We all know them, the black cloak wearing, mustache twirling antagonists plaguing the hero’s journey. They are the evil doers that do evil just because they are evil…until the hero comes along and tells them “Cut out all that evil!” and wins the day and the damsel’s heart.
My take on villains may be a tad less black and white. I have often heard the phrase, “The villain of your story is the hero of his,” and I try to keep this in mind. There are very few people in reality that think, “I’m gonna do evil things today.” So, when working on an antagonist, his motivation is just as important as my protagonist’s when they are in direct opposition to each other.
Often writers place the main character in a situation where the environment is the factor they must overcome, but I am mostly talking the intelligent opposition to our intrepid hero. When Dudley goes out to rescue Nell, why has Snidely tied her to the train tracks is as important to me as how she will be save by horse before the train comes by.
Stupid antagonists require the protagonist to either be stupid themselves, and overcome that disadvantage, or underestimate his opponent. I think a movie like “Meet the Robinsons” displays this antagonist well, but the “real” villain of the piece isn’t who we think there. The old one dimensional great villains with their equally shiny heroes can be great entertainment, but we all root against the “Ming the Merciless” of fiction.
All I am trying to say in this rambling piece is, if you can get your reader to understand the motives of your antagonist, not agree just see, then they will more appreciate the protagonist’s efforts in the journey of the story.
Please pardon this mess it took control and led me a merry chase.