There’s a trick to crafting your antagonist. As much as it may seem like their only purpose is to throw a wrench in things for your MC(s) and be hated by the readers, that is not entirely true. The best way to nail down a solid antagonist is to give them a side that can be related to and felt for by the reader and by you.
Yep, I said it. If you can’t swallow that yet, that’s okay. Keep on!
EXAMPLES OF THE ANTAGONIST APEX
What I’ve called the antagonist apex is where the reader is brought to a point or a side of the character that makes them stop and grumble, “I thought I was supposed to hate him/her” because they’ve suddenly found him/her to be slightly less hateable than they thought . . . Is that confusing? Here’s a good example.
In the popular frontier TV series When Calls the Heart (all you fellow “hearties” please raise your hand in the comments!), you will find one of the best examples of a remarkably solid antagonist. Henry Gowen, as portrayed by Martin Cummins, has so many different levels of character, good and bad, that it’s hard to keep up. He is seen as despicably evil at times and is completely despised, and as someone deeper at other times, someone with more on the inside than just greed.
Because of this, he cannot be universally hated. This makes him a great antagonist, and makes whoever wrote his character a really good writer. 🙂
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
This is one of the more, I believe, optional parts of writing. You by no means have to make your antagonist 3-dimensional, but it is highly recommended. Fill in the cracks – make them human. Give them a cause we can understand – not agree with, but understand. Give them a motivation that is clear and realistic. But above all, make them human. Give them qualities and depth that leave the reader – and maybe even your protagonist – feeling just a tiny bit sorry for them.
AND NOW . . . let me hear your opinion!
Have you had any experience with these things in the past, whether in work you’ve read or written? Do you agree or disagree with this approach to an antagonist? Do you feel the reader should despise that character? Why or why not? Don’t be shy! Let’s chat.