Protagonists rarely fly solo during their journey, and the same can be said of most antagonists. While minions and henchpeople are nice to have on the payroll, an Adversary Agent holds a special place in the story and their relationship with the protagonist.  If you’ve played video games, seen a James Bond movie, an action movie, or a superhero movie, these special individuals pop up to cause trouble on behalf of the villain and can be their own type of nuisance to the hero.

An Adversary Agent is a “character who works consistently against the goal of the Hero,” in most stories, they are the second most powerful oppositional character (Edson 81).  Sometimes, a strong buffer is needed to shield the main antagonist from the protagonist, and this character fills that position nicely.  

Also known as Threshold Guardians, they are often “underlings such as doorkeepers, bouncers, bodyguards, sentries, gunslingers, or mercenaries [who] protect and warn [the villain] when a hero approaches the Threshold of the villain’s stronghold” (Vogler 57).  A movie like Die Hard or The Rock is teeming with these types of characters whose primary function is to keep the main character away from the antagonist and prevent the hero from completing their mission.

While they are nameless goons with guns, Adversary Agents can also be found closer to the antagonist.  Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond runs afoul of these characters in all four of his adventures, having to neutralize or distract Xenia Onatopp (Goldeneye), Stamper (Tomorrow Never Dies), Elektra King (The World is Not Enough), and Miranda Frost (Die Another Day) to get to the main Bond villain each time.

In action movies, the Adversary Agent is often more unhinged and more of a risk-taker than the antagonist. They are willing to get their hands dirty on behalf of their boss, even doing despicable things that make their demise all the more enjoyable to the audience before the final fight.

The above examples are clear-cut, but if you’re writing a story that’s more grounded in reality, the Adversary Agent can be someone close to the protagonist who believes they have the hero’s best interest in mind, which is why they want to prevent them from doing whatever they have set out to do.  It doesn’t have to be a true life-and-death battle, but it should lead to some level of conflict between the two characters.

Who are some of your favorite Adversary Agents you’ve encountered in movies?  What makes them unique?  Why do they stand out to you?  Was their defeat satisfying and earned?

As you develop your story and populate it with colorful characters, give the antagonist someone they can work with and confide in.  Good Adversary Agents can be hard to find, and giving the opposition one that doesn’t mind messing with the protagonist will make your hero work even harder to push toward their goal.

See you next time!

Sources:

Edson, Eric. The Story Solution. Michael Wiese Productions, 2011.

Vogler, Christopher. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. Michael Wiese Productions, 1998.

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