To view this notification widget you need to have JavaScript enabled. This notification widget was easily created with NotifySnack.
Home Tour About Read What's New Help Forums Join Login
My Account
Shop
Save
Support
E
Book
Store
Learn
About
Jesus
  




The HOME for Christian writers!
The Home for Christian Writers!

Forums

This area is only a small portion of FaithWriters. The main site can be joined HERE.
Shop & Save to SUPPORT FaithWriters.
Upgrade to SUPPORT FaithWriters.

Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

These lessons, by one of our most consistent FaithWriters' Challenge Champions, should not be missed. So we're making a permanent home for them here.

Moderators: mikeedwards, glorybee

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 6297
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby glorybee » Sun Jan 19, 2014 1:17 pm

First, an apology. I've learned that some people were taken aback by the invitation I left on challenge entries last week. They thought that I was singling them out as someone who needed help. That was not the case--just me being a clumsy inviter. I sincerely apologize, and hope that you will continue to invite Level 1 and 2 writers to this class.

Darth Vader…the wicked witch of the west…Professor Moriarity…Inspector Javert…the evil stepmother.

It’s not too difficult to determine what these folks all have in common. They’re the bad guys, the ones who cause so much trouble for the main character of the story. In literary terms, these people are called antagonists, and they’ve got a very important role to play.

First, a tiny bit of foundation: one of the essential elements of good fiction is conflict. It’s conflict that draws your readers in as they search for resolution, just as your ear longs for resolution when you hear a dissonant chord. And the person who causes all that conflict is the antagonist.

Let’s start with the simplest sort of antagonist—a fellow who’s just plain bad, whose obvious role in the story is to cause all kinds of trouble for a main character who is all good. Think of the Big Bad Wolf from the story of Little Red Riding Hood. There’s nothing subtle about that guy; he’s just BAD inside and out.

Sometimes, when you’re writing a very short story (like for the writing challenge), you don’t really have time to develop your characters, and so your antagonist will have to be like the Big Bad Wolf—total malicious intent, with no shades of gray.

I’ve got an example of this kind of antagonist—almost—in Terrorizing Rachel. The narrator, Lisa, has almost no redeeming characteristics, and she bullies her Christian classmate mercilessly. This sort of antagonist is fairly easy to write; you don’t have to give her any nuances of emotion or of motivation. Her purpose is to provide conflict for the main character, and she does it very well.

But a simple antagonist like this is a flat character—another literary term—a character who, unlike real people, may have only one or two personality characteristics. You can do better than that and you should, unless your audience is children, who don’t always catch nuances (although even children do better than you’d think). You’ll notice, in the story I linked to above, that even horrible Lisa had a slight change of heart toward the end.

And that’s a better kind of antagonist to write: one who is a rounded character, with complicated motivations and nuanced emotions, one who is not all bad, just as your main character is probably not all good. This kind of character is far more interesting to read, because he or she will set up a bit of conflict not only in your story, but in your reader’s spirit. Do I root against this person? But he’s not all bad! Will he change his ways?

I wrote a sympathetic antagonist in Little One, Relax. The little boy in this story caused tremendous conflict for his foster mother, yet no one would say that he was malicious or evil.
Obviously, there will be a continuum of degrees of evilness and sympathy for any antagonist.
Some Christian writers have a certain amount of queasiness when writing an antagonist. It’s difficult and unpleasant to put oneself into the soul of a bad person, to write that person doing sinful acts or saying sinful things.

But none of us live in a world without conflict, and your writing will feel bland and pale without it. It’s not necessary to be graphic in your descriptions of antagonists’ behaviors; practice a kind of writing that implies sin or negativity without being offensive. The antagonist in Hope, With Wings couches her evil (and that of her godless society) in an official manner and overly-sweet speech.

An antagonist is not always a person—it may be a group of people or a society, an animal or a force of nature, one’s own self, or some supernatural being. Each of those could be a lesson in itself (and perhaps they will be, at some point).

To summarize: almost all fiction will have conflict, and therefore an antagonist. The antagonist is a person (or thing) that is acting against the main character. Most antagonists are not entirely malicious; there will be varying degrees of sympathy or goodness in them, making them more interesting for readers. The writer’s job is to write the antagonist as a rounded character with complex motivations and emotions.

You may wonder why I’ve included this lesson, which doesn’t really have a lot of practical writing suggestions. I just believe that writers need to be familiar with the particular language of writing—it will help us to be better readers, to better analyze other writers’ works, and therefore to become better writers ourselves.

HOMEWORK:

1. You don’t have to post these, but think about the following books, and who (or what) the antagonist is. To Kill a Mockingbird…The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe…The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn…The Old Man and the Sea…the Harry Potter Series…the Little House on the Prairie series…Gone With the Wind…The Scarlet Letter…The Crucible.

If you have comments or questions about any of those, post them here.

2. Make a comment or ask a question in general about anything in this lesson.

3. Post a link to a challenge entry in which you had a clear antagonist, and say something about that character.

A reminder that I’m always open to suggestions about new topics. Next week I’ll cover the second judging criterion for the writing challenge: creativity. Also, please spread the word about this class to any FaithWriters you may know (I especially hope to reach Level 1 and 2 writers), and feel free to join the discussion on Facebook (search for “Faithwriters Writing Lessons”).
Jan Ackerson

User avatar
Cinnamon Bear
Pencil 6 (300-499 Posts)
Pencil 6 (300-499 Posts)
 
Posts: 377
Joined: Fri Nov 03, 2006 12:35 am
Location: Massachusetts

Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby Cinnamon Bear » Sun Jan 19, 2014 4:58 pm

Dear Jan,

Thanks for your Writing Basics series. I read all your lessons even though this is the first time that I have posted a reply.

Regarding those who were "taken aback" by your invitation posted on Challenge entries: All they had to do was a bit of clicking and they would have seen that you posted the same invitation on all the other entries. I don't see any reason for you to apologize :?

I myself was rather flattered by the invitation. Until I clicked around and realized that I wasn't special.

Thanks for all that you do for Faithwriters. :thankssign

Cinnamon Bear

User avatar
Cinnamon Bear
Pencil 6 (300-499 Posts)
Pencil 6 (300-499 Posts)
 
Posts: 377
Joined: Fri Nov 03, 2006 12:35 am
Location: Massachusetts

Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby Cinnamon Bear » Sun Jan 19, 2014 5:18 pm

Now to respond to Jan's post.

Hmm...I'm not as well read as some of you. As everyone knows biologists never read anything. Or if they do actually read something it is probably not worth reading. :wink:

That said, I think I can at least take a stab at Little House On the Prairie. In my view the antagonists were:

1) Mrs. Oleson and Nellie
2) Bad weather and other natural disasters such as fires
3) Medical and safety issues: Infectious disease, complications from injuries
4) Laura's envy of Mary--that is before Mary became blind.

Some more antagonists in LHOP maybe?

The Bear

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 6297
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby glorybee » Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:20 pm

Cinnamon Bear wrote:Now to respond to Jan's post.

Hmm...I'm not as well read as some of you. As everyone knows biologists never read anything. Or if they do actually read something it is probably not worth reading. :wink:

That said, I think I can at least take a stab at Little House On the Prairie. In my view the antagonists were:

1) Mrs. Oleson and Nellie
2) Bad weather and other natural disasters such as fires
3) Medical and safety issues: Infectious disease, complications from injuries
4) Laura's envy of Mary--that is before Mary became blind.

Some more antagonists in LHOP maybe?

The Bear


You're exactly right! Bravo for naming antagonists other than people.

Do you have a challenge entry you'd like to link to for comment on antagonists?
Jan Ackerson

User avatar
Cinnamon Bear
Pencil 6 (300-499 Posts)
Pencil 6 (300-499 Posts)
 
Posts: 377
Joined: Fri Nov 03, 2006 12:35 am
Location: Massachusetts

Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby Cinnamon Bear » Sun Jan 19, 2014 7:53 pm

Many of my entries are set in totalitarian societies or feature wild animals, fires, drunk drivers and the like. So for those entries the antagonists are obvious.

On the other hand some of my entries don't feature enough conflict--just nice stories.

So I chose two entries that do feature antagonists. But who or what is the antagonist is not immediately obvious.


"Teen Town"
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article-level3-previous.php?id=16638
My one and only E.C. :(


and the much more recent "Santa Fe Journey":
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article-level3-previous.php?id=46819


Who or what are the antagonists in these entries? (Red Ink welcome)

Cinnamon Bear

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 6297
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby glorybee » Sun Jan 19, 2014 8:58 pm

Cinnamon Bear wrote:M

So I chose two entries that do feature antagonists. But who or what is the antagonist is not immediately obvious.

"Teen Town"
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article-level3-previous.php?id=16638
My one and only E.C. :(

and the much more recent "Santa Fe Journey":
http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article-level3-previous.php?id=46819

Who or what are the antagonists in these entries? (Red Ink welcome)

Cinnamon Bear


Virginia, thanks for sharing these links! Both of those fall under the category of "Man vs. Society" conflict, where the antagonist is a group of people rather than just one person. In the first one, it would be the prevailing teen culture of self-indulgence, and in the second, the snooty Boston family.

Is that what you think?
Jan Ackerson

User avatar
Cinnamon Bear
Pencil 6 (300-499 Posts)
Pencil 6 (300-499 Posts)
 
Posts: 377
Joined: Fri Nov 03, 2006 12:35 am
Location: Massachusetts

Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby Cinnamon Bear » Sun Jan 19, 2014 9:51 pm

Thanks Jan, for reading my entries.

I agree with you regarding the antagonists for both entries.

In the case of "Santa Fe Journey" an additional antagonist was the inability of Emily's parents to show her affection.

Her parents had additional issues. Her father was in love with Molly but it was his older brother that she married. Emily's mother may have sensed that her husband had been in love with Molly. Both parents hid their respective jealousies under an anti Irish veneer and refused to allow Emily to get to know her cousin.

The Bear

User avatar
WriterFearNot
Pencil 6 (300-499 Posts)
Pencil 6 (300-499 Posts)
 
Posts: 322
Joined: Thu Mar 18, 2010 6:45 pm
Location: Southern California

Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby WriterFearNot » Mon Jan 20, 2014 4:37 pm

Antagonists, yay! Great subject :D

In the novel I'm writing, I've chosen to write out the details of the antagonist's parts last because I know he's going to be the hardest. I want him to come across as worthless and horrid, but I don't want him to be a cliché. I still need to put a lot of thought into his motivations.

In your piece Terrorizing Rachel, I didn't find the MC flat at all. In fact, the mere fact that the reader was inside her head (I believe) leant a great deal of dimension to her actions. If I had only read her actions from an outside perspective, I may have thought she was flat--just plain mean. But 'hearing' her thoughts and seeing how driven she was to mess with Rachel made me sympathize with her. We all know that someone that driven to terrorize another person...has issues. And we see those issues in one clear sentence, indicating the abuse that the MC faces at home. This and the internal dialogue (in my humble opinion) leant depth to the MC. If anyone was flat, it was Rachel. I only got an outside POV of her and to me, she was a cliché portrayal of a 'good Christian,' turning the other cheek. I didn't get to see if Rachel struggled at all with her decision.

(I'm thinking of a story a pastor at church told about when she was getting in the car line at Starbucks and she got into a car-to-car battle with another impatient woman. There was all sorts of nasty nonverbal communication coming from the other woman's car and the pastor, our 'Rachel' here, really fought with her emotions. She wanted to get out of her car and pound on the other woman, but she calmed herself down and started recalling Scripture. It was a process, but by the time she got to the window, she'd decided to do the right thing. She paid for her own coffee and also paid for the order of the angry woman behind her in line. Then she drove off, more than a little satisfied that though her action was a decent thing to do, she also knew that being kind to her enemy was like "pouring hot coals on her head." All the other woman knows was that the woman she'd been cursing out...just bought her coffee, so she only got to see the cliche'd Christian side of the story. What I got to hear was the real story and all the internal conflict that came with the 'good deed.')

Anyway, I think the only reason I'm being critical here is because I'm thinking of my novel. When I told a friend my story line (Antagonist was an abuser. Victim has a face-off with him toward the end.), my friend responded, "Your MC is not going to just forgive him, is she? I hate that in Christian novels, when the victim (especially in sexual abuse cases) just forgives the attacker because that's what Christians are supposed to do. Forgiveness is a process and it's a struggle, even for Christians.

In your story, I would have liked to see something like a swollen, red, or tear-streaked face when Rachel exited the office. In my story, I'm not yet sure how I'm going to handle the "finale" but I'm considering having my MC not forgive the attacker, and instead, ending the story with her working toward forgiveness.

I LOVE Hope With Wings. Sometimes I daydream about writing a sci-fi novel and this novel's plot is eerily similar to HWW. In the opening scene, I have a pregnant woman hiding behind a barricade as she reloads her semi-automatic weapon. The government is after her because she did not comply with required genetic modifications and they want to terminate the pregnancy...

Theresa

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 6297
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby glorybee » Mon Jan 20, 2014 7:08 pm

Thanks, Theresa. That image--a pregnant woman with a weapon, defending her pregnancy--is awesome. I'd read that book!

Do you have a link with an interesting antagonist for us to read?
Jan Ackerson

User avatar
swfdoc1
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
 
Posts: 889
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2008 10:31 pm

Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby swfdoc1 » Mon Jan 20, 2014 10:18 pm

Several times I’ve used some pretty dark characters for my antagonist. But other times, my dark character is the PROTAGONIST. And sometimes they are BOTH dark. Here are some of those plus a few other interesting antagonists (including in one case, God!).

At least one of these has some glaring typos—sorry.

If this is overkill, I’d just read the first 2.

Rain Drop
The Black Book
The Difference
The Hound of Heaven Runs into a Bar (also posted recently for a different lesson).
Collision Course Day
Steve
nlf.net
________
"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred; middle
things are gone." C.S. Lewis
“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien

User avatar
WriterFearNot
Pencil 6 (300-499 Posts)
Pencil 6 (300-499 Posts)
 
Posts: 322
Joined: Thu Mar 18, 2010 6:45 pm
Location: Southern California

Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby WriterFearNot » Mon Jan 20, 2014 11:24 pm

Okay, here's one with a flat antagonist: http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article-level4-previous.php?id=44721 This antagonist is mean just to be mean because, well...he's the devil's advocate. Reading this piece now, I can see how flat he is! In this case, how would you suggest I give him more dimension?

And here's one with a more interesting antagonist: http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article-level4-previous.php?id=42762 In this one, the antagonist is "Logic" and to me, seems to have a lot more dimension than the devil's advocate above.

Then again, logic always did have more dimension than the devil's advocate...ba-dum-cha! :lol:

Theresa

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 6297
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby glorybee » Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:33 am

swfdoc1 wrote:Several times I’ve used some pretty dark characters for my antagonist. But other times, my dark character is the PROTAGONIST. And sometimes they are BOTH dark. Here are some of those plus a few other interesting antagonists (including in one case, God!).

At least one of these has some glaring typos—sorry.

If this is overkill, I’d just read the first 2.

Rain Drop
The Black Book
The Difference
The Hound of Heaven Runs into a Bar (also posted recently for a different lesson).
Collision Course Day


Thanks for sharing these, Steve. In my lesson, I considered talking about times when the roles of protagonist and antagonist are mixed, but it started to get too long and complicated for an introductory lesson, so I stopped with the concept of sympathetic antagonist.

I love your "Rain Drop" story. In my opinion, the conflict there is Man vs. self, so the antagonist is Jim, the narrator, as he struggles with guilt. Was that your intention? And just out of curiosity, when I read this, I was picturing Jenny as Jim's wife, but I see that one of your commenters thought that Jenny was his daughter. So...which was it?

I have my own theory about "The Black Book," but I'd love to read your thoughts on that one.
Jan Ackerson

User avatar
glorybee
Moderator
Moderator
 
Posts: 6297
Joined: Thu Nov 10, 2005 11:46 pm
Location: Michigan

Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby glorybee » Tue Jan 21, 2014 10:39 am

WriterFearNot wrote:Okay, here's one with a flat antagonist: http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article-level4-previous.php?id=44721 This antagonist is mean just to be mean because, well...he's the devil's advocate. Reading this piece now, I can see how flat he is! In this case, how would you suggest I give him more dimension?

And here's one with a more interesting antagonist: http://www.faithwriters.com/wc-article-level4-previous.php?id=42762 In this one, the antagonist is "Logic" and to me, seems to have a lot more dimension than the devil's advocate above.

Then again, logic always did have more dimension than the devil's advocate...ba-dum-cha! :lol:

Theresa


Theresa, I think you struck the right note with your devil's advocate. A "character" like that has to be painted in broad strokes, because you really can't mitigate the damage of the personality of Satan or one of his minions.

By the way, the more I read of your writing, the more I appreciate your range.
Jan Ackerson

User avatar
swfdoc1
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
 
Posts: 889
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2008 10:31 pm

Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby swfdoc1 » Tue Jan 21, 2014 11:58 am

Jan,

Your comments on both the pieces raise that age old question: who “controls” the meaning of a story, the writer or the reader? In Rain Drop, I did intend Jenny to be his wife and noted with interest the comment you mentioned in which one reader took Jenny as his child. And, yes, this is a man vs. self piece, with debilitating grief as the antagonist.

And, of course, your comment about your theory on Black Box is again the writer vs. reader question. The genesis of this article was this: The topic was “Black,” and I decided to do a piece on “the black arts,” i.e., occult practices. Based on ministry with several real people who had gotten sucked into this world, I wanted the moral to be “you don’t mess with this stuff, no matter what.” I don’t remember how the idea came to me to do it as a period piece. Anyway, I knew the MC would be someone who resisted at first, but eventually gave in and became a very “powerful” (in the occult sense) person, but a very evil person. So the moral kicked in when he paid the ultimate price when his grandfather “sacrificed” him, as indicated by the story ending with his letter writing being interrupted mid-word. By definition, the MC is the protagonist, even though he has become evil. The grandfather could be seen as the antagonist, with the moral being don’t mess with the occult. Or the lure of the occult could be seen directly as the antagonist. Or both ideas could be combined: the grandfather is the antagonist, but as a proxy for the lure of the occult. In my mind, it was the last option as I was writing it. But it would be hard to argue with a reader who thought it was one of the other two.

I’m really interested in your theory.

By the way, this is the story I was referring to when I mentioned that BOTH antagonist and protagonist were “dark.” “The Difference” is the one in which only the protagonist is dark.
Steve
nlf.net
________
"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred; middle
things are gone." C.S. Lewis
“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien

User avatar
swfdoc1
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
Pencil Plus (Over 500 Posts)
 
Posts: 889
Joined: Fri Nov 28, 2008 10:31 pm

Re: Be A Better Writer--ANTAGONISTS

Postby swfdoc1 » Tue Jan 21, 2014 1:08 pm

For "Rain Drop," I should have said "debilitating grief AND guilt."
Steve
nlf.net
________
"When the Round Table is broken every man must follow Galahad or Mordred; middle
things are gone." C.S. Lewis
“The chief purpose of life … is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all the means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks. To do as we say in the Gloria in Excelsis ... We praise you, we call you holy, we worship you, we proclaim your glory, we thank you for the greatness of your splendor.” J.R.R. Tolkien

Next

Return to Jan's Writing Basics

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests


© MeasurelessMedia. All rights reservedTerms of Service



Jesus - True for You But not for Me      Website Builder     Build Website     Is Jesus God?    
Does God exist?     Build a writers website     Does truth exist?     Website online in minutes