Monday, July 10, 2006

Lesson 11: Antagonists

Good Monday morning...I'm back at work in my shop today. Water's pumped out of the basement, electricity is on, but still no telephone. So I won't be doing any during the day blogging until the problem is solved.

Okay...Today we continue with Donald Maass' Writing a Breakout Novel. This is a fabulous book and I encourage each of you to buy it. What I'm presenting here is by no means a full lesson and there is a wealth of insight and addtional info that will help you.

In case your just joining us...What I am attempting to do here is present truncated versions of each of the lessons in the workbook. Today's lesson is in Section One: Antagonists.

Antagonists can be fun to write. In fact, villians can wind up being the most memorable character in a novel. Despite that, many times the antagonists are left to be one-dimensional, and with this flaw they do not frighten, surprise, or linger in your memory.

Develop antagonists like you would a protagonist. It demands the same attention to extra dimensions, inner conflict, larger-than-life qualities, and the rest. When developed well, an antagonist is an equal match, or more, for the protagonist.

Villians are best when they are complex. Use these exercises to develop those depths. You may wind up with an antagonist that your readers fear or even adore! Hey, shoot for both.

Step 1: Who is the antagonist in your novel?

Step 2:Create an extra dimension. Write down your antagonist's defining quality. Write down the opposite of that. Now create a paragraph in which your antagonist demonstrates the opposite quality that you have identified.

Step 3: Create an inner conflict. Write down what your antagonist most wants. Write down the opposite of that. How can this character want both of these things simultaneously? How can they be mutually exclusive?

Step 4: Create larger-than-life qualities. Write down things your antagonist would never do, say, or think. Find places where this character can and must do, say and think those things.

Step 5: Define your antagonist's personal stakes. What is his/her main problem, conflict, or goal? Write down what would make this problem matter more, and then matter more than life itself.

Note: A well rounded villian is far more dangerous and interesting that a one-dimensional antagonist.

Follow-up: Give the above qualities to a seconary antagonist who supports the villian.

Conclusion: No one is bad all the time. Villains can act like people too. Build a villian who resembles you...That might be the most chilling adversary of all!

For today we have a Charley joke from Ric.


A lady about 8 months pregnant got on a bus. She noticed the man opposite her was smiling at her.

She immediately moved to another seat.

This time the smile turned into a grin, so she moved again. The man seemed more amused. When on the fourth move, the man burst out laughing, she complained to the
driver and he had the man arrested.

The case came up in court.

The judge asked the man (about 20 years old) what he had to say for himself.

The man replied, "Well your Honor, it was like this: When the lady got on the bus, I
couldn't help but notice her condition. She sat down under a sign that said, 'The Double Mint Twins are Comin' and I grinned."

"Then she moved and sat under a sign that said, 'Logan's Liniment will reduce the
swelling', and I had to smile."

"Then she placed herself under a deodorant sign that said, 'William's Big Stick Did the Trick', and I could hardly contain myself."

"BUT, your Honor, when she moved the fourth time and sat under a sign that said, 'Goodyear Rubber could have prevented this Accident'...I just lost it."



  1. David Meigs said...
    Marriage has taught me most of what I know of writing antagonists.

    Just kidding.

    No I wasn’t

    Just kidding.
    Bernita said...
    Curm has a point.
    Use those things that make you mutter while reading up on perfect crimes.
    Denise McDonald said...
    what is it about villian - you always remember the bad guy in movies and books and often have a vague recollection of the H/H...

    LOL Curm!
    Bonnie S. Calhoun said...
    Curm...I'm tellin'!

    There's some villians I could never forget, like Hannibal Lecter...Yikes
    Rulan said...
    An antag like me? eek. That's scary enough on its own.
    Sandra Ruttan said...
    M. C. Pearson said...
    One of my favorite antagonists is in the Harry Potter novels...I know you haven't read it but Professor Snape is one that you love and hate at the same time.

    The prego joke was way funny!
    Ballpoint Wren said...
    Mimi, I really like Snape's character, too, but only in the movie, and I think Alan Rickman has something to do with that!
    Ballpoint Wren said...
    Ooops... forgot to say I'm glad the basement's drying out, Bonnie!

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