1. isaac223
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    isaac223 Member

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    Unlikable yet Interesting Main Protagonist and Entirely Likable "Antagonist" ~ Possible?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by isaac223, Jun 1, 2016.

    Of course, I don't mean anyone who has absolutely no "redeeming qualities," even if these redeeming qualities aren't entirely social, but just a character who won't be loved by the readers simply due to possessing an entirely unjustifiably horrible personality. If it is possible to make such a character without allowing it to fall into "Cliche" territory, is it possible to make such a character interesting and develop them. Of course, they'll have a goal that isn't necessarily bad, and could actually be good, but still doesn't justify their absolutely shitty personality. And, at the same time is it possible for an "antagonist" to be a very likable character but, in contrast with that, have a goal that contrasts greatly with that. Something that could be selfish or be a result of irrational thinking, and this goal conflicts with the protagonist's. And through these revelations, by the end of the story, due to development, be it positive or negative, and when everything of both characters is known by the readers, could it be possible to at this time, have the protagonist and "antagonist" be at about the same level of likability so that the audience isn't really sure who they're rooting for at this point -- that they may be okay with the protagonist because of the potential "goodness" of his goal and his development or with the "antagonist" because the goal, albeit irrational or potentially insane by some means, is still somewhat selfless and the "antagonist" has already been established to be someone likable and being likable would make people root for you.

    And if it possible, how would one go about making it happen?
     
  2. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    Technically, a protagonist is just your main character, the one you follow around and whose story you tell, and the antagonist is just whomever gets in your protagonist's way. A lot of crime movies have protagonists who are, by real-world standards, complete assholes (Scarface seems like a clear example, but there are lots of others) and the antagonists are probably pretty good people.

    In books? Good ol' GRRM has done a fairly good job of asshole progatonists in Game of Thrones, and any other books with anti-heroes will be pretty similar, I'd say.

    Is that what you're getting at? I got a bit bogged down in your syntax, I think.
     
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2016
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  3. Malisky
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    Malisky Fuzz Overdriver Contributor

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    Have a look at Shamo. It's a manga. (Do not watch the movie. It's horrible). The most extreme protagonist I' ve ever read. He is absolutely scum. Got me hooked (although the last few chapters were bullshit). At some point the MC has a battle with the antagonist who is the good guy. It was an interesting outcome.
     
  4. isaac223
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    isaac223 Member

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    Well, I know about "anti-heroes" and the like who are done well, but I should have clarified a bit more...

    I suppose this is exaggerating a bit, but I would like the MC to, at first, not be an asshole, but be an absolute degenerate. So, not an anti-hero, but just the main protagonist, but is what you'd typically assume a fantasy antagonist to be. So, an evil protagonist, I suppose.
     
  5. Mumble Bee
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    Mumble Bee The writer formerly known as Chained. Contributor

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    The only requirement for a protagonist is to make the reader care what happens to them.
    Anything after that is fair game.

    Not trying to write your story for you but
    Protag- Does all the things people want to do, but can't do in 'polite society' effectively making them a terrible person and entirely relatable at the same time.
    Antag- Does everything you're 'supposed' to do, believes in a greater good where some suffer for benefit of the many.
     
  6. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    How are you distinguishing between an evil protagonist and an anti-hero?
     
  7. isaac223
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    isaac223 Member

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    Actually, that helps. Basically making the protagonist embody some of the more unconscious, primal or unacceptable desires, thoughts or considerations that people have that aren't acceptable, but makes them relateable so that the audience still cares despite them being absolutely shit as a human being, whereas the antagonist represents the the things people are "supposed" to do, but it still ends up being a bad time for the "shit" protagonist, which, if done right, would get my desired effect of making the readers split between rooting for the protag and antag. Thanks a ton.
     
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  8. isaac223
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    isaac223 Member

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    Well, I suppose an anti-hero is typically someone who acts for the "greater good," but typically not in a "good" way that many people would frown upon just because of the way its handled.

    Rather, an "evil" protagonist would simply do as he pleased, not really for the greater good, but is either morally neutral (Chaotic Neutral) or is Lawful Evil(?) in that they simply do their own thing, which usually involves being a dick or just doing their own thing.
     
  9. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you may be underestimating the variety within the world of anti-heroes. I don't think they have to act for the greater good at all.

    But I sense that you and I are on different wavelengths with this, so--good luck with it!
     
  10. isaac223
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    isaac223 Member

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    I apologize for "being on a different wavelength" than you, but thank you for the good wishes. ^-^
     
  11. Diane Elgin
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    Diane Elgin Member

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    Characters don't have to be 'good' to be good protagonists. Take 'Lolita' for example. Your main character murders a single mother to make the young girl he's in love with dependent on him. 'Crime & Punishment' features a university dropout who murders two people based on a theory of extraordinary narcissism. Whether your characters are good or evil is irrelevant. They just have to have a strong desire for something and be extraordinary in their manner of achieving it.
     
  12. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    I agree with your point, but no, Humbert Humbert doesn't murder Dolores' mother.
     
  13. Diane Elgin
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    Diane Elgin Member

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    You're right. My mistake. It's been a long time since I've read it.
     
  14. Steerpike
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    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, he's definitely a sick individual. And a great protagonist and unreliable narrator at the same time. Nabokov did great work with that book.
     
  15. Diane Elgin
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    Diane Elgin Member

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    Beyond all else, he's utterly compelling to read. The playfulness of his speech helps makes it so. Sol Stein in his book of Writer's Solutions talks of 'Negative Suspense', the idea of reading fiction in the hope something doesn't happen and 'Lolita' is the ultimate example of this.
     
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  16. Kate Sen
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    Kate Sen Member

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    I remember once reading a detective novel, don't recall title or author, but the twist was that the reader was made sympathetic to the criminal who was a professional assessin, and at the end the assessin gets away from the detective to the reader's delight.
     

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