Why I don’t hate my antagonist

I mean, for all intents and purposes I probably should. Antagonists are meant to  be hated, right? They’re the ‘bad guys’. I’m pretty almost certain that antagonist translates into ‘bad guy’.

Take your time. I'll wait.
Take your time. I’ll wait.

And certainly, we’ve been conditioned since childhood to hate the antagonist of any story, animated or otherwise. There are all kinds of tricks animators use to make you understand that the bad guy you’re looking at is really the very bad guy. From colour schemes to sharp angles and ridiculous hair jobs, animators go out of their way to ensure these things are known because it’s much easier to draw someone who looks like they’re bad rather than take the time to go into a story as to WHY they’re bad.

Disney gave it a go, though.
Disney gave it a go, though.

Colours like red, purple, and black are great for antagonists. They’re already associated with the seven sins and so, have a basis for badness in the collective mind. Easy pool to tap into.

But this isn’t animation, kids. This is book writing. Never mind that the two can often be interlinked, we’re going to break the chains for a bit and examine one without the other.

If you don’t know, or if you’re just tuning in, I’ve finished Annie. She’s sitting pretty in my editor’s  hands on the East coast. Annie is special in that, whilst there is an antagonist, there just happens to be two of them. One is the more immediate threat, the other will come about in time.

It’s the same for each of her books. A story within a story. Don’t ask, I don’t know how it happened, it just did.

WhatJustHappened

I can’t hate either of my antagonists. I mean, okay, I can hate one of them. I can, but I don’t. I understand where she is coming from and why she did what she did but that doesn’t absolve her of anything. She’s still crazy.

Capital C, baby.
Capital C, baby.

But I can’t hate her. Neither can I hate Aeneesa (the other antagonist), who, after all this is done is either going to be very right for all of the wrong reasons,  or all kinds of wrong for the right reasons.

That’s not for me to decide.

In the real world, antag/protagonism (that’s a word, shut up) is fluid. People are shades of grey.

I...I don't know where this even came from.
I…I don’t know where this even came from.

People aren’t defined as black and white. The ‘grey’ area are the mistakes and decisions that we’ve made that shape us into the person we currently are. There are good decisions and bad decisions.

The only evil people in the world are those like Ted Bundy and those who decide abusing animals and children are good ideas.

Fuck those people.

Anyway, antagonists and protagonists aren’t necessarily defined by good and evil. Protagonists are the main character of the story, antagonists are those who go against the protagonist’s goal. There are evil acts, of course, but character’s motivations should not simply be “I want to rule the world”.

Because reasons. Skeletor reasons.
Because reasons. Skeletor reasons.

One shouldn’t hate their antagonists. Hate makes it easy to have the antagonist monologue in the confrontation with the hero of the story. Hate makes it easy to create a caricature of a character. But just as one shouldn’t hate their antagonist, one shouldn’t completely love their protagonist either. Loving a protagonist makes it easy to sway into Mary Sue territory, where the protagonist gets everything he/she wants and is just perfect in every way including Sunday.

One must have a balance with their  characters; traits that one both loves and hates.

Because there are things about your lover/husband/sister (etc etc) that you hate, right?

Characters, antagonist or protagonist, should be no different.

Toodles!

 

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5 thoughts on “Why I don’t hate my antagonist

  1. JD Mader says:

    I totally agree with this. I never hate any of my characters, and CERTAINLY not the antagonists. They are my heroes. They drive the word cart. Sometimes they scare me a little. My protagonists are necessary, but I usually spend the whole novel wanting to bitch slap them. 😉

    GREAT post, G.

    1. rjkeith says:

      HAHAHAHAHAHAH, right? So funny how we spend our childhood loving protagonists and hating antagonists, but when we become adults, usually the opposite is true. Except maybe in the case of Maleficent, I’ve loved her antagonist self ever since I was a kid.

    1. rjkeith says:

      It’s hard. It’s really hard because I honestly want a bad guy to be bad for the sake of being bad. But good fiction doesn’t work like that, right?

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