Antagonist

What is an Antagonist? 

Once I heard from an author that Antagonists are the writer’s best allies. Because they have one common goal: to make Protagonist’s life miserable.

When you look at the etymology, you see how true this is. The term Antagonist comes from the Greek word \textit{antagonistēs}, meaning “opponent” or “rival.” In storytelling, an antagonist is any character/force/object/feeling who stands between the Protagonist and their goal.

No Antagonist, no conflict. No conflict, no plot, and therefore no story.

No Antagonist, no Character Arc, and again, no story.

To write a good story, we need a variety of Antagonists which suits the story and the reader’s age.

I researched as best as I could to gather all types of Antagonists in this blog post. If you have any more types, please share them with me in the comments.

Most of the examples are from the Harry Potter series. For two reasons: 1) it is familiar to many, and 2) it is masterfully crafted.

Types of Antagonists

 

External Antagonist

Villain 

A villain is an evil malicious person, regardless of the story’s protagonist. In classical storytelling, a “bad guy” opposed a “good guy”. The accurate term for that bad guy is Villain. Voldemort in the Harry Potter series and Sauron in The LORD OF THE RINGS are two examples of villains.

Sometimes, Villains and Antagonists are mistaken for each other and used interchangeably. First, Villains are only one Antagonist type. Second, Antagonist is a plot role while Villain is a character type. Some Antagonists are not evil persons. They are just doing their jobs!

 

Anti-Villain 

Anti-Villains are assets in storytelling. They are both villains and not villains. They are gray characters. The reader wants to see them vanquished, yet cannot hate them.

Draco Malfoy is an Anti-Villain. Right upon arrival at Hogwarts, he started bothering Harry. He was a bully and troublemaker not only to Harry but to everyone. As the story reveals Draco’s backstory, we see he is under the pressure from his father. Part of his character is a villain and another part is a lonely sad boy that we cannot hate. If he was a Villain, when he was given the mission to kill Dumbledore, he would do the job straightforwardly. However, all throughout the HALF-BLOOD PRINCE, we see Draco struggles to do his mission and morally cannot convince himself to complete his mission.

Malfoy

 

A corrupt entity

The Antagonist doesn’t need to be always a human. A corrupt entity is an Antagonist. In Harry Potter stories, the Wizengamot—the wizarding Britain’s high court of law and parliament—was deeply corrupt. The Ministry of Magic
was another Antagonist.

Wizengamot

In 1984 by George Orwell, the Party is an Antagonist.

The Republic of Gilead in THE HANDMAID’S TALE  by Margaret Atwood is another example.

Society 

Nature

The opposing force can be nature. For example, the sea in Robinson Crusoe, or the Iceberg/Ocean in the movie Titanic. Titanic

 

Technology 

In science fiction stories, technology can be a mighty Antagonist. For example, I, ROBOT (1950) by Isaac Asimov.

 

 

Internal Antagonist

We usually think of an Antagonist as a force or a person, out of the Protagonist. Yet, the internal Antagonist makes the story character-driven and more relatable because we don’t go on an epic journey like Harry Potter but we all have to deal with doubts and nagging inner voices—our biggest foes. This is only one example of the internal Antagonist. Options are more!

A physical problem

 

If I tell you that a movie with only one Antagonist can not only entertain people but also win prizes, would you believe me? What if I tell you that the Antagonist was only inside the Protagonist?

The movie THE KING’S SPEECH (2010) is that movie. With a 15 million budget, its box office was \$ 427 million! The movie is based on a true story: King George VI stammers! His brother abdicates the throne and he has to give his first radio speech as the new king!

The king's speech

He had worked with speech therapists before, with no success. The Inciting Incident of the story is when his wife hears about a speech therapist and makes an appointment for her husband. A close friendship grows between the king and the therapist. The Climax is when the king and his speech therapist go together in the radio studio to broadcast the king’s first wartime speech, LIVE!

 

The Protagonist’s struggle is relatable to all of us, even though most of us don’t stammer and are not queens and kings. Yet, we know the Climax of this story very well—occasions that force us to overcome a shortage.


In this blog post, I explore some examples of Antagonists in picture book biographies


 

Posted in PictureBookPedia.

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