Thursday, August 8, 2013

Thursday's Thoughts: Antagonist and Villain: Are They The Same?

It's Thursday, and once again I've not posted on Friday. I've decided that with the life I have now, trying to set a blogging schedule is next to impossible, and only frustrates me more when I know I can't keep to it. So for now:

This blog will be updated once a week, but only on the day I have the time to do it. And sometimes, maybe even twice a week.

Hopefully, that won't scare my readers off.

Yesterday, I was waiting in line at Best Buy to set up an appointment to have one of the Geeks come out to my house. There was a man in front of me arguing with one of the service people, who was trying to explain why the number in his computer didn't match the number the man had given him. He was very polite but very firm. The man took that as being rude...he wasn't...and he became very antagonistic. After about 5 minutes, this man even became insulting to the service rep, and finally, the rep turned him over to someone else.

The point is...this man's antagonism made me start thinking about our Antagonists and Villains in our writing. Are they the same? If so, why and how? and if not, how and why are they different?

Let's talk about the Antagonist first. An antagonist can be a person, place, setting, or thing. The primary function of an Antagonist is to be an adversary, someone or something that is working against the Protagonist, and what he or she wants to do, have, or be. The weather can be the antagonist...think of the horrific storm in the movie The Perfect Storm. Surely an antagonist working against the interests of the people on board the ship, yet to those onshore, it was "just another storm."

The Antagonist can be a setting...think of a highly structured private school for girls, with the Protagonist being a bright, independent, highly vocal young lady of 13 or 14, who constantly rebels against the structure and gets nowhere. Definitely the school is working against the interests of the Protagonist!

The Antagonist can be a person who is trying to thwart the interests and forward movements of the Protagonist...because he and the Protagonist are in love with the same woman. The Antagonist is not "bad" or "evil," but he will do most anything to keep the Protagonist away and win the woman for himself.

If the Antagonist is a person, we authors almost always imbue him or her with some good qualities. He might be highly intelligent, funny, good-looking, even with some special ability such as being an artist, scientist, musician, etc. Basically, he is a 'good guy' who just happens to want something that interferes with the goals and desires of the Protagonist. And therein, conflict and tension are created.

Now let's go on to the Villain. The main difference between an Antagonist and a Villain is one of intent. The Antagonist doesn't necessarily mean to be "bad," because he believes he is doing the right things for the right reasons for the situation at hand. But the Villain doesn't care if he comes off as "bad" or "evil," because he simply wants what he wants when he wants it, and he'll do anything to get it, regardless of the outcome, and regardless of the pain, suffering, or even death of those who get in his way.

The Villain is different. I'm sure we've all read stories where the Villain is totally evil. After awhile, though, that becomes predictible and boring whenever we see him on a page. We already know ahead of time that something bad is going to happen. We don't want that kind of Villain in our stories. We want one that we can hate, but LOVE to hate!

The Villain needs to be a complex character. He has to be logical and credible. In order for him to be this way, to be believable, he has to have a depth of character. There has to be some motivation for all his evil deeds. He might not care what others think of him, he might even enjoy doing all those horrible evil deeds, but the reader has to have some insight into his behavior and how he came to be this way. After all, not even our worst villains are born this way. What is his background, did something horrific happen to him as he as growing up to change his path in life to one of deviousness and disaster? What caused him to become a Villain?

So we have to know why our Villain "wants what he wants when he wants it," and why he doesn't care what he has to do to get it. We need to be able to portray him as someone who is an intelligent, thinking individual who believes his reasons for the evil he does are completely logical to him, even if not to others.

Most of all, we need the Protagonist to understand the complexity of the Villain's nature. If he doesn't, will he be able to withstand the Villain's devious interference in the Protagonist's life, and will he be able to overcome the evil the Villain does?

What do you think?

Until next time,
That's a wrap.

8 comments:

  1. Great post, Mikki! I agree that readers should love to hate the villain, and if the villain is just evil for the sake of being evil, it's not going to make me love to hate him. I need a reason. The reason can be evil. :)

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    1. Exactly! This is why so many stories about bullies in school...or elsewhere in society...fail to entice readers: they are bullies from day one, and no one knows why. Kids, especially, are usually hurting inside from sources no one knows about or even cares about. When the "bully" becomes the Villain, we as readers want to know why, and as arthors, we need to know why, also, and be able to express that in our writing.

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    2. We also need to be able to spell...as in authors, not arthurs!

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    1. Thanks, Terrie. I think sometimes when we're writing, we get so involved in making our protagonist thre-dimensional, we forget about doing that for other characters, especially the antagonist/villain.

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  3. Your post has me contemplating now about antagonists vs, villains in a work in progress.
    I think I have some points to clarify for myself...
    Thanks Mikki!
    Loren

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  4. You're welcome, Loren. Glad you liked the post. I have also had decisions to make in some of my works, about who the antagonist is, and do I have an antagonist or a villain. It is also possible for "just" an antagonist to become a true villain, but I still believe we need some justification for this, and some true motivation. Of course, if we're writing fantasy or science fiction, I guess that wouldn't hold true if your villain is a dragon or some creature from outer space.

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  5. I definitely think the villain needs to be understood, at least somewhat, otherwise we are just left with the big question of "why". To me, it's much more compelling and interesting to show some humanity in the villain so that he has a real reason why he is so evil!

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