I think that in our mad rush to create lovable protagonists, we tend to overlook the antagonist. He single handedly drives the conflict. Creates tension. Is responsible for the obstacles in our character’s life.
The protagonist and antagonist are two sides of the same coin. Without them our manuscript is incomplete. Having a strong antagonist is as important as having a strong protagonist. While working on my current WIP (yes, even though the muse is on a holiday, I am still jotting down points and writing scene descriptions and thinking on world building lines).
I realized that I was paying a lot of attention to my protagonist. My antagonist was coming across as a weak one. No wonder then, the conflict in my manuscript was looking pale.
To toughen the conflict and raise the stakes, I had to concentrate on the antagonist. Make him strong. Powerful. Clever and resourceful. If the balance tilts in one person’s favour, the conflict loses its appeal. But if we have two powerful forces (protagonist and antagonist) that’s when the conflict becomes interesting and the battle between them engrossing and intriguing. Till the last minute the reader must keep guessing who is going to win the war.
We have to constantly ask ourselves what are our antagonist’s strengths? What are the advantages he has that give him an edge over our main character. Is the antagonist able to capitalize on his strengths? Is he able to push the protagonist into corners? What about the antagonist’s weaknesses? Is the main character aware of the chinks in the antagonist’s armour? What is the antagonist’s safeguard against the protagonist?
To make the conflict strong, I have to give both the protagonist and the antagonist an equal number of strengths and weaknesses. A battle grips us when there are two powerful forces pitted against each other. Forces that would do anything to win. Who is about to find the chink in the other’s armour first? Who is able to capitalize on the other person’s weakness first, will decide the winner?
I loved Harry as much as I disliked Voldemort. I wanted Harry to kill Voldemort, come what may. They were two formidable forces with an equal number of strengths and weaknesses. Their clashes were page-turners.
Is the antagonist on top of your character development? Do you believe that powerful antagonists drive the conflict better? What are the things you all are doing to create powerful antagonists? We all would love to know.