on it, the most notable of which was “Your antagonist is too nice. They need to be more at odds with the other characters.”

And they were right. Looking at it with fresh eyes, it’s easy to see how that observation rings true. During that read-through edit, I found at least three places where the character’s badness could definitely be ramped up, and expect more will be found over the course of this rewrite.

Sometimes I’ll even surprise myself by having the antagonist do something unexpected (in terms of behavior, not the story), especially if I personally find it very off-putting. But if it works within the context of the story AND further builds on the difference between them and the protagonist, all the better.

The challenge in writing a solid antagonist is really putting the emphasis on the “antagonize” part. What they want is most likely the opposite of what your protagonist wants, and they are determined to get it – possibly at all costs. To them, they’re the hero of the story, and your protagonist is what’s standing in their way.

I’ve always hated when I read a script and the antagonist is a stereotypical cookie-cutter villain who’s bad for no apparent reason, or because the story requires them to be. Why do they want what they want? I know what the hero wants, but what about them? Just because they’re the antagonist doesn’t mean there’s no story behind who they are.

So the next couple of weeks should be pretty interesting. There’s still a lot of work to do on this, but no doubt one of the high points will be the fun of coming up with ways to make my antagonist even more devious.

Because that’s the kind of character she is.

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