Some actors have reportedly said they’d rather play the bad guy than the good guy because it’s more fun. The same might be said about some writers: it can be more fun to write about antagonists than protagonists. While this probably doesn’t hold true for all of us, I have found the creation of antagonists to be an unexpectedly interesting facet of fiction writing. “Fun” may not always be appropriately descriptive, however. Complicated, damaged, mentally or emotionally unbalanced, narcissistic, or even terrifying might better categorize them. No matter how they are described, I like to uncover their issues, figure out what makes them tick. Why do they do what they do?
Antagonists may grow out of personal experience, be composites or people we’ve known or read about, or be products of our imagination. All of us have a dark side, but society doesn’t smile on our displaying that part of our personality. If this is the case, we writers have an advantage if we care to use it: we can vicariously express our negative thoughts, anger, or pain through our characters—perhaps even alleviate repressed resentment over past mistreatment or salve deep wounds from horrific abuse—by letting our antagonist get his just reward. Maybe a historical person such as Jack the Ripper will inspire a character, or the infamous Lizzie Borden or Ted Bundy. Perhaps he/she is simply a troublemaker, a controller, a bully, a heckler, or a sore loser who creates a rough road for our protagonist. From the beginning of recorded history down to the present, the world has been populated by an abundance of less-than-stellar citizens, so we have an almost endless supply of examples from which we can draw.
Do you have fun creating your antagonists? Have you found them to be outlets for releasing past pain? How do you develop them? Do they always get their comeuppance? Because people are neither all good nor all bad, do you make a point to incorporate any redeeming qualities into your stories? Do your antagonists ever see the error of their ways and turn back from a wrong course?
|Linda Lane and her editing team mentor and encourage writers at all phases of the writing process. To learn more about what they do, please visit them at www.denvereditor.com.|