What your antagonist doesn’t have to be

If we are to talk about characters at all, of course we must talk about antagonists. It won’t be a very exciting story without them. Not much fun watching your mc achieve all of their goals without any sort of roadblock, after all. Your antagonist has to be at least as interesting as your mc, if not more so.

Eh, but there are a lot of blogs that will tell you how to make a great antagonist, tell you all the things they should be. Here at Paper Beats World, I want to go a step beyond that, and shatter some illusions you might have about what an antagonist has to be. It’s your book, after all, you can make it anything you want. Just for the record, your antagonist doesn’t have to be-

Stupid or for that matter, smart

Someone’s intillect has nothing to do with whether or not they will make a good antagonist. Brillient authors have done it both ways to great effect. Take, for example, Saruman from Lord of the Rings. Great antagonist, really scary, really smart. Then, we’ll consider Buffalo Bill from Hannibal. He’s a freaking moron, but he’s still a really effective antagonist.

At the head of some group of evil do’ers with a bunch of henchmen

An antagonist doesn’t need to have anyone on his side to feel like the world is against your main character. Just any anybody who’s ever seen a horror film. The antagonist in those is almost always alone, but he doesn’t ever seem to have a problem ripping all those college kids to shreds.


This is a big one. You’ll notice, through this article, I’ve not said bad guy once. That’s because your antagonist doesn’t have to be a bad guy anymore than your protagonist has to be a good guy. He or she can be someone just doing their job, or maybe even someone who thinks your protagonist is the real bad guy and needs to be stopped. Remember, we’re all the heroes in our own minds. The same is true for your antagonist.

An actual person

Of course, you could just not have it be a person at all. Who’s says it’s got to be? Some of the coolest stories I know didn’t have a bad guy to root against. Jaws, Animal Farm, Perfect Storm. The list is endless. Nature can be a great antagonist, and animals are always a quick choice for science fiction slasher flicks. Then, there is time itself, the antagonist in all of our lives. Illness is another great non human antagonist. Want to see what I mean? Watch Contagion. Actually, if you’re just wanting a good movie to watch, watch Contagion.

So, to sum it up, there are only two rules about what your antagonist must be. It must be capable, and it must stand in between your main character and the thing he or she wants.

Published by Nicole Luttrell

I'm a writer, mom, step mom, comic book nerd, lover of books. Other places to find me are twitter, and Pinterest.

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