Writing group

Villain VS Antagonist

It has come to my attention that there are too many different character roles when writing a book. Protagonist, main character, side character, love interest, villain, bad guy, antagonist etc etc.

While most are pretty obvious roles, there are some whose roles aren’t as clear cut. Today I’m going to be talking about the villains and antagonists in your novel. Because believe it or not, they aren’t the same thing. Or at least, they don’t need to be.

When I first started writing (all those years ago,) I had the good guy and the bad guy. As I learned terminology they became the protagonist and antagonist, which I interchanged with villain. And I’ve just recently discovered that the two are quite different, and play completely different roles in the story.

An antagonist is someone or something that opposes your protagonist. This could take many forms- opposing their beliefs, their way of life, their motives. They’re not necessarily evil. They’re not necessarily a person or a character either. The antagonist is something that creates struggle, conflict, and adds tension. They play a role within the plot, like the protagonist, love interest or side kick.

The villain is inherently evil. They have evil motives and intentions. They’re not necessarily opposing the protagonist- they could very well be the protagonist if you so choose. They are a character type, like the hero, or a damsel in distress.

Of course in most stories, the antagonist and the villain are one in the same. A force of evil opposing your protagonist. But your story can survive without a villain- it can’t survive without an antagonist. Because antagonists cause conflict. And without conflict, there is no story.

Good thoughts and happy writing!


2 thoughts on “Villain VS Antagonist”

  1. Thank you. This is essential to understand life as well as writing. We have people in our lives who oppose certain things we might promote. They might be antagonists, but are not villains. Being an American that is a huge distinction in American life right now. In writing, quite often as in life.


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