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Major characters are a story's backbone. A well-developed antagonist can drive a story in complex and interesting directions.
When developing a story, it's crucial to consider the "bad guy's" dimensions as well as the protagonist's. We've moved away from the "mustache-twirling evil man" in genre and literary literature, figures like Gargamel from the Smurfs and all the Evil Queens. Not every narrative needs a redeemable villain. No matter the type of villain you choose, it's crucial to understand the character and their role in your story so they drive the plot like your protagonist.
Here are 3 different types of antagonists that work well in fiction
The One that We Love to Hate
These characters get in your hero's way. This opponent wants to destroy the planet, while your hero wants to save it. Your hero wants to marry the prince, but the villain wants him all to herself — not because she loves him, but because she wants his money, power, etc.
This type of antagonist generally has no compelling cause to hinder the protagonist: Protagonist and Antagonistboth apply to same job. They seek the job because they enjoy it, need the money, or are good at it. The antagonist is usually rich, bored, and wants to win for bragging rights. This antagonist hates the protagonist, and not necessarily for a good reason.
Star Wars' Emperor Palpatine is a "love-to-hate" villain. Episodes 1-3 show there's a method to his madness, but it still seems he just likes destroying things for money and power. "Love to Haters" exist in literature, too. Take Jason from The Sound and Fury: When alluding to a sympathetic character, he says, "Once a bitch, always a bitch." A few scenes later, when a little kid can't purchase a fair ticket, Jason pulls one out of his wallet, sees the boy's eyes light up, and then burns it in front of him - and laughs.
These antagonists enrage readers. Because so much is at risk, readers root harder for the protagonist. Defeating this villain is crucial. A reader may worry if your protagonist is truly so good or if the alternative is so horrible they must cheer for the hero. These adversaries can drive a plot, but don't make them too awful for no reason or they'll become caricatures.
The Sympathetic Antagonist
Backstory can evoke sympathy for any character. Frankenstein's monster goes on a murdering spree to kill his creator, Victor Frankenstein, but when we learn about his agony and scorn, we understand him better.
It could be more than one person
Antagonists can be groups. They might be a group, like Mean Girls' alpha females. A community, government, or religion could be the enemy. Don't limit yourself to one "evil person"
Good antagonists resemble good protagonists. They require a compelling backstory. Like your hero, your villain needs a world and a life.
Antagonists should be skilled. How else could they compete with your protagonist if they weren't special? Perhaps they're clever, strong, swift, etc. Your antagonist must be powerful enough to beat your protagonist at their best.
He or she needs flaws. Good protagonists have flaws. Scarlett O'Hara was selfish, Anna Karenina impetuous. Your villain should be flawed too. Your antagonist's shortcomings don't have to redeem them, unlike a protagonist's.
Just as we spend time building our hero, it's critical to remember the villain. Make your protagonist lovable and fight-worthy. The overarching guideline of antagonists is to not allow your antagonist's personality outshine that of your protagonist.