A to Z Meme–A is for Antagonist

This will begin a irregular series of blogs regarding writing—or at least, the plan is that it will be about writing. It might veer off into other aspects, but really, right now, all aspects of my life lead back to writing in some way, so it’s all used and re-used, if you know what I mean.

What I’ll say though is that I’ve come to realise that I’m not a writing guru. I can’t write regular (or indeed any)blogs about HOW TO DO any particular subject.  Because frankly I believe that rules belong to other people when it comes to writing (and much of other stuff).But what I will do is speak about how things relate in my mind, so hopefully it might resonate with you.

So we’ll kick off with A

A is for Antagonist

Every book should have one, and it doesn’t necessary mean a villain in human form. It doesn’t have to be human, or alive at all.

It could be a difficult journey, a war, inclement weather, the political climate, the location  of the story—many inanimate things can form your protagonist. Even the protagonist can be his own antagonist if he’s beset with issues you could stack up and climb. Vonnegut said that you should be as mean to your characters as possible. I agree, or what’s the point? You only learn about your "hero" (if that’s who he is) when he’s dealing with problems. If I have to read him making omelettes for 20 pages and then having schmoopy sex with his partner I’m really going to get bored easily. However if he’s battling trolls or stuck up a mountain with only a toothpick for company, if he’s stranded in a tree or trying to win over his parents in law then you have a story to get my teeth into.

Of course you can also introduce people, animals, even trees(!) in as things for your heroes to struggle against, which makes it all the more fun all round I find.

As anyone who’s read any of my stuff will know, I like being mean to my characters. It’s absolutely delightful (to me) to create a human being (or animal, I don’t discount that one day I might try an animal story—War Horse beat me to the post re horses, sadly) which I love to matter his flaws (and there are usually scads of those) set him on his merry way and then throw rocks at . Loads and loads and loads of rocks.

I can imagine a new character arriving behind the scenes in my PC where the older and more experienced characters are and being inducted—or not, depending on how mischievous the others were feeling—as to what he’s likely to be up against. Lions and Tigers and Bears, oh my!

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There’s almost nothing that annoys me as much as a reader as having a book with no conflict, no antagonist of any kind. The hero drifts through the story, handsome, talented—and things happen to him, but never for long and they are never terribly bad things. He might get hungry for a while, or homeless, or cold—but lo and behold there will be someone around who sees his pitiful handsome face and takes pity on him and soon enough he’s got his feet under some guy’s table for nothing more than a few fucks.

I don’t think an antagonist (whether animal, vegetable or mineral) is necessarily conflict—it forms part of the conflict but an impressive enough antagonist can colour the whole book—such as in Gone with the Wind—or can sweep in and made one devastating change.

So, what do you think? What antagonists do you employ that aren’t necessarily human? Do you find you have themes?

© Copyright 2011 Erastes, All rights Reserved. Written For: Erastes
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