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Antagonist Vs. Villains.

Posted by Charles Gray on March 27, 2013

Apologies for any spelling errors– but it’s very late and I’ve had a full day.


Let’s talk about antagonists vs. villains.  What are they? How are they different?

It’s simple.  Antagonist  is a statement with no moral baggage attached  to it. In your story, the kindly father who doesn’t want his daughter to be rejected and so tries to steer her away from her career, can be seen as an antagonist.  He’s standing in her way, albeit for the best of reasons.

But the villain is someone we’re supposed to hate.  We aren’t only expected to want him to lose, we’re supposed to cheer it. Game of Thrones aficionados will know what I’m saying when I state that Tyrion is an antagonist (especially if you’re a Stark) but he’s no villain. Joffrey?  Joffrey is practically the Platonic ideal of the Villain.   Bu that means that a fiction writer should be very clear in his own mind whether or not he is writing a villain or an antagonist.  It’s easy to start cheering for the little people in your head when writing a story and start making certain that the downfall of their antagonist is satisfying, but that’s not always the best choice with the antagonist.  Equally a villain should be someone who at the end of the day, the audience is happy to see fall.

Note, that this doesn’t mean you cannot write complex stories– and in fact there are stories where the lines are blurred between antagonist, protagonist, and villain (the aforementioned series comes to mind), but that’s a choice the writer should consciously make.   Next we’ll talk about some of the great writing sins when creating a villain.



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