1. TechnoGoth
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    TechnoGoth Member

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    Do you need an antagonist?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by TechnoGoth, Jan 15, 2014.

    So I'm working on my second fantasy novel. I've got notes for most of the chapters written down and a few chapters written but I'm wondering if I need some kind of central antagonist.

    In the first arc the MC survives several assassination attempts, in the next main arc its a battle for survival journeying across the jungle, and the final arc is filled with danger and mystery. In my mind it all works.

    But I'm wondering if the reader will need some kind of antagonist that needs to be defeated and overcome. I have various antagonists that exists for a number of small arcs. But there isn't someone running through the whole novel that is in direct opposition to the MC.

    What do people think do you need a main antagonist in a fantasy book?
     
  2. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    Does the character change through the novel without an antagonist? You don't need an antagonist as long as the character grows in the course of the novel. I'd say there needs to be something tying all small challenges together for the story to make sense and carries some sort of theme.
     
  3. Echoesian
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    Echoesian Member

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    Nature can be an antagonist. I think as long as your character is struggling to overcome/grow/etc, it should be enough.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    You can be your own antagonist, too. Fear, poor impulse control, impatience, procrastination, moral dilemmas, these and more can be just as great an obstacle as any sadistic enemy.
     
  5. Acanthophis
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    Acanthophis ( ͡° ͜ʖ ͡°) Contributor

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    My English teacher defines the antagonist as something which works against the protagonist. This can be a person, an inner conflict, a storm, an idea, a place, a falling piano, etc. As long as you have something which attempts to thwart the protagonist's progression throughout the story, you've got your antagonist.

    So what could your antagonist be? Well, the assassins, the jungle, and the mysterious dangers in your third act. If these things stand in the way of your protagonist's final destination, they could be classified as antagonists. Don't get too hung up on the word, you'll figure it out.
     
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  6. TheApprentice
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    TheApprentice Contributing Member

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    Not necessarily, if there is a bigger issue like disease, or natural disaster, but having an antagonist makes things more interesting.
     
  7. NigeTheHat
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    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

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    There should be an antagonist, but as people above have mentioned, that antagonist doesn't need to be a character.

    The reader won't 'need' to have a human (or otherwise) face behind everything orchestrating events - the writer might. Having a Big Bad is an easy way to give a story a sense of coherence, to make it actually feel like a story rather than just a sequence of events. It's the most obvious way to show the protagonist overcoming an obstacle - give that obstacle a human face and have them defeated.

    Most people find it harder to write a compelling story without this kind of obvious cypher. You'll know best whether you can write a story without it or not.
     
  8. Glacial
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    Glacial Member

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    Great points. I agree, an antagonist can be anything that gets in the way of the goal. Now you have me wondering though: do you need to have a central antagonist even if there is no human against you? It feels like you can always have more than one, but it seems important to me that one of these antagonists would stand out amongst the others, no?
     
  9. muscle979
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    muscle979 Member

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    You need conflict. That doesn't have to necessarily come through a person. It can come in a million different ways.
     
  10. TheApprentice
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    TheApprentice Contributing Member

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    Well like someone already said, an antagonist is anything that gets in the way of the goal.
     
  11. Lewdog
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    Lewdog Come ova here and give me kisses! Supporter Contributor

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    No you don't need and antagonist. The conflict can be the protagonist against his inner self, or could be against nature. Neither of those require an antagonist.
     
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  12. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    I think the answer to the question is Yes....... just maybe not the conventional antagonist most think about ie. the bad guy.
     
  13. TLK
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    TLK Active Member

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    Eh? Sounds like you've got an antagonist to me. Survived assassination attempts? Who was it who tried to do the assassination? Survival in the jungle? Survival from what? Danger? What's the danger?

    I think you're confusing the meaning of the word, or at least its connotations. An antagonist doesn't have to be an actual person or a being, like Lord Voldemort, an antagonist can be any kind of obstacle that need be overcome. Weather, emotion, a pack of animals, starvation etc. Assassins, things that you need to survive from, and danger, all sound like antagonists to me.
     
  14. TechnoGoth
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    TechnoGoth Member

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    I guess my concern is that while there are obstacles that are over come on the MC's "quest" those threats and obstacles all exist within their own arc and don't extend across the the entire novel. The assassin is dealt with before reaching the jungle. They overcome the dangers of the jungle to reach the ancient ruins.

    But there is no central opposition to the MC "quest". There's no Voldemort. If you look at Harry Potter for instance most of the problems and obstacles come from dealing with school work, class mates, and harry coming to terms with who he is. But throughout the course of each novel there is always an underlying danger a central antagonist and issue that must be over come and by the end of the novel the villain is confronted and defeated.
     
  15. Wowzie
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    Wowzie Member

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    I think villains/antagonists are often the best characters. Do you need one? Technically not. But a protagonist/antagonist relationship adds drama, and you'd be doing yourself a disservice to skimp out on one.
     
  16. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    There is also a matter of definition. For example in my story the "main antagonist", if you will, is also the creator of many good things. She is so powerful that she would no doubt easily single-handedly crush all the other good and bad characters combined. She doesn't lose if the bad guys win or if the good guys win, because she isn't aligned with any of them, despite being the creator and raison d'être of all the villainous characters. So why does she does it? Because she likes it. She's powerful, and she's bored, and she's on the verge of committing suicide over the latter, so she creates a mysterious danger to the utopia to see what happens.

    Besides, can there only be one antagonist? Aren't all who purposefully cause plot-relevant harm, destruction, distress or loss to the protagonist(s) antagonists? Do you need a name? Do you need a cause? Do you even need a brain?

    An antagonist could be the weather if the MC in a short story needs to get from A to B on time (like in The North Wind and the Sun). An antagonist could be the personification of sorrow and despair that ravages a fantastic land far, far away (such as the Sha of Pandaria from Warcraft) of . The antagonist could be the alter ego of the MC (examples include Mr Hyde from Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde and Tyler Durden from Fight Club).
     
  17. bossfearless
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    bossfearless Active Member

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    In answer to OP's description of his story arcs, I would have to ask what the unifying element is that connects those three unrelated arcs of the story. There would need to be an over-arching goal that we the readers knew from the start to keep it all relevant, some idea that the hero is striving toward. If we knew what that idea was, maybe there's a natural antagonist that exists on its own somewhere in the background. The system, nature, entropy, chaos, the fear of failure, any of these concepts or others could easily be antagonists in themselves.
     
  18. Alesia
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    Alesia Pen names: AJ Connor, Carey Connolly Contributor

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    I actually prefer situations where the antagonist is some force other than a character. The good guy/bad guy thing has been a theme in so many novels, movies, games, etc. that it's just kind of meh to me now. Like in my MS, there are plenty of "antagonists": drug dealers, bad influence friends, abusive parents, and so on, but if I could label anything a "main antagonist" it would most definitely be heroin. The reason for that is, it's the only true force that is working against the MC in a way that can either make or break her.
     
  19. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    Assassins imply an employer or employers, so you already have an antagonist.
     
  20. Ryan Jones
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    Ryan Jones New Member

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    There is no need for an antagonist.
    There is only a need for conflict. However huge or small.
     

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