Being the author of successful books at both ends of the children’s literature, ROCK STAR SANTA (picture book from Scholastic) and RATGIRL: Song of the Viper (YA from Trowbridge Books), I plan to share my knowledge and experience with my readers and fellow writers in biweekly postings for the entire year. I’ve developed a guide to writing and marketing titled, An Author’s ABC’s and I’m starting with A.
JANUARY 13, 2014
A is for antagonist from the Greek work meaning opponent.
As the author, you must construct the antagonist’s character as detailed as you develop your hero/heroine’s.
Your readers must hate about your antagonist as much as they love your hero. Makes for great tension.
Here is a quote from one of the reviewers for my recent YA novel, RATGIRL: Song of the Viper.
“Krause has created a set of vivid, memorable characters, starting with the protagonist, Jax, and her family, both biological and created. She also draws a villain that readers will consider absolutely acceptable to hate.”
Characteristics for your antagonist—
1. Someone who has a plan to thwart the hero. In most cases, it’s an EVIL plan in which the villain reaps the coveted reward. It is often the trigger that encourages the hero to act… save the world, save the town.
In Song of the Viper, sixteen year old Jax Stone must save her little brother from the influence of his evil father, Mayor Culpepper, and ends up saving all the children in Metro City.
2. The antagonist initiates his/her plan so the desired outcome falls into place based on his/her plan of action.
Culpepper kidnapped all the children. His reasons were two-fold. One to find his secreted offspring and two to use the rest of the children as an imprisoned labor force to build his new underground city.
3. Strong and understandable motivations will make your antagonist feel “real” to the reader.
Culpepper caused the city to deteriorate with his greed, forcing the rich to flee to the New Continent and leaving the middle class and poor to live in sewer tunnels. Once he drove them underground with no food except what they could barter for, he then trounced on them in an effort to kill them so he could build his new underground city and lure the richest citizens back.
4. A strong antagonist avoids his/her greatest fear…for their weakness to be exposed.
Culpeper’s undoing comes at the climax when the true circumstances of his childhood is revealed by a trusted confidant who wear the mask of friend, but is part of the fighting coalition to overthrow him.
5. Villains need some love, well, not really, but they do need some good characteristics.
Culpepper treats his children with love, and kindness, a side he has never shown to anyone.
6. A strong antagonist must cross the antagonist’s path numerous times, always trying to thwart their successes.
Culpepper not only kidnaps Jax’s little brother, he takes her hostage numerous times. When she slips from his grasp each time, it infuriates him further until the ultimate showdown between them, where he tries to double-cross her even when she is disguised as The Viper.
7. And lastly, there may even be lesser antagonist, not related the villain in any way, but still they throw obstacles at the protagonist.
That person would be Otto Hoffmann in Song of the Viper. A homeless person, just like Jax, he’s made a name for himself as the Barter King and tries to blackmail Jax into taking his family to the New World when she leaves.
So when you’re writing, place yourself in your hero/heroine’s shoes and fight that antagonist with everything you’ve got. A well-rounded villain will enrich your story and garner praise for your writing.
Ratgirl: Song of the Viper is available now. Click on the book cover and title to the right of this post to be linked to Amazon and/or Barnes & Noble.
Stop by for the next installment in “An Author’s ABC’s.” Book Reviews