Protagonist vs. Antagonist


Did anyone else see the irony that during ‘Be Prepared’ Scar assures the Hyenas that they will ‘Never go hungry again!’ and that is exactly what happened? He bases his entire reign on this one thing, or at least where the hyenas are concerned, and manages to screw it up.

On a only slightly related note – characters. Yes, we’ve already visited this once, but this isn’t a repeat. I’m asking you to sit down with your characters and place them in what might not be a black or white area. First, your protagonist. Who are they? What are their motives? What is their class? You need to explore what conflict drives the protagonist, and the story, forward. Many commonly portray the protagonist, or main character, as a good guy, leaving the common misconception that protagonist is just another word for ‘hero’, while the antagonist is always the bad guy. Not so.

Protagonist. The main character of the story. His or her motives may be good, evil or somewhere in the middle, but they are the character of which the story revolves around.
Antagonist. This is the force that goes against the main character. To most this immediately screams the villain, and in your main character’s eyes this antagonist may seem ‘evil’, in the sense that the antagonist is striving to slow or halt the progress of your ‘hero’. The categories of an antagonist are as follow: protagonist vs. nature, vs. man (being),  vs. self. There are likely others that I am forgetting.

So in that sense, in your fictional world the Protagonist could be an evil being, an evil force. What if the Lion King followed the life of Scar, the so-called villain of the Lion King? As the writer, it is your job to make this character’s story interesting. If you want your audience to hate your villain, make that happen. But keep him relative. If you drive your audience away, they’re going to put down the book and walk away. Whether evil or not, your audience has to have a reason to stay. Make them demand the ending – does he get away with it? Does he succeed in ruling the world? Or does the antagonist, perhaps the traditional golden boy hero or something as mundane as a cold, destroy your villain’s empire as it begins?

In the case of your golden – or fairly tarnished – hero, what is his motive? Where did he come from? The villain never seems to see it coming. Scar had assumed Simba dead for all this time, he even would rather believe the ghost of Mufasa than see Simba in front of him. Voldemort knew Harry lived, yet he seemed to do little to get rid of him until it was nearly too late. Is your villain aware of the hero, and too cocky about himself? Who knows. You do. And as a writer, it is your job to make sure everyone else realizes it too.

Please, for the love all things written, give your characters back stories. Do not just drop a random hero in to the midst to save the day and expect everyone to buy in to it. If your fictional world is saved by some mythological being that, up until that point, had no stance in the story at all, do you really expect us to just go along with that? You wrote yourself in to a corner with the epic battle, and even to you it seems all hope is lost. So you decide, perhaps whistling a charming tune to yourself, that you’ll have Zeus fly in on his magical pink pony and blow the enemy to smithereens, just because he was tired of not being in on the fun.

I hope you were writing something at least vaguely Greek. You weren’t? Oh my.

Just because you think no one cares where Johnny Blackburn came from doesn’t mean we don’t. Okay, so he was a wheat farmer. How did he end up in that particular occupation?

For the love of ink and paper tell us. We want to know.

At least, I do.



On an unrelated note, this video made me cry like a five year old girl. Enjoy.


About marlesque

Horror/suspense writer. Student of Dramatic Arts, 2nd year.
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