Tuesday, February 9

Who Hates Ya Baby? Bad Guys Who Aren't the Antagonist

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Enemies. We all have them.

Not the "You killed my father, prepare to die," type, but the "Gal at work who always tries to make you look bad," type.

Characters are no different. They have enemies too, only most of the time we focus on the Big Bad Antagonist and forget that even nice people have folks who don't like them. And aren't trying to kill them. They're like, minitagonists.

Take a look at your current protagonist. They'll most likely have friends who help them throughout the story. Or have no friends at all if they're the loner type. Odds are either everyone loves them or everyone hates them, with not a whole lot of in-between, because in-between isn't nearly as much fun as the Big Bad.

But think about how much fun you can have messing with your protagonist if you give them a few folks who just flat out don't like them, but aren't doing anything to actively ruin their lives. They can be the thorn in the protagonist's side that adds just the right amount of distraction so they mess up big. Or the person who sees what the protagonist was hoping no one noticed. Or even better, the person the protagonist needs to get what they want.

Enemies can also be a great way to show the ugly side of your protagonist (and keep them from being a Mary Sue). The one person who always pushes their buttons and makes them say or do things they'd never say or do under normal circumstances. They can even push them to a revelation they might not have gotten to without an outside perspective.

Not every bad guy has to be really bad. Sometimes they can just be a pain the butt.

Who dislikes your protagonist? Is there anyone who could make their lives tougher just when they least need it?

14 comments:

  1. LOL love this post! I suppose every character who is good can't always be the best, just like a character who is bad can't always be the worst!! Love it!

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  2. Very true. I just hope I can think of how to incorporate such "minitagonists" into my story. I already know my big bad antagonists, a hidden antagonist, and a lesser baddie, but none of them are simple pains in the butt. Something to think about as I move on.

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  3. Yes - good advice. I've done this and I think it makes my story better. Nobody is loved by everyone.

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  4. Awesome idea! I always love your posts. They get me thinking about new ways to improve my story. :)

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  5. Minitagonists - nice! What about Frenemies! I have a character with close friends who could help him, but for cultural reasons, don't. Interesting topic! :)

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  6. These kinds of characters are so fun to work with! Gossip can be quite damaging.

    Then there are the ambivalent folk, who wouldn't want to see you hurt but wouldn't care enough to try to stop it, either.

    Ooo, and allies with ulterior motives than helping the MC out of the goodness of their hearts. *grin*

    It's fun to play with humanity's shades of gray.

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  7. Aha!! Now I know just how to change my WIP and make it a little better. Thanks so much. I've enjoyed reading your blog!

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  9. I had just that situation come up in my WIP. My protag said something nasty to one of the minitags and I thought, "she can't say that, she'll look bad." But now, maybe she can!

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  10. Most welcome! Characters can do anything that is true to who they are and motivated by real emotions. If they're perfect you end up with a Mary Sue, so it's good to let those flaws hang out once a while.

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  11. Great post! I mentioned it in my recent vlog and linked to your blog. Thanks so much for sharing.

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  12. Maybe my character Samantha Storms can be a minitagonist since she doesn't get along with StarGirl or agree with her morals, let alone think that she's good enough to keep her city safe or her loved ones safe, or an antagonist since she wants to kill and torture bad guys.

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