Effective Character Creation: Know an Antagonist, Create a Villain

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July 29, 2016

A Quick Discussion on What Villain Really Means

Every tale needs an antagonist to keep the story rolling. Although almost everyone is aware with the role an antagonist plays in a story, many of us use the term antagonist and villain interchangeably.

Joker Villain Character

Each story has an antagonist, but not all stories have villain characters. The antagonist is someone who is not necessarily evil in nature, but delivers a major conflict with the protagonist. Think of Inspector Javert from Les Miserables. Javert was a law enforcer, and someone who happens to have a disagreeing agenda with the protagonist Jean Valjean. Many antagonists are manipulated, brainwashed, or just forced to do bad actions because of their job, just like Javert.  Here’s an easier way to understand their differences.

Antagonist:

An antagonist is someone who simply has contrasting thoughts, actions, and motives to the protagonist.

  • Elsa, Frozen
  • Gollum, Lord of the Rings
  • Octopus, Spiderman

The characters cited above have one thing in common:  they hold strong principles on the rightness of their doings without realizing that they can be potentially bad.

Villains:

Heroes and villains work hand in hand to make the plot more interesting. Villain is a character who is absolutely bad, and has pure evil motives accompanied by evil actions.

One of the best villains in literature is Sauron from the Lord of the Rings.

  • power-hungry
  • malicious
  • manipulative
  • an villain through and through

Another example is Aaron the Moor from William Shakespeare’s play, Titus Andronicus. He persuaded the sons of the Queen, Demetrus, and Chiron to slaughter Lavinia’s fiancé in front of her because he wants to see her mourn. Then, they molested Lavinia, rip her tongue out, and cut her hands off to prevent her from telling anyone about the murder. Aaron is considered a top villain because hurting people brings him ecstasy. He likes everyone to hate him, and loves every minute of it.

Grey area

This is where the antagonist’s character lies. A villain, on the other hand, is like defining black from white, and good from evil. There is nothing in between, and no ambiguity as to which side is right. Whereas, an antagonist’s degree of wickedness depends on the society’s views and reader’s perception because most often, antagonists are lost souls who need direction. They are someone who can still change for the better, and can work with the protagonist as a team, if they chose to.