Screenwriting – How to Create Great Antagonists
We all know who the antagonist is. He’s the bad guy, the one with the black hat or the super weapon designed to blow up the planet. Or, the antagonist could be an office worker competing with our hero for the same promotion. Either way the antagonist is the character or force the protagonist must defeat.
There are two basic kinds of antagonists. The first one is the super villain with a plan. The other one is someone who simply wants to thwart the protagonist, perhaps because they both want the same thing. Either way, your story must have a good antagonist in order to be interesting. And, the better the antagonist the better the story.
So how do you create a great antagonist? Make him or her as big and bad and as powerful as possible. The more powerful your antagonist is the harder it will be for your protagonist to succeed in beating or destroying them.
Who are some of the great movie antagonists? Darth Vader in “Star Wars,” the shark in “Jaws” Goldfinger, from the movie of the same name, the wicked witch in the “Wizard of Oz,” Lord Sauron, creator of the rings, in Lord of the Rings, and the flesh-eating dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, to name a few.
How to create a worthy antagonist:
Introduce him/her early in the story. If you want your baddie to remain a mystery for a while, show us the effects of their dastardly deeds early on instead.
Give us reasons to hate the antagonist. Show us how their actions affect the protagonist, innocent bystanders or the world in general. Show us the fear and suffering they create.
Show us what’s at stake if the antagonist succeeds. Will the hero die? Will the love interest die? Will a major city be destroyed?
Create a complex antagonist. Put some humanity in your antagonist. Unless, of course, it’s a giant shark or a dinosaur. In monster movies, it is the creature’s utter lack of humanity that makes them so deadly and frightening.
Make sure that your antagonist’s powers and abilities are believable within the context of the story. Don’t give the great white shark a pair of wings.
If the antagonist is a group, make one of them the leader. Have the protagonist and leader antagonist face off in the climax of the movie.
Also, if the antagonist is a group make sure the audience knows who the most powerful people are in descending order.
If the antagonist is a force, like the weather, make sure the weather is a consistent part of the story.