1. TheSerpantofNar
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    TheSerpantofNar Active Member

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    Writing a Antagonist/protaganist

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by TheSerpantofNar, May 6, 2012.

    Im working on a character that has been in development for a while he or it depending on how you look at it is both a antagonist and protagonist. The character is both good and bad to morally grey in nature abd unpredictable and pragmatic in nature as well as dangerous and ruthless. You could call the character a anti-hero but he often does awful things more so then any hero of old or so the character has blood on his hands for sure. So what do you think will help make the character more flushed out and complex?
     
  2. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    The protagonist is just the character that the story is sort of built around. So it doesn't matter if the protagonist is "good" or "bad", he's still the protagonist. You could write a book about Hitler during WWII from the perspective of Hitler and he would be the protagonist.
     
  3. TheSerpantofNar
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    TheSerpantofNar Active Member

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    The character has already been created so to speak he is pretty complex but im still adding layers he is both a protagonist and Antagonist. I find writing just plain good characters boring honestly I do however like to write characters who find themselves in morally complicated situations.
     
  4. Trilby
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    Trilby Contributing Member Contributor

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    There is good and bad in everyone - the trick is getting the balance right.
     
  5. Mendelevium
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    Mendelevium Member

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    My advice? If they're too good to be true, they're probably not true. Similarly, do not give anyone the moral high ground. That eventually comes back to bite both them and you.
     
  6. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    You say he's both protagonist and antagonist. Protagonist, ok, but antagonist to whom? TO Himself? TO society? To someone else? Is he really the antagonist of your novel or just some kind of anti-hero, as you say? As someone pointed out he can still be the bad guy and not be an antagonist, esp if the protagonist is himself. Is he his own worst enemy or what? does he have a multiple personality?
     
  7. minzt.myo
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    minzt.myo Banned

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    He can't be both the protagonist and antagonist at the same time... However, he could be an evil/demonic protagonist for a good purpose/resolution...
     
  8. Kesteven
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    Kesteven Member

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    Yeah, 'antagonist' is the story role of being against the protagonist, and neither particularly entails any moral status. Presumably Nar is thinking more of the traditional roles of 'hero' and 'villain'.

    But yeah, returning to the actual question of what can be done to enhance the character (it's flesh out, by the way), I think we'd need to know a LOT more about the character's current status to be able to make any meaningful suggestions about how to build on it, but it might be possible to make a few general observations about character building. Firstly, 'plain good' characters are boring not because they're good, but because they're plain. A well-written character whole-heartedly devoted to goodness is easily more complex and interesting than a mediocre character who's morally neutral. Secondly, giving a character a 'dark side' to try and add depth frequently backfires horribly, because it's coming from the wrong direction. Work on the character's motivations and history, and internal strife will follow naturally, because that's what life is like.

    To put it simply, Nar, try thinking less about whether your character is good or bad and just focus on who they are. If you want more specific comments, try posting a little more detail about your character's background and personality. You might also want to think about using some character development questions as a prompt like this list I just pulled from google. You don't need to post answers to every question here, but have a go at answering them in your own mind.
     
  9. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Not true. The protagonist can indeed be his own worst enemy. However, it isn't common to speak of an antagonist when the central conflict is internal.
     
  10. TheSerpantofNar
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    TheSerpantofNar Active Member

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    The characters traits are he is a enigma of sorts not much is known about him other then the land he comes from. His personality I would say is ruthless,brutal and cunning but he has a bizzare since of honor. He has made deals with demon's and other beings and due to that he much less of what he once was he has some guilt but tends to show his good side through small acts of compassion.
     
  11. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    This is probably one of those theoretical questions. We're talking about semantics here so there is no reason why a main character can't be BOTH a protagonist AND antagonist. However, I can't really fathom a scenario where it would make sense to refer to a character that is the protagonist as the antagonist also.

    But regardless... the original poster was talking about a character that has both good and bad morals. So that makes me think that he is confused and thinks antagonist means someone that is bad. And there is nothing wrong with writing a character like that either. Certainly something like that has been done before.
     
  12. thecoopertempleclause
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    thecoopertempleclause Contributing Member

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    There should be a reason behind everything your character does, a memory, an experience, a code which shapes the way they act. You do not need to write all/any of this, but you do need to know it. Many people are naturally complex, we all have strengths, weaknesses, dreams, hopes, fears, moments of stupidity, ego, idiosyncrasies. A well-rounded character will have all of these, most of which should be reflected in their actions or speech. You should not spell all of these out to the reader. Let them use discernment.
     
  13. CrimsonReaper
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    CrimsonReaper Active Member

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    Everyone is those things. Just not at the same time ;)

    Less viable. If he is pragmatic in regards to an established doctrine (religion or the common morality) then anyone who understands said doctrine has a good idea how the person will act in a given situation. Or at least what the end game is.

    Plenty of the knights on the Crusades bathed beggars and protected the virtue of women because they believed in the cause. Then they went and chopped heathen heads off left and right. How dangerous a character is IS NOT a real indicator of whether they are the protagonist or antagonist. It only lets you know if you should turn your back on them after insulting a lady's honor...

    Let us put aside the values dissonance found between cultures that existed in different regions and centuries apart. You are confusing being an anti-hero (a protagonist that runs counter to the ideals of his culture) with being a dick. Simply being a ruthless bastard does not automatically make you an anti-hero. It makes you a dick. You can be a dick and still represent the heroic values of a society. Team America proved this. Taking ideals to their extreme, in fact, often leads to dickishness (if that's not a word it should be).
     
  14. TheSerpantofNar
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    TheSerpantofNar Active Member

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    As I said he is rather complicated but is also ruthless when I do dark fantasy its going to be very dark I don't find the need to BS around the fact its a brutal and harsh world. Frankly I hate things that are sugarcoated or politically correct I don't write streight good guys as they aren't fun to write to me I write characters that are either very morally grey to just bad. Although I come at it from the characters point of view does the character think he or she or it is bad if harsh actions are taken that i find intresting and compelling. A anti-hero is merely a bad guy who does some good deeds really I think
     
  15. agentkirb
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    agentkirb Contributing Member

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    One way to make a character more realistic is to take one personality trait and think about the good and bad aspects of said traits and related personality quirks (maybe trait is the wrong word, but just bear with me). Take for example... a person that is very vengeful, wants justice and doesn't let things go (perhaps stubborn). Now, in the bad sense you can imagine someone that gets revenge or doesn't let something go when they are wronged and takes it too far. But in the good sense... you can imagine that same vengeful attitude could be had by a prosecuting attorney that is trying to passionately argue their case to find a defendant guilty of the crime they have committed. They might put more work into the case because of their personality.

    I don't know if I'm explaining it in a way that makes sense, but that's an example of a trait that can be taken to positive and negative extremes depending on the situation. You could probably make a character that has that trait (think about every rogue cop book/movie that has ever been made) and you would be dealing with a character that has both good and bad morals.
     
  16. minzt.myo
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    minzt.myo Banned

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    Of course a character could be both a protagonist and an antagonist (like in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde), but unless it's is a deep psychological/psychiatrical I would rather suggest having the multi-personalities as a conflict than having it as a chief antagonist.
     
  17. Ettina
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    Ettina Active Member

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    Personally, I hate those things. I wrote a blog entry once explaining why and what I do instead.

    Basically, Gordon Allport, a personality psychologist, said that you can describe personality traits as falling into three categories - cardinal, central and secondary. Cardinal traits are the traits that are most important to the person's identity, and each person has only one or two of these. Central traits (usually around 5-10 of them) are traits which aren't as important as cardinal traits, but impact the person's behavior/emotions in multiple settings in a predictable way. Secondary traits are simply habits, things like favorite foods or the particular way you tend to fidget.

    So I start by identifying the cardinal traits for my character. Then start fleshing them out. Where did this trait come from? How exactly does it show up in their behavior?

    Chances are, in this process, you'll end up figuring out some other traits that interact with the cardinal traits. Those are the central traits. You can add more by thinking of what kinds of traits the person has to have to fulfill the role they're in - for example, an academic probably needs to like learning new things.

    With secondary dispositions, you don't need to figure them out unless they're plot-important in some way.

    Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde are two different characters. Just because they share the same body doesn't make them the same character. (Besides, the original Dr Jekyll wasn't the protagonist, but whatever.)
     
  18. GaleSkies
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    GaleSkies Active Member

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    I enjoy anti-heroes a whole lot. There a tons of things you can do to flesh them out. Crimson Reaper's got the anti hero thing right. The hero classically represents a value behind his defining characteristics. Strong heroes can represent a value of independent action, smart heroes place value in mankind's ingenuity, and ruthless heroes could represent mankind at the top of the food chain. I always enjoy the determined/willpower heroes that overcome obstacles despite being physically weak. Anti-heroes would have defining characteristics in opposition to a value and there is plenty of grey area in this realm too. A hero can be heroically determined but also physically weak.

    The key to making the character an anti-hero lies in how you represent the traits and how the character interacts with conflict. While the strong hero pushes a boulder out of the way and is rewarded with a new path to progress the story, the weak anti-hero attempts to move the boulder is rewarded with scrapes and bruises but the boulder falls out of the way regardless of his efforts and he moves forward.

    A ruthless hero is great on its own to break outside of some of the more common archetypes. A ruthless anti-hero would be even more fun. Setting up behavior that is designed to bite him back in the ass. Having other characters scorn his behavior and demeanor. But, if the anti-hero's ruthless behavior ends up saving the day because he made the smart but dirty choice and characters begin to accept his rationality in dire situations, he then falls out of the anti-hero archetype and back to the hero archetype.

    *Apologies for exclusive use of male pronouns for describing heroes. It just came out more simply that way.*

    Back to fleshing out anti-heroes and making them more complex. Internal conflicts are great, and most of what I like about anti-heroes is an extreme self loathing.

    If you've decided that you're working with a ruthless hero then go with a weakness. Like the determined but physically weak hero. For me it always comes down to character interactions that show complexity, and no amount of mapping and planning will make a complex character. What the characters do next to each other, how they talk to each other, and what they do despite the personality difference is where I draw my complexity from.
     
  19. TheSerpantofNar
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    TheSerpantofNar Active Member

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    His main weakness is he is short sighted and at times overly crual and brutal he is a imposing figure though I would say the character is inbetween a anti-hero and a villian protagonist.
     
  20. GaleSkies
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    GaleSkies Active Member

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    Plenty of synonyms for ruthless. Got it. That information is all out in the open descriptions as a base for your character.

    To make him more complex requires... a lot. So let's go with layering the character or adding depth and fleshing him out... You said no one knows much about him except for where he is from. That's a problem. While the readers and other characters may not know much about him you have to know a lot about him, especially since he's a villain protagonist/anti-hero.

    You know where he's from geographically, mountainside, plains, coastal regions. From there you can infer a lot of things that will add detail, and depth. Let's say he is from a coastal region, those are usually more heavily populated for easy transportation. From heavy population, you then know your character is familiar with poverty, trade and barter, maybe even seafaring travel. Applying his ruthless nature he probably takes the hands off of curt purses he catches and kicks beggars as he walks by. Bam! You've got something. During the beginning of your story your character spits on a beggar as he walks past, instead of giving the guy money. You don't have to explain why he did it exactly, but now you have a little depth and some readers might be interested in why that character is so cruel to want to find out more.

    You don't need to list the details here in this thread. Honestly, I'm not interested in whether he's actually from the mountain's and lived as a nomadic mercenary or whether he spent his first ten years as a paige to some knight. But if you know these things and can follow a consistent line of reasoning for his actions then you are one step closer. Maybe later I can tell you about complexity. There might already be some advice in the character development subforum that you find useful.
     
  21. TheSerpantofNar
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    TheSerpantofNar Active Member

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    He is from a region called the blackend lands a very snowy and harsh place its also very beautiful and is known for its mountines and valley's. As for his origin he was once human but he encountered something in the winter that changed him from soul to body. As for him being a enigma his past is known but is not much is known about how he got where he is presently. I wouldn't say he is a evil but I will say his code of honor can either save a life or snuff it out in a rather brutal fashion so to speak.
     
  22. GaleSkies
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    GaleSkies Active Member

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    If you give a mouse a cookie.
     
  23. RaeRae
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    RaeRae Member

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    NOt sure how I feel about the advice here. Most of my characters are just like that. My readers hate character as a person but wants them to triumph. I call mine the tragic anti-hero.....childhood trauma, horrible personality, but inherantly good to the core. Complexity is good as long as you don't put it all in the story witha bunch of flashbacks and so forth like GaleSkies advises. Just people enough to keep the story interesting and moving forward.
     
  24. The Magnan
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    The Magnan Active Member

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    I advise that you think of them as, how you see others. Everyone has their own interpration of good and evil. And the extent of which one is willing to go, to do something. Like - doing something right, for the wrong reasons. Everyone views things differently, there's not all much difference between good and evil, since we have the capacity to do do both.
     

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