So we all know that every story needs a protagonist. And that usually the protagonist has a breakdown that leads to a breakthrough, whether a fictional character or a person who really lived. As the protagonists in our own lives, this often holds true.
Every story needs an antagonist. We learned that in high school English. But sometimes the antagonist is a shadowy character, not fully formed. And that lack of development could be the reason one’s story isn’t as rich as it could be.
* Screenwriter Raymond Singer, who presented at the Hamline program in July 2008, believes that the antagonist has what the protagonist wants. I have processed this idea with several of my stories and often this holds true, but not always.
* Martha Alderson states in her blockbuster plot program that ¾ of the way through the story the antagonist still prevails. But by the end of the climax, the protagonist does.
* Darcy Pattison writes in her book Novel Metamorphosis: Uncommon Ways to Revise, a workbook used at her novel revision retreats, that a story is best served when the antagonist is a fully fleshed out character, not just a character’s inner demons. She suggests that the antagonist and protagonist should meet face to face at the climax and that only then can the protagonist prevail.
* Novelist Janet Fitch says that the antagonist never changes, as opposed to the protagonist who must change by the end of the story. This idea has resonated with me deeply, but I do believe that in many stories the change in the protagonist helps create one in the antagonist. Civil rights’ activitists in the 1960’s, bravely sitting at a lunch counter or riding a bus, forced a change in their racist antagonists by their actions.
Do any of these suggestions about antagonists resonate for you? What antagonist in your own life can give you insights for your story’s antagonist?