"The antagonist must represent a real and potent danger..."
(Burroway and Stuckey-French, 2007, p. 265)
The Villain Takes it All
Ok, I've been reading more about writing about the villain vs. the main character.
When writing fiction, we are told to make sure our antagonist is interesting, powerful, and intelligent otherwise our reader may lose interest or not care about what happens to the protagonist.
I have always found that the best scary movies or super hero movies are only as good as the villain in the story.
Weak villain = weak story.
Take The Dark Knight, for instance. Many people were concerned that actor Heath Ledger could not play the Joker in a way that would be believable.
Boy were they wrong!
Heath Ledger's Joker made the film a huge success because not only was his villain mean, evil, and creepy. But his character was funny, interesting, intelligent, and captivating.
That's what made the movie so great.
Now, in my new YA series, The Warfare Club, my main overall antagonist is pretty much Satan himself. However, within each book in the 7 book series, there will be a different antagonist each time. And there will also be one antagonist who will appear pretty much in each book as well.
So, it is my job as the author to make sure these antagonists are mean, evil, and intelligent...but also interesting and captivating.
Not too much pressure!
The Power of It All
But the Power Struggle is what makes a story great.
How Batman struggled with the Joker is what kept the audience interested in the outcome of the story. The Joker's power wasn't brute strength either. His power was his unpredictability. The mayor and police chief had no idea how the Joker would strike next.
Your villain may have intelligence, charm, wealth, or impressive rank instead of brute strength. And that's what makes him/her fascinating to the reader. Hannibal Lecter wasn't a great villain because of his strength. He was a great villain because of his intelligence, unpredictability, charm, and creepiness. He was a great villain for many reasons!
The power must shift between the protagonist and the antagonist. Why? To keep the readers interested in what will happen to the main character.
If the main character has the power at all time, how interesting and mysterious is that for the reader? There must always be a struggle for power and control in the story because that's how it is in real life.
We are always trying to regain control over our lives and sometimes we win and sometimes we are caught by surprise.
Oh Enemy, My Enemy
But the villain of the story isn't always a person. The villain might be a circumstance. I have never read any of the Twilight books, but have been told that there is no one antagonist in the series, but that the circumstance of the lovers is what prevents them from being together. Their circumstance has the power over them.
Perhaps in your story, the circumstance is the antagonist. Or maybe its the weather, a car, a dog, a house, a town, or a planet.
The point is, no matter who or what your villain is, there must be that power struggle.
Be creative with your villain. Grab the reader early on and draw them in with your antagonist. Give your antagonist the power over your main character from time to time then switch it up. It isn't easy for me to accomplish this. I sometimes have to stop and even act out how my villain walks and talks. Since I am writing about demons, I have to try and create their voices and language as well as their appearance. I am finding that creating my enemy isn't as easy as it seems. But I know that the power must shift from the enemy to the protagonist or I'll have a lop-sided story!
That shift in power is what will keep your audience intrigued. The characterization of your antagonist is what will make your story strong. And that's what makes writing so fun....so difficult....so challenging!
But most importantly....just write!
Your turn: How do you create your antagonist? Has it been difficult for you to create that power struggle?