The antagonist is the main opposing force to the protagonist.
On the one hand, the protagonist represents the theme of the story most passionately because of their personality, desires, fears and beliefs. On the other, the antagonist’s opposing action is what allows the protagonist to reveal his qualities, therefore the theme they incarnate.
Although we tend to consider the protagonist the most important character in the story because of their utter centrality, the antagonist is just as important because, without their action, there wouldn’t be the opportunity that creates the story.
The antagonist is just as important to the story as the protagonist, because, without the antagonist’s action, there wouldn’t be the opportunity that creates the story.
If the protagonist wanted something, and they got it without opposition, there would be no story. But because the antagonist opposes the protagonist’s desires, a story emerges.
This said, while the protagonist tends to be central stage in the story, because of their role, antagonists may be in a less visible position, despite the importance of their action.
Why does the antagonist oppose the protagonist?
The reasons why the antagonist opposes the protagonist is crucial to the verisimilitude of the story.
Every story needs an antagonist, which sometimes translates in the antagonist having shallow motives. But the more solid the antagonist’s reasons to oppose the protagonist, the stronger the story arc will be.
Some antagonist may be villains that oppose the protagonist simply because they are vile people. Or mainly because they are evil.
Conflict and the Antagonist’s Creative Action
The Antagonist creates the conflict, therefore the story. The antagonistic action is, in many respects, more…
Villains may be wonderful characters, but they become so when they have strong antagonistic characteristics, that have nothing to do with their evil nature.
What are then some of the most common reasons for an antagonistic action?
- The antagonist’s opinion clashes with the protagonist’s.
Protagonist and antagonist are on the opposing ends of an argument or a discussion. Positions don’t need to be good or bad. They need to oppose one another. In this case, the antagonist’s reasons to sustain the opposite of the protagonist must be as good as the protagonist’s reasons to sustain their position.
- The antagonist desires the same thing the protagonists wants.
This is one of the more common reasons why a character opposes another, and again, the antagonist might have perfectly legitimate reasons to want the same thing as the protagonist. The reasons why we root for the protagonist is because of the point of view.
- The antagonist’s personality is incompatible with the protagonist’s
People with incompatible personalities clashes all the time. Conflicting personalities as the base for the conflict is trickier than other motives because often isn’t strong enough to sustain the central conflict. But it may support a concurring reason quite well.
- The antagonist stands on the opposite side of a problematic situation.
Stories are driven not only by the desire to achieve something but also by the desire to solve a nasty situation. In such circumstance, the protagonist and the antagonist may just have different opinions about what the best course of action is. The more reasonable the reasons on both sides, the stronger the story.
Although antagonists are most often characters, they may also be something different from a person.
The antagonist of a story may be the protagonist’s own fears, for example. Or it may be their social stand, which doesn’t allow them to do certain things.
Sometimes, these situations are turned into characters, so to make the opposition more visual and therefore more readily understandable by the readers, but sometimes authors decide to go for the true circumstance.
These are story where the internal conflict comes to the fore. They may be very intimate stories, rather than adventurous ones.
Whether a character or a situation, and antagonistic force will always be present, because without antagonism, there is no conflict, and without conflict, there’s no story.
Sarah Zama wrote her first story when she was nine. Fourteen years ago, when she started her job in a bookshop, she discovered books that address the structure of a story and she became addicted to them. Today, she’s a dieselpunk author who writes fantasy stories historically set in the 1920s. Her life-long interest in Tolkien has turned quite nerdy recently.
She writes about all her passions on her blog https://theoldshelter.com/