Antagonists: The Best Part of a Story

The bad guy is most often the most memorable part of any given piece of fiction. He’s given the best lines, has the most agency in the plot and basically ends up being, without restraint, a lot cooler than the good guys are allowed to be. This is why making a good bad guy is essential. I’m going to use male pronouns, but these are just as applicable for female and non-gendered antagonists. 

1. Make him stick out. An author should make all characters memorable but this is vital for the antagonist if he is to have any staying power. He is the driving force behind the novel’s conflict so someone that important needs to be dealt with carefully. If he falls flat, the plot and conflict themselves can deflate. 

2. Make him whole. Very few villains are in it for the lols and those that are have reasons for that. The most common mistake to make is turning the villain into a plot device rather than a person. Even animal antagonists have reason to be terrifying forces of nature. 

3. Make him complement your hero(es). It’s strange to think that someone can be given the wrong villain, but there’s a reason Batman is paired up with the Joker, and Superman takes on Lex Luthor. These villain/hero pairs complement each other well, with the Batman/Joker conflict being as psychological as it is physical. Batman versus Luthor is an interesting intellectual battle but doesn’t resonate as well as the classic dustup. The more powerful it is, the more the conflict resonates, the more it will be enjoyed and the more it really captures the imagination. 

Thanks for reading and enjoy your day.

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