Hi, I'm Ray Evans. I'm a certified copyeditor and proofreader.
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The only way to build your protagonist's character arc is to create the strongest, most powerful antagonist you can.
How do villains contribute to a script beyond just being bad guys?
An antagonist's only function is to force your otherwise passive protagonist onto a path that will hopefully lead to the hero's emotional or psychological enlightenment. Your protagonist's arc, or transformation into a better version of themselves, will only happen if they make it through this ordeal alive. Only the antagonist has the power to do that.
The more powerful and dangerous the opponent, the more difficult and exciting the adventure of your protagonist will be. Here are four techniques to make your antagonists stronger.
THINK UP A PAINFUL BACKSTORY FOR THEM:
Do villains always represent the worst in humanity? Absolutely not! The best villains are multifaceted beings whose actions are motivated by an inner anguish so deep that it hijacks their humanity and their capacity for empathy. They are driven by an unrelenting desire for something—usually power—and will resort to whatever means necessary to obtain it.
You should know every piece of your antagonist's past whether or not you want to incorporate it in the script. What traumatic experience did this character go through that broke their capacity for empathy so severely that it can never be restored?
The film Joker gives us a deep look inside Joker's troubled mind, which was shaped in part by his mother's mental illness and his own psychotic beliefs. The loss of his childhood sled, "Rosebud," symbolizes the loss of Charles Foster Kane's innocence and happiness in the film Citizen Kane. Determine what event or series of events caused your antagonist's irreparable damage and use that as the driving force behind their actions.
DEVELOPE A SUITABLE ANTAGONIST TO COUNTER YOUR PROGATONIST
Your enemy exists solely to effect a transformation in your protagonist. Your adversary will be pushed, punished, and tortured to the breaking point, where the hero within them must either rise up and defeat the antagonist or die trying. Indeed, there may be many ways in which the protagonist and antagonist are identical; the difference is that one of them selected the path of light and the other, the path of darkness.
Determine why your nemesis is the one thing that will drive your protagonist to transform or die?
FIGURE OUT THEIR OBJECTIVES AND NEEDS:
Please be clear and precise. The ruby slippers are wanted by the Wicked Witch in Baum's The Wizard of Oz. An antagonist typically wants power and sees the protagonist as a threat to their getting or keeping it.
Find out what your enemy really wants and why they want it.
If you're stumped by this query, it may be time to examine your protagonist and their motivations more closely. In most stories, the protagonist and antagonist are polar opposites, with the protagonist acting selflessly and the antagonist acting selfishly.
That's it for today, come back tomorrow for three more tips!