Panak Island caves, Phuket - by me
We get a lot of questions asking us what makes a good villain or a good antagonist, and it’s simple really! A well developed character with motives and reasons. This is every characters foundation!
A lot of us tend to use the two terms ‘Antagonist’ and ‘Villain’ interchangeably, as a lot of the time these two terms overlap. However, they don’t actually mean the same thing!
An Antagonist is a character that works against your characters goals, they may be a work colleague a rival classmate etc.
An antagonist (from Greek ἀνταγωνιστής - antagonistēs , “opponent, competitor, enemy, rival”, from anti- “against” + agonizesthai “to contend for a prize,”) is a character, group of characters, or institution that represents the opposition against which the protagonist or protagonists must contend. In other words, an antagonist is a person or a group of people who oppose the main character. [Source]
So here are some antagonists from popular fiction that AREN’T villains:
- Draco Malfoy and Snape from Harry Potter. These two characters oppose Harry, but neither are technically villains. Malfoy isn’t exactly squeaky clean, but he’s hardly a mass murderer.
- The Capitol (NOW HEAR ME OUT). When I say this I mean that the majority of the people in the Capitol support the Hunger Games. But these people aren’t bad, or evil! They just don’t know any other way. (President Snow on the other hand…)
Villains are a kind of sub category of antagonists. They do the same thing but are BAD people. They are people who are breaking rules, murdering people and generally not following the law.
- Voldemort- Obviously!
- Gaea- Percy Jackson.
- Stane in Ironman.
Antagonists tend to have more development than villains, villains stay the bad guy but antagonists change and develop. A perfect example is Malfoy, although he becomes a Death Eater he becomes (in my mind) a better person, he protects Harry at Malfoy Mannor when he could have just told the truth. He doesn’t want to be a death eater, he isn’t bad. Circumstances put him in that situation.
Another thing about antagonists: they aren’t always people!
- Protagonist vs. Another Character (villain)
- Protagonist vs. Nature
- Protagonist vs. Society
- Protagonist vs. Technology
- Protagonist vs. Supernatural Forces
- Protagonist vs. Self [SOURCE]
So antagonists are wonderfully diverse, different and special. It can be super good fun creating a villain, and I’ve put some resources below for that. Antagonist forces (like above), I think are in most books, some books have a force such as a fight against self and also an actual antagonist. Harry Potter is a good example (it always bloody is). But whatever your antagonist is, remember that a good antagonist, that’s believable is the driving force of your story, they cause the plot! So make sure they are rounded and developed characters with real motives and desires :).
Villains vs Antagonists
Villain or Antagonist?
What if your antagonist isn’t a person?
25 things you should know about Antagonists
Villains: because a good bad guy is a writers best friend
How to write a great villain
Hope this helps!
This website is literally a godsend. It not only has a great personality generator, but a realistic name generator as well.
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- Sylvia Plath: There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice.
- Rudyard Kipling: I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language.
- Emily Dickinson: [Your poems] are quite as remarkable for defects as for beauties and are generally devoid of true poetical qualities.
- Ernest Hemingway (on The Torrents of Spring): It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it.
- Dr. Seuss: Too different from other juveniles on the market to warrant its selling.
- The Diary of Anne Frank: The girl doesn’t, it seems to me, have a special perception or feeling which would lift that book above the ‘curiosity’ level.
- Richard Bach (on Jonathan Livingston Seagull): will never make it as a paperback. (Over 7.25 million copies sold)
- H.G. Wells (on The War of the Worlds): An endless nightmare. I do not believe it would “take”…I think the verdict would be ‘Oh don’t read that horrid book’. And (on The Time Machine): It is not interesting enough for the general reader and not thorough enough for the scientific reader.
- Edgar Allan Poe: Readers in this country have a decided and strong preference for works in which a single and connected story occupies the entire volume.
- Herman Melville (on Moby Dick): We regret to say that our united opinion is entirely against the book as we do not think it would be at all suitable for the Juvenile Market in [England]. It is very long, rather old-fashioned…
- Jack London: [Your book is] forbidding and depressing.
- William Faulkner: If the book had a plot and structure, we might suggest shortening and revisions, but it is so diffuse that I don’t think this would be of any use. My chief objection is that you don’t have any story to tell. And two years later: Good God, I can’t publish this!
- Stephen King (on Carrie): We are not interested in science fiction which deals with negative utopias. They do not sell.
- Joseph Heller (on Catch–22): I haven’t really the foggiest idea about what the man is trying to say… Apparently the author intends it to be funny – possibly even satire – but it is really not funny on any intellectual level … From your long publishing experience you will know that it is less disastrous to turn down a work of genius than to turn down talented mediocrities.
- George Orwell (on Animal Farm): It is impossible to sell animal stories in the USA.
- Oscar Wilde (on Lady Windermere’s Fan): My dear sir, I have read your manuscript. Oh, my dear sir.
- Vladimir Nabokov (on Lolita): … overwhelmingly nauseating, even to an enlightened Freudian … the whole thing is an unsure cross between hideous reality and improbable fantasy. It often becomes a wild neurotic daydream … I recommend that it be buried under a stone for a thousand years.
- The Tale of Peter Rabbit was turned down so many times, Beatrix Potter initially self-published it.
- Lust for Life by Irving Stone was rejected 16 times, but found a publisher and went on to sell about 25 million copies.
- John Grisham’s first novel was rejected 25 times.
- Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen (Chicken Soup for the Soul) received 134 rejections.
- Robert Pirsig (Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance) received 121 rejections.
- Gertrude Stein spent 22 years submitting before getting a single poem accepted.
- Judy Blume, beloved by children everywhere, received rejections for two straight years.
- A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle received 26 rejections.
- Frank Herbert’s Dune was rejected 20 times.
- Carrie by Stephen King received 30 rejections.
- The Diary of Anne Frank received 16 rejections.
- Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rolling was rejected 12 times.
- Dr. Seuss received 27 rejection letters