There is one common thread in every story- a protagonist and an antagonist. The hero of the story, doing what they can to achieve their goals, and the villain who is trying to stop them.
But what defines these two characters?
Protagonist: ‘the leading character or one of the major characters in a play, film, novel, etc.’
The hero, the good guy, the Chosen One. Their goal- forced or not- is to stop the antagonist from achieving theirs. The epitome of good, reads to the blind and loves hugs.
Antagonist: ‘a person who actively opposes or is hostile to someone or something; an adversary.’
The villain, the bad guy, the ultimate evil. Usually wants world domination or mass destruction. Likes black, midnight and kicking puppies.
In such simple terms, the protagonist and antagonist are completely different characters. But if you delve a little deeper, you will see that they’re not so different after all. Both display similar attributes character wise:
- Working towards achieving a goal
- Has a relatable character flaw
- They are loyal to their cause
- Something special about them- intelligence, strength, powers
When you think of the protagonist and antagonist, it’s common to think ‘good vs evil,’ or ‘hero vs villain,’ but that always isn’t the case.
A protagonist is the character who the reader follows. They are the one who moves the plot forward with their decisions and choices. The antagonist provides conflict to the plot. They make things complicated for the antagonist.
You need to ask yourself the following question:
Who is advancing the plot’s goals, and who is standing in the way?
In Harry Potter, it’s clear who the protagonist and the antagonist are. But it’s just a matter of perspective. Imagine if the story was from Voldemort’s point of view. Everything would change. Voldemort would be the protagonist, trying to achieve his goal of world domination, and Harry would be the antagonist- the one person standing in his way.
Your protagonist doesn’t have to be a good guy. They don’t have to be a hero. Just like your antagonist doesn’t have to be the bringer of all things evil. They are merely two opposing forces, working against each other to achieve their goal.
This is why it’s so important that you develop both your protagonist and antagonist equally. They are the two most important characters in your novel. They are the ones your readers need to understand and relate to. You want them to root for your protagonist. And while they don’t want the antagonist to succeed, they need to at least understand why the antagonist is doing what they do.
Neither is successful if your reader can’t relate to them in some way.
Good thoughts and happy writing