1. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    Help! I have no antagonist!

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by picklzzz, Jan 26, 2012.

    Hi all,

    I've been developing my new novel with that Snowflake method I referred to in an earlier post, which I find really helpful to organize my thoughts. I have three major characters and three entertwining story arcs, but I just realized - I have no antagonist! At least as far as a specific person, that is. The main antagonist is an object along with a set of circumstances that prevent the MC and the other two from reaching their respective goals. Is this ok, or should I work in at least one major antagonist that is an actual person?

    Thanks!
     
  2. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    Also, could memories of a tragic event or set of circumstances be considered an antagonist that prevents someone from reaching their goal? That would make the protagonist their own antagonist (someone is their own worst enemy). Is this ok?

    Also, could there be a situation where the protagonist and antagonist switch places? I'm thinking of two people who are against each other and each prevent the other from attaining their goals. Wouldn't that make them both the protagonists and antagonists? Is this not a good thing to do? I'm thinking of another story I've been working on where two people are playing a cat and mouse type of game with one another for revenge and other reasons.

    Thanks again...
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Why do you need an antagonist? At last year's Oscars, The King's Speech won Best Picture. I've seen it many times and it's excellent. And guess what? There isn't a single "bad guy" in it. There is no antagonist. There is a problem - the King's stammer - and that drives the drama, but there is no personified antagonist.

    You can have a great story without an antagonist. Shoehorning a bad guy into a story that doesn't need one doesn't help the story, it weakens it.
     
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  4. Kesteven
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    Kesteven Member

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    Sometimes it can add drama to the story to have an antagonist, which is why it's such a prevalent aspect of fiction. However, without more information about the story itself, all I can say is that I agree with the above - there's certainly no reason to force an antagonist if it doesn't feel like one is needed, and relying on antagonists is kind of lazy so going without one might make your story more original.
     
  5. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    I've read that an antagonist can consist of "man vs man, man vs nature, or man vs himself." One force that opposes another and creates tension is often what propels a story forward.
     
  6. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    In my story, the main antagonist is an object the main character receives which causes her all sorts of potential harm (the object is cursed and wreaks havoc in her life). Also, she is devastated over a recent death (of her fiance) and that is standing in her way of achieving the serenity she craves. Another main character is a psychologist-in-training, and his antagonist I guess is self-doubt. He doesn't think he knows how to help the MC because he's so inexperienced. The third main character is a cop who links the current case with an unsolved mystery from his first case, so I guess his obstacle is finding how they're related, especially since a lot of the witnesses from the original case are dead or in jail. So, everyone is facing major obstacles, but no one is a "bad guy". I think that's ok, but I wasn't sure. You're right - I don't want to create one just for the sake of it. I thought I needed a person as one, but I think from my researching this afternoon and what you all had to say that I'm ok without. Thanks!
     
  7. TheIllustratedMan
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    TheIllustratedMan Active Member

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    You forgot "man vs. God", "man vs. society", and recently, "man vs. machine" (which I guess could qualify as man vs man).
     
  8. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think that an antagonist is mandatory. The only risk that comes to mind is whether your lack of antagonist comes from a reluctance to have anything but thoroughly nice cooperative everybody-agrees people in your book. That could result in rather one-dimensional characters.

    But you don't _need_ an antagonist, and many stories wouldn't benefit from one.
     
  9. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    You have to judge for yourself, does the story unfold well or do you have problems moving things forward.
    Conflict is essential in storytelling and whether an antagonist or even a villain is a shifty acquaintance, a true nemesis or a tornado, it can work just the same. But there has to be an obstacle, or series of obstacles, imo.
     
  10. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    Well, the object the woman inherits poses a series of obstacles, and she has trouble trying to preventing the impending doom because the clues are so cryptic.
     
  11. KinkyCousin
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    KinkyCousin Member

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    I don't have a real antagonist in my big story plan (which is weird as I love creating villains), the "antagonist" is an evil parasitic entity and it doesn't even speak. As previously mentioned in this thread, conflict is essential, the characters must face problems in their task but the "antagonist" can be anything, it doesn't have to be a character.
     
  12. Islander
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    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just write the story, and see how it works. If you let the drama evolve naturally from your characters, premises and setting, the end result will probably be better than if you try to squeeze in an antagonist.
     
  13. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    If you have the story fleshed out in your head, have plenty of conflict to drive it, and are confident with where your storyline will take you, then go with it.

    In writing, there's no such thing as asking what's "okay." There's not some Writer's Conformation Board you have to consult if you want to do something different. Just do it.

    One of the categories of story conflict is "man vs self" and "man vs nature." There doesn't have to be a bad guy. Any force causing conflict is an antagonist. :)
     
  14. Mallory
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    Mallory Mallegory. Contributor

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    If you have the story fleshed out in your head, have plenty of conflict to drive it, and are confident with where your storyline will take you, then go with it.

    In writing, there's no such thing as asking what's "okay." There's not some Writer's Conformation Board you have to consult if you want to do something different. Just do it.

    One of the categories of story conflict is "man vs self" and "man vs nature." There doesn't have to be a bad guy. Any force causing conflict is an antagonist. :)
     

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