How to Write a Well-Rounded Antagonist in Fiction
A well-rounded antagonist can take your story to the next level, as it should. If your story is lacking a strong conflict, take a look at your antagonist. Is he, she, or it well-rounded? Does the antagonist have a motive, a backstory, and emotional depth? If not, then you have some work to do. After all, a well-rounded antagonist is just as important, if not more important, than your protagonist. Nothing interesting would ever happen to your protagonist without the antagonist. The antagonist makes the book.
Should the Antagonist Be all Evil?
Your antagonist should never be all evil, just like your antagonist should never be all good. A well-rounded antagonist has some good and bad aspects. It just happens that his bad aspects outweigh his good. Your antagonist could be as simple as rain. Though rain is typically good, if it pours nonstop, it could become bad and create flooding.
Any antagonist you create should be similar to rain. Perhaps your antagonist has an evil plan, but his weakness is his love for his daughter. Or maybe your antagonist thinks her actions are for the greater good despite the fact that she might be killing thousands of innocent people. Your antagonist could be taking revenge for an incident that occurred years ago and traumatized her. There are many ways to add depth to your bad character without making him, her, or it completely evil.
How Can You Add Backstory to Your Antagonist?
A backstory is your character’s past. What made them the way they are now? What is driving them to do what they do? When historians study the mind of Hitler and what led him to wreaking such havoc, they look at his past before he rose to power. They analyze his mind, the situations he went through, how he was raised, who hurt him, etc. All these details bring us closer to figuring out what went wrong in this evil person’s mind.
Your antagonist should have a backstory too. They are a living thing with a motive that arose over time. They didn’t just wake up one morning with the need to kill. Something drove them to that mentality one step at a time. Figure out what makes your antagonist tick, what their pressure points are, and what breaks them. Like your protagonist, your antagonist has feelings, unless their souls have been ripped out of them for good. In which case, they might be all evil and this rule may be broken. Still, always create a backstory for your antagonist to help us better understand them.
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