Thursday, June 11, 2009

Antagonist No-Nos

Ten Things I Hate About Your Antagonist

As evil/psycho as the antagonist is, everyone in the story loves and/or admires her, except for the protagonist, who from the beginning and with no evidence whatsoever somehow senses that she's up to no good.

It must be the same psychic power that also allows the protag to fall totally in love with a complete stranger in less than 24 hours.

Beauty, wealth, power and social position are never enough for the antagonist, who will without hesitation throw them all away for a single, slim chance at revenge.

Didn't someone send her the memo about how beauty, wealth, power and social position are, in fact, revenge?

Despite the vastness and complexity of his personal arsenal, the antagonist never carries a backup weapon or extra ammunition.

That would ruin the moment when he throws his empty weapon at the protagonist's head, I suppose.

Five words sum up the antagonist's ambitions: "I will destroy the world."

Oh yeah? Here's seven more: Afterward, where are you going to live?

The antagonist chooses for his sidekick someone whose IQ is in the low two digits.

Sure, when I want backup, I definitely consider "criminally stupid" as a primary job qualification.

He's never loved a single person in his entire miserable life, nor has ever shown any interest in anyone but himself, yet upon seeing for the first time the protagonist's love interest, the antagonist also falls head over heels for her, too.

Blinded by the awesome glitter of her hooha, I guess.

In spite of a long history of bad behavior, no one the antagonist has ever messed with comes after him with their own plans for revenge.

Naturally they're all sitting at home and silently seething while they stick pins in an antagonist doll.

In the middle of the final crisis in the story, when she has the upper hand over everyone, the antagonist proudly delivers a full confession of all the wrong she's done.

Hmmmm. Maybe she's Catholic.

The antagonist honestly believes that if she eliminates her romantic rival that the protagonist will subsequently, instantly fall for her.

Naturally the moment we lose the love of our life we want to jump right into another relationship.

When he's finally in a position to actually bump off the protagonist, whom he's wanted dead since page one, the antagonist immediately thinks of a reason not to kill him.

This usually involves some sort of extended period of suffering that is also rife with oppotunities for escape, payback, alerting the authorities, etc.

Related links:

Peter Anspach's classic, hilarious Evil Overlord list.

Harry's article Creating the Best Antagonists.

J.C. Hewitt's article How Good is Your Bad Guy?

Dana Mitchells' article Sleeping with the Enemy: Writing from Your Antagonist's POV


  1. YAY! Didn't try to pull off a single one of those stunts with ol' Horace!

    Forgive me, I'm fighting sleep, but he's had more practice and I'm losing.


  2. My favorite quote on the subject, from Goldfinger:
    James Bond: Do you expect me to talk?
    Goldfinger: No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die.

  3. Yes....

    I have such difficulty writing antagonists. Bah!

    *follows links*

  4. The better the antagonist, the better the book. The antagonist forces the protagonist to change.

    Now, I just need to make sure she's not criminally stupid. :-)

  5. Blinded by the awesome glitter of her hooha, I guess.

    Oh, the imagery

  6. I've been reading your blog for a while but have never commented before. I am breaking the silence because I thought you should know that "Blinded by the awesome glitter of her hooha" made me laugh so hard I choked on my the best possible way. =]

  7. Anonymous11:23 AM

    Lynn, Lynn, Lynn, you just don't get it. If the antagonist has a sidekick who's smarter than him, he will simply say story-killing things like, "Look, dude, I got a gun. Two behind the ear, and it's finished."

    To which our villain will say, "No, no, no, I'll just place him in an easily escapable situation and just assume he'd dead."


    "Look, you just don't get it, do you?"

    Yes. This is paraphrasing the first Austin Powers movie. Sadly, I've seen it elsewhere when the comedy only became apparent when either Mike Nelson or Joel Hodgson got their devious little mitts on it.

  8. I can't stand antagonist who are said all powerful and terribly evil, but do absolutely nothing to prove it throughout the entire book. It makes me nuts.

  9. Love the list--and your comments. :D Very true.

  10. Ahh, this is very helpful. I'm currently at the point in my story where my antagonist starts to become very...antagonizing. Thankfully he's not guilty of anything in your post. In fact, the article that mentioned the bad guy can be a good guy, just with opposite goals, was pretty relevant to me.

  11. >>the antagonist proudly delivers a full confession

    They did this in the season finale of LAO: SVU! I Laughed!!!

  12. Anonymous11:30 PM

    'Nuff said.

    Verification: dropicke


    Definitely 'nuff said.

  13. Ha, I loved this. Very good and informative blog post. And thank you for including a link to my article. (D.M. is my pen name.)

  14. Star Trek Voyager was generally awful but they did an episode of complete silliness titled: Bride of Chaotica!!

    The paper thin characters of Voyager actually look good overacting a Turkey City Lexicon plot for laughs. It's so awful it's funny as heck.

    Everything you criticize is done in this episode.

  15. Five words sum up the antagonist's ambitions: "I will destroy the world."

    Oh yeah? Here's seven more: Afterward, where are you going to live?

    That's when the coffee came out my nose.

    Too funny! And sadly, too true.


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