Writing Antagonists

fictionwritingtips:

I received an influx of antagonist questions in the past few days, so I thought I’d compile my posts on the topic. I think I might have written a few others, but I think these are the most helpful. Thanks for your questions!

Understanding Your Antagonist

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about how to make an antagonist realistic/relatable without excusing their bad behavior. Many of the questions are afraid that giving the antagonist back story is a poor way to give the villain a “pass” for all the terrible things they’ve done.  I’ve previously posted about antagonists and how you should focus on making them as real as your protagonist, which explains you need to develop their back story just as much as you would any other character. Here are a few tips that should help:

If you’re having trouble developing your antagonist, try to think about the story from their point-of-view.

For the most part, making your antagonist evil for no reason doesn’t make any sense. There’s usually a reason, even if it’s not 100% exposed to your readers. Everyone in your story should have a motive, just like they would in real life. Your antagonist thinks he is the main character. Your antagonist thinks he’s doing the RIGHT thing. Very rarely do villains with no motive work out or feel realistic (I know they have, but it’s a very hard thing to pull off). In the mind of your antagonist, your main character is stopping them from accomplishing their goals.

Discussing your antagonist’s bad childhood is not the same as trying to give him a “pass” for his evil ways. 

You just need to find a way to interweave his back story without it feeling forced. If you say “He was abused as a child and that’s why he treats other people so badly”, your story will feel flat. Finding a way to show that information instead of telling it is very important. You don’t need to flat out say why the antagonist is so bad, but you should help the readers come to their own conclusions. For example, maybe your antagonist becomes furious when someone mentions something about their father. The readers will be able to infer that there’s been some sort of issue between the antagonist and their father and we might start to understand the source of their rage.

Like I mentioned before, developing a realistic past for your antagonist is the same as developing any other character. 

Your main character has to have flaws and their flaws need to come from somewhere. I would suggest doing some research on real life serial killers and see what sort of places they came from. Sometimes it’s impossible to tell why people snapped, but there are usually some clues or some build up from that person’s past. You’ll get ideas for your own antagonist.

In order to make it seem like you’re not excusing what your antagonist has done, you need to remind the audience about free-will. 

If your antagonist has a past that seems like he was driven into doing evil deeds, there needs to be actions your antagonist has done while making his own decisions. Your readers need a way to understand that your antagonist is capable of making his own choices and can also stop what he or she is doing. Having a sympathetic antagonist is not a bad thing, but you need to make sure your readers relate more with your protagonist. Your readers should usually want your protagonist to come out on top.

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Why Bad Characters Aren’t Always Bad

This is a follow-up to my Why Good Characters Aren’t Always Good post, but this time I’m going to focus more on antagonists than protagonists. I previously talked about the differences between writing a strong character (well-written, developed, interesting) and writing a morally strong character. This time I’m going to talk about writing a strong antagonist that might also have strong morals. It’s important to remember that your antagonist will not always be wrong; they are just someone who opposes your protagonist.

Your antagonist won’t always do the wrong thing

Just like your protagonist won’t always do the right thing, your antagonist isn’t always trying to destroy the world. In fact, your antagonist might actually do the right thing every once in a while and they might be the one with all the right ideas. They might decide to save your protagonist, even if they don’t necessarily agree with what they’re doing. They might even side with your protagonists on some issues. The antagonist doesn’t always have to be out to completely destroy your protagonist, so keep that in mind. Take time to discover their motivations and how it will fit into your story.

Good vs. Good is an interesting way to think about characters

If you want to write an interesting story, think of your character conflict as good vs. good. Your protagonist thinks they are doing the right thing, but so does your antagonist in most cases. I know there have been cases when the antagonist is just an awful person, but most of the time they do think what they’re doing is necessary. If we find reasons to side with both your protagonist and antagonist, your story becomes very fascinating. Consider that both characters believe they are in the right.

Your antagonist might have the best intentions in mind

You protagonist is only the protagonist because it’s the character your story is focusing on. They’re the main character of your novel and the one we’re told to care about more. However, that doesn’t mean your protagonist is making all the right decisions and what they say goes. Your antagonist might also have the best intentions in mind. Some of the best stories are when your protagonist realizes that they might not have been making the best decisions OR when they see themselves in the antagonist. Remember, your antagonist might think they’re doing the right thing and they might intend to do something good.

It’s possible for your antagonist to care about your protagonist

Your antagonist and protagonist do not have to hate each other. As I mentioned before, your protagonist does not have to be the good one and your antagonist doesn’t have to be the evil one. They just oppose each other in some way. Usually whatever they want they can’t have unless the other one fails. This doesn’t mean that your antagonist can’t care about what happens to the protagonist. Stories become more interesting when the protagonist and antagonist have a relationship that goes beyond hating each other.

This post is intended to help you switch up how you look at antagonists, so hopefully you can explore this in your writing. Antagonists and protagonists come in many shapes and forms, so don’t always think one has to be “good” and one has to be “evil”. I usually think of the “wrong” character as the one who doesn’t change or develop throughout your story despite the information presented to them and the experiences they go through. Figure out what works for your novel and what helps make the plot most interesting/exciting.

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Reasons Why Your Antagonist is the Antagonist

Any antagonist or villain that doesn’t have a reason for being the antagonist will come off as a flat character. Even if you know as the writer why a character is doing something, you need to find ways to explain it to your readers. When you reveal this information is up to you, but you need to do it at some point to make your characters relatable and believable. Here are a few things that might explain why your antagonist is the antagonist:

Family behavior

Looking at your antagonist’s background is always a great way to explain why they are the way they are. Think about how your character’s parents had treated them in the past. Maybe their father was busy at work and didn’t have time for your antagonist. Maybe their mother left the family or never wanted a child. Though these particular situations do not make people “evil” or “bad”, they do help shape your character. Build the individual situations of your characters and use them to help explain why your character turned out the way they did.

Again, family behavior doesn’t always negatively affect a person and turn them into something bad, but it might have an impact on your character. Try to only include information about this behavior if it has helped develop your character in some way. Or consider the reverse. Family behavior like a mother being too caring or suffocating might have caused a character to act out. There are so many ways to do it!

Personal background

Outside of family behavior, your antagonist might have had some bad things happen to them.  Maybe they were bullied when they were younger or there’s something they wanted badly that they never got. Looking into your antagonist’s personal background will help you understand a lot about your character. Were they constantly made fun of? Did they witness something violent that helped shaped them as an adult? If a character has felt weak at certain times in their life, they might want some control over other people.  Consider these factors.

Mob mentality

An antagonist might be an antagonist simply because they got caught up in something bigger than themselves.  They might have heard something from other people and decided to join the cause. They might have gotten swept up in something they didn’t fully understand and gained power. Something might be so ingrained in them that they can’t see your protagonist’s point of view. A character can be susceptible to what everyone else is thinking, so conformity might be a factor that turns them into the antagonist.

Desperation

If someone is in a desperate situation, this will definitely shape their behavior. Consider the idea that your antagonist is just as desperate as your protagonist. They need to succeed. If they don’t, maybe something horrible might happen to them. A villain doesn’t always do things just because they want to stand in the way of the protagonist. They’re not just simply evil. There’s always a reason behind their actions and desperation might be one of them.

Remember, your antagonist isn’t always the bad person; they’re just someone who doesn’t want to see your protagonist to succeed. Their ideals clash and they believe different things. You should develop your antagonist just as much as your develop your protagonist. Explaining why they’re doing the things they’re doing will help your readers understand what’s happening.

-Kris Noel

(via si-siw)

@2 months ago with 1614 notes

Strengthening Your Character Through Personal Relationships

fictionwritingtips:

In most of your stories, your characters will have personal relationships that you’ll need to develop. A great way to strengthen your characters is through their personal relationships, so it’s extremely important that you spend time planning them out. Whether it’s with family, friends or significant others, make sure you put in the work to develop them properly.

Here are some tips on strengthening your characters through personal relationships:

Writing Friends:

Your character’s friendships are important because they will help your protagonist grow and develop and aid them on their journey. If your character has close friends, you’ll need to help your readers understand why they’re friends and what it means to the story. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Think about when your characters became friends. Backstory is important when it comes to writing a long-time friendship, so consider clever ways to share this information with your readers. Don’t just say they’ve been friends forever—let your readers in on the story.
  • Build a believable friendship. Give your readers something to relate to. People become friends for all sorts of reason, but let us know why they’ve stayed friends. Show us how your characters have grown with the help of each other.
  • Understand that friendships change. People change and that can change how friends interact and relate with each other. It’s very possible that your main character will go through some sort of experience that changes the way they relate with their friends. This could sometimes destroy a relationship or strengthen it in some way. Think about how you want  your friendships to build your story.

Writing Family:

Families can be either a source of tension or a source of comfort for your characters—or even both. Deciding what type of relationship you want your character to have with their family is the first step. Here are a few things to focus:

  • Figure out what people make up your character’s family. Does your character have two parents? Any siblings? Do any extended family members live in your character’s home?
  • Think about whether your character’s family offers safety. Does your character feel safe at home? Does the source of conflict in your story come from home? Is the family unit cohesive or are their serious problems? Does your character trust their family?
  • Figure out what your character’s home life is like. Can your characters be themselves around their family?  If your character is at home a lot, do they act like they usually do? Do they have to hide who they are outside their home? Do they keep secrets from their family?

Writing Significant Others/Romantic Relationships:

Figuring out whether or not you want to include a romantic relationship or not really depends on the story you’re telling. If you think it will detract from your main character’s journey, you might decide not to. However, if done right, it won’t weaken your story if you decide to include one. Here are a few tips on doing it right.

  • Focusing on finding a balance. If your novel isn’t romance or erotica, romance shouldn’t be the main focus of your novel. Make sure there’s not too much romance, which means the romance shouldn’t overshadow the main plot.
  • Don’t let romance detract from character development. Your character should still grow and develop in some way and this shouldn’t be done entirely through meeting a love interest. Your character needs to grow on their own, not because they’ve been “saved” by someone mysterious and intriguing.
  • The romance should add something significant to your story. The romance should reveal something about your characters and hopefully make us relate to them a little bit more. If your love story feels unnatural, your readers will know it’s unnecessary and feel disconnected from your story. Only add a romance subplot if it adds something to the overall plot.

-Kris Noel

(via starryeyedminds)

@3 months ago with 3918 notes
thewritingcafe:


Another Halloween themed post.
Part I: Superstitions
GHOSTS AND SPIRITS
Iron and Ghosts
The Early Ghost
Guide to Ghosts
Ghosts
Gravestone Symbolism
10 Little Known Mysterious Ghost Types
Ghost Types
The Different Types of Ghosts
Haunted Places
Cemetery Folklore
Writing a Ghost Story
Tips for Writing Ghost Stories
Ghost Cliches
Horror Cliches
ZOMBIES
The Science of Zombies
Zombie Biology
Zombie Sociology
Zombie Myths
Stage II and Stage III Zombies (pictures)
Vampires vs Zombies
Undead Creatures
Zombies
Guide on Zombies
SHAPE SHIFTERS AND HOMINIDS
Werewolves and other were-beasts
The Shape Shifting Process
Shape Shifters
Hominids of the World
Werewolf Myths
Science of Werewolves
Werewolf Behavior
Werewolves vs Vampires vs Zombies
Werewolf Anatomy
Wolf Body Language
Lycanthropy
Werewolf Myths and Truths
History of the Werewolf Legend
SEA CREATURES
The Mermaid
Sea Creatures
Books About Mermaids and Sea Folklore
Sea Creatures: Books
YA Mermaid Novels
Best Mermaid Books
Awesome Mermaid Books
Mermaid Anatomy
A Dissection of Mermaid Anatomy
VAMPIRES
African Vampires
Writing the A-Typical Vampire
So You Want to Write a Vampire Novel
Avoiding Vampire Cliches
Vampire Cliches
Vampire Burial
Vampire Mythology
Vampire Biology
Vampire Virology
Vampire Sociology
Vampires in Folklore and Literature
AVIAN CREATURES
Underused Bird Mythologies
FAIRIES AND FAE
Types of Faeries A-Z
A Guide to Fairies
Other Names for Fairies
Books About Faery
Best YA Fairy Books
Best YA Fantasy Series About the Fae
ANGELS AND DEMONS
A Glory of Angels
Angels and Demons Resource Post
Do You Give Angels Flaws or Not?
Unusual Angels
More:
Creating Creepy Creatures
Mythology Meme
Master Post of World Mythology, Creatures, and Folklore
Figures of Norse Mythology
Those Who Haunt the Earth
Writing Horror, Paranormal, and Supernatural
Genre: YA Supernatural
List of Mythical Creatures
Mythological Creature Picture Spam
How to Make Your Supernatural Characters Unique
Supernatural Theme Story
Myths and Urban Legends Masterpost
Original Gods, Goddesses, and Myths
World Building Basics: Myths and Legends
Mythical Creatures and Beings
Symbols by Word
Mythology Meme
Writing Paranormal Characters into the Real World

thewritingcafe:

Another Halloween themed post.

Part I: Superstitions

GHOSTS AND SPIRITS

ZOMBIES

SHAPE SHIFTERS AND HOMINIDS

SEA CREATURES

VAMPIRES

AVIAN CREATURES

FAIRIES AND FAE

ANGELS AND DEMONS

More:

(via si-siw)

@3 months ago with 43742 notes

Strengthening Your Character Through Personal Relationships

fictionwritingtips:

In most of your stories, your characters will have personal relationships that you’ll need to develop. A great way to strengthen your characters is through their personal relationships, so it’s extremely important that you spend time planning them out. Whether it’s with family, friends or significant others, make sure you put in the work to develop them properly.

Here are some tips on strengthening your characters through personal relationships:

Writing Friends:

Your character’s friendships are important because they will help your protagonist grow and develop and aid them on their journey. If your character has close friends, you’ll need to help your readers understand why they’re friends and what it means to the story. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Think about when your characters became friends. Backstory is important when it comes to writing a long-time friendship, so consider clever ways to share this information with your readers. Don’t just say they’ve been friends forever—let your readers in on the story.
  • Build a believable friendship. Give your readers something to relate to. People become friends for all sorts of reason, but let us know why they’ve stayed friends. Show us how your characters have grown with the help of each other.
  • Understand that friendships change. People change and that can change how friends interact and relate with each other. It’s very possible that your main character will go through some sort of experience that changes the way they relate with their friends. This could sometimes destroy a relationship or strengthen it in some way. Think about how you want  your friendships to build your story.

Writing Family:

Families can be either a source of tension or a source of comfort for your characters—or even both. Deciding what type of relationship you want your character to have with their family is the first step. Here are a few things to focus:

  • Figure out what people make up your character’s family. Does your character have two parents? Any siblings? Do any extended family members live in your character’s home?
  • Think about whether your character’s family offers safety. Does your character feel safe at home? Does the source of conflict in your story come from home? Is the family unit cohesive or are their serious problems? Does your character trust their family?
  • Figure out what your character’s home life is like. Can your characters be themselves around their family?  If your character is at home a lot, do they act like they usually do? Do they have to hide who they are outside their home? Do they keep secrets from their family?

Writing Significant Others/Romantic Relationships:

Figuring out whether or not you want to include a romantic relationship or not really depends on the story you’re telling. If you think it will detract from your main character’s journey, you might decide not to. However, if done right, it won’t weaken your story if you decide to include one. Here are a few tips on doing it right.

  • Focusing on finding a balance. If your novel isn’t romance or erotica, romance shouldn’t be the main focus of your novel. Make sure there’s not too much romance, which means the romance shouldn’t overshadow the main plot.
  • Don’t let romance detract from character development. Your character should still grow and develop in some way and this shouldn’t be done entirely through meeting a love interest. Your character needs to grow on their own, not because they’ve been “saved” by someone mysterious and intriguing.
  • The romance should add something significant to your story. The romance should reveal something about your characters and hopefully make us relate to them a little bit more. If your love story feels unnatural, your readers will know it’s unnecessary and feel disconnected from your story. Only add a romance subplot if it adds something to the overall plot.

-Kris Noel

(via si-siw)

@3 months ago with 3918 notes
thewritewire:

Show vs. Tell 
Great description of the difference.

thewritewire:

Show vs. Tell 

Great description of the difference.

(via si-siw)

@4 months ago with 23261 notes

on writing disabled characters

chronikou:

sayahomu:

for chronikou

some of these resources aren’t targeted writers, but i included them because they are useful tools in understanding how disabled people live

disabled characters in general

How to Write Disabled Characters

Tips for Researching and Respectfully Writing Disabled Characters

Combating Stereotypes: Why Movies About ‘the Disabled’ Stink

Big Ideas: Stella Young On Disability & Inspiration Porn

The Spoon Theory 

fellow writers and artists who are creating characters who belong to marginalized groups you are not a part of

What is Ableism? Five Things About Ableism You Should Know

physically disabled characters

Top Fifteen Things Not to Say or Do to a Physically Disabled Person

Some Thoughts on “Physically Disabled Protagonists”

autistic characters

Writing autistic characters

Mental age is not acceptable (applies to people with learning disorders or other cognitive disabilities too)

Against “mental age”

Infantilization or Not?

15 Things You Should Never Say To An Autistic

The Problem With Functioning Labels

Television on the Spectrum: The Best (and Worst) Depictions of Asperger Syndrome on TV

mentally ill characters

Character Development: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Brief Advice on How to Write Depression: Imagination and Research

psychopathy and why everything you think about it is wrong and terrible (the author of that post says that fang is willing to answer any questions on the subject)

the DSM-5 

my own thoughts

if i had to write a ten commandments for writing disabled characters they would probably be:

  • don’t reduce them solely to their disability, but also don’t act like their disability is separate from who they are (if you have multiple disabled characters though, it’s fine for them to feel like this is true for them personally). develop them as a person with likes, dislikes, etc.
  • don’t use them to ‘inspire’ people because they’re disabled and are able to ‘overcome’ it.
  • don’t cure their disability in the story. please, please, please.
  • don’t pull a JK Rowling. explicitly state that they are disabled within the story proper. otherwise it’s not really representation at all.
  • don’t rely heavily on things that people who are not part of the group have written about disabled people, if possible. if you do, you may end up regurgitating some really gross ideas. (avoid Autism Speaks resources like the plague.)
  • don’t have other characters describe the character as ‘trapped in their own body/world’ or better off dead, unless you will have someone else confront that character about what they said.
  • don’t act like the only obstacles they face are from their disability. show how the social and legal stigmas against disability affects their lives too.

Thank you so much for the advice! I really appreciate this!

(via luftnarp)

@2 months ago with 1475 notes

Writing Research - Victorian Era

ghostflowerdreams:

In historical fiction it is important to be accurate and the only way to do so is to research the era. What is highly recommended by many writers is to write your story first. While writing your story, mark the parts that you’re not sure are correct and then do the research after you are done. This is to prevent you from from doing unnecessary research that may not be relevant to your work. You want to spend your time wisely!

To begin, the Victorian period formally begins in 1837 (the year Victoria became Queen) and ends in 1901 (the year of her death). 

Names

Society & Life

Commerce

Entertainment & Food

Hygiene, Health & Medicine

Fashion

Dialogue

Justice & Crimes

(via si-siw)

@3 months ago with 7865 notes

Writing Masterpost

mylifehasbeentakenoverbygayhalp:

Character Help

Dialogue

General Help

Plotting

Prompts and Ideas

Research

Revision

Setting

Sounds to listen to whilst writing

Tools

This took me a good few hours and a lot of effort to make and even though it was mainly for myself anyone can feel free to use it, for the note it is still under construction and I am undergoing fixes. So If anyone actually does use this other than myself and notices a broken link or something not quite right, could you please inform me about it? Thank you.

(via stannisbaratheon)

@3 months ago with 32927 notes

How to Create a Character

stephaniegrand:

All paintings are done from the same basic set of colors, and all characters are built from the same basic set of responses and emotions. How you use these elements — how you mix them and apply them — determines whether you’ll end up with a masterpiece or something not even your grandma would hang on her wall.

  • Don’t start your character off with a name or a physical description.

I know this doesn’t seem logical at first glance — after all, you name a baby before you get to know him very well. Why wouldn’t you give your character a name and blue eyes before you find out anything else about him?

If you have a name and a physical description right away — Jane Meslie, 37, blonde with bright blue eyes and great legs and a habit of flipping her hair out of her face when she’s frustrated — you’re going to be tempted to look no deeper that her appearance. When she gets into trouble, you’re going to fall back on that hair-flipping thing, and she’s going to do it so often she’ll be bald by the end of the book.

Read More

(Source: hollylisle.com, via si-siw)

@3 months ago with 624 notes

rifa:

maxkirin:

So, let me guess— you just started a new book, right? And you’re stumped. You have no idea how much an AK47 goes for nowadays. I get ya, cousin. Tough world we live in. A writer’s gotta know, but them NSA hounds are after ya 24/7. I know, cousin, I know. If there was only a way to find out all of this rather edgy information without getting yourself in trouble…

You’re in luck, cousin. I have just the thing for ya.

It’s called Havocscope. It’s got information and prices for all sorts of edgy information. Ever wondered how much cocaine costs by the gram, or how much a kidney sells for, or (worst of all) how much it costs to hire an assassin?

I got your back, cousin. Just head over to Havocscope.

((PS: In case you’re wondering, Havocscope is a database full of information regarding the criminal underworld. The information you will find there has been taken from newspapers and police reports. It’s perfectly legal, no need to worry about the NSA hounds, cousin ;p))

Want more writerly content? Follow maxkirin.tumblr.com!

HELLO

(via sgtbarnes)

@4 months ago with 167039 notes