Question about Antagonist



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  • Question about Antagonist

    Can the antagonist in the story be an emotion, like "fear"? Or does it always need to be embodied in a physical person, who may represent that emotion?


  • #2
    Depends what story you are telling. Don't worry about rules. That being said, do keep in mind the relative commercial viabilty of your story if your intention is to try to sell it.


    • #3
      No, the antagonist does not need to be a person or embodied in a person.


      • #4
        There are 3 types of conflict: man vs. nature, man vs. man, and man vs. himself, which is where I would classify emotional conflicts. But is that enough conflict to carry the whole story or just a few scenes? You have to think about what kind of dialogue would exist for a character with an inner turmoil as the antagonist. It could also put you on the road to something wholly creative.


        • #5
          If I understand your questions (can the "only" antag be an emotion?) the answer is NO.

          Without an external opposition the Main Character will be sitting around in a room for 100 pages trying to reason things out.


          • #6
            Sure, but that's an internal conflict. But it is very weak visually and porbably won't sustain a screenplay...


            • #7
              Ok, thanks for the information - it is very helpful. Now a semi-new question on the same topic:

              Can the antagonist change throughout the story, possibly multiple times? What if the real antagonist is internal conflict (fear, self-doubt, etc), but there are multiple people/situations that come against the protagonist to prevent him completing his goal?

              Hope this makes sense,


              • #8
                Good points. Maybe there's a further distinction to be made: the antagonist does not need to be a person, but unless you've devised a story that is utterly novel and groundbreaking, the antagonist is best embodied by some EXTERNAL entity or force (the "system", the "media", etc. though even for these cases you often have a character that serves as an "agent" for these forces) that can more visibly oppose the protagonist. Just an idea.

                This issue is no doubt addressed in scores of books on the subject and would serve you better than my second-rate opinion. But since you asked, and since it's an interesting subject...


                • #9
                  Q2: That would weaken the dramatic tension of the story dramatically, unless it was for a reason that upped-the-stakes, and was not simply episodic.


                  • #10
                    Ideally, you want one character who your viewers will hate throughout the story (although having multiple bad guys is a good idea).

                    If you've done your job well, your viewers will want to see the antagonist vanquished by your protagonist, because the antagonist has been such an a-hole to the protagonist throughout the story.

                    An internal conflict can or should play a role too, but you can't dispense with the antagonist.


                    • #11
                      A structurally sound screenplay would have one (or more than one) antagonist that has/have an arch much like your hero. If you change your antagonists half way through the story, it will be disjointed. As for fear, anger or whatever else is your hero is feeling, it is merely a part of his complex character, not an antagonist.


                      • #12
                        Yes, the antagonist, source or cause of the conflict, must be physically manifested in your story in order to dramatize that conflict.

                        Yes, the antagonist can change as a result of the story just as the protagonist can and does change so long as the conflict remains and requires the actions of the protagonist to resolve it, not the changed attitudes of the antagonist.



                        • #13
                          Yes - the antagonist can change in the story.

                          It "typically" has to do with a change in the Main Character's objective. "Typically" it occurs at the Midpoint reveal/reversal or the end of Act II. For example: the true antagonist becomes known and/or the Main Character struggles for a greater cause.

                          (I don't quite understand the point Ivylilly was trying to make, but the antag is not required to have an arc to make the story sound.)


                          • #14
                            To do what Deus and TwoBrad suggest -- changing the antagonist midway -- might weaken the story. It may be less satisfying for your reader/viewer compared with having one consistent antagonist finally defeated at the end.

                            Switching might also mean your initial conflict and antagonist aren't strong enough.

                            You set up your antagonist to be hated. If the antagonist is a true menace (and he should be), your protagonist shouldn't be able to overcome him too early.

                            But don't hesitate to use henchmen that do the bidding for your main antagonist. Just hold off on the final defeat until the end.


                            • #15
                              Of course, "To do what Deus and TwoBrad suggest -- changing the antagonist midway -- MIGHT weaken the story. It MAY be less satisfying for your reader/viewer compared with having one consistent antagonist finally defeated at the end. Switching MIGHT also mean your initial conflict and antagonist aren't strong enough."

                              It's up to you as the screenwriter to make the story work - multiple antagonists or not.

                              It is permissible for the Main Character to change his objective as the story unfolds. This may (as in "not always") provide an opportunity to change antagonists.

                              UserName, "You set up your antagonist to be hated."

                              Not true. Don't confuse "antag" with "evil".

                              You set up your antagonist with an objective that is in direct opposition to the Main Character's objective.