We commonly think of antagonists as villains, the evil people (bad guys) who try to thwart our heroes at every turn. But that’s not necessarily the case.
Sometimes the hero is his own worst enemy. Maybe he or she has an addiction or a dark phobia or some character flaw that keeps tripping him/her up and prevents success in reaching the goal. A pilot with a drinking problem might create a whole lot of problems for himself and his passengers. A young woman with self-esteem issues and no father-figure might look for love in all the wrong places.
An antagonist doesn’t even need to be a person. It can be an animal, a la Moby Dick.
Or it can be the weather. In Ray Bradbury’s story “The Long Rain”, the four characters are driven insane by the incessant rain on a distant planet.
|Photo courtesy of FlickrCommons|
In my “Cowgirl Dreams” series, the harsh winters of Montana or severe drought can kill the protagonists or their livestock. Ranchers died mere feet from their doorstep during white-out blizzards. During the drought and depression of the 1930s, Nettie and Jake trailed their herd of horses 400 miles looking for grass so their horses (their livelihood) wouldn’t starve to death.
Conflict is a key ingredient of any story. An antagonist – whether a person, animal or the weather — opposes the protagonist and his goals and plans and therefore creates conflict. The protagonist struggles against the antagonist who takes the plot to a climax and later the conflict is resolved with the defeat or downfall of the antagonist.
What are some of your favorite or unusual antagonists?
|Heidi M. Thomas is a native Montanan who now lives in North-central Arizona where she blogs, teaches writing, and edits. Her first novel, Cowgirl Dreams, is based on her grandmother, and the sequel, Follow the Dream, won the national WILLA Award. The next book in the series is Dare to Dream, an International Book Award Finalist, and a non-fiction book Cowgirl Up! A History of Rodeo Women, is also available. Heidi has a degree in journalism and a certificate in fiction writing.|