IAN: Hi.  Ian Dawson here. The quality of your protagonist’s journey is directly proportional to the strength of the antagonist they face. This oppositional character should be a formidable force, constantly challenging your hero and pushing them to their limits.

This doesn’t mean they have to be in constant battle mode, but the main character should feel a sense of urgency that if they don’t reach their goal and defeat the antagonist—literally or figuratively—then all hope is lost for them and their future.

In his book, The Anatomy of Story, John Truby writes: “The relationship between the hero and the opponent is the single most important relationship in the story” (Truby 59).  As you sit down to begin developing this character, make sure they are a constant presence for the protagonist as they move through the story, whether the opponent is there or not.  

It’s important to note that while we’re used to larger-than-life antagonists, like James Bond villains, Batman’s Rogues Gallery, or terrorist leaders, you “don’t [have to] think of the opponent as someone the hero hates.  He may be, he may not be.  The opponent is simply the person on the other side” (Truby 59).

This means that the antagonist can be a parent, a friend, a lover, or a coworker.  If it’s someone who’s in the way of the protagonist reaching their goal, they are an antagonistic force.

The antagonist should also be more powerful than the main character.  An almost insurmountable force that the hero must face and defeat even if the odds are clearly against them.  

If the audience looks at the threat and isn’t worried about the protagonist’s future, that’s not good.

Pay special attention to the antagonist as you develop your story, your hero, and the story’s main conflict. They should be both oppositional and motivational forces that the protagonist actively works to defeat as they progress toward their goal.

Check out my previous series about creating an antagonist at the link at the end of this audio blog transcript:

You can also check out the posts from this past week of Main Character May by clicking the additional links below the transcript for this audio blog:

See you next time!

Sources:

Truby, John. The Anatomy of Story. Faber and Faber, 2007.

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