1. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    Antagonist not being the Villain?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by cosmic lights, Apr 11, 2019.

    This book of mine is in very early development and before making any decisions I just wanted to ask this question.

    In my Fantasy book my main Villain is a powerful witch who has the ability to create her own realms. Once created she can bend that realm to suit herself (change gravity, weather,) However, her realm still have to follow the laws of a magic realm I.e must have two exits, since they are build off an existing magical planet they need a connection. She has pulled humans from their current planet and enslaved them in her realm. Obviously people do escape enslavement and try to find the exists.

    So she has created her own form of guards – like gate keepers. Their job is not only to protect the exists to stop people leaving but also to deal with anyone threatening to break the order of the planet (freedom fighters, rebellion bands). They are not human. They only exist because they have a job to do and have been created to feel compelled to perform that job. If they were to fail in their job, say humans escaped the realm there would be no need for them anymore and they would have to return to the source (the witch where she will turn them back into magic) so in other words – they die. One particular gate keeper who is in charge seems to be more aware of this than the others and seems to possess a desire to live that the others do not. In order for him keep order and makes rules he needs some intelligence, having his own thinking mind could make him dangerous. He wants to exist of his own abilities not just be the personification of a witches magic.

    I need to give reasons why the witch cant do any of this stuff herself, why she prefers to remain behind the curtain. Can't think of anything yet, It could do with more fleshing out but do you think that would be okay?

    Can you see any problems or things I should think about?
    Thank you for your help
     
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  2. The Piper

    The Piper Contributor Contributor

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    Ask yourself, if God created the world (don't anybody start arguing, I said if) then where is he? Why doesn't he just do everything himself? Why, if I've got the lore right (probably not, but in this context it's not hugely important) has he left humans in charge of the Earth and Satan in charge of Hell?

    Because, theoretically, although he can be everywhere all at once, he just doesn't have to be. Or, as some believe, because he's a bit of a bastard (again, no arguing, I said some) and he just can't be bothered to do the boring stuff himself.

    Same with your witch. You don't need a hell of a reason for her not to be guarding the exits herself. Why should she? Sure, it might not take much effort, depending how powerful she is, but I'm assuming she gets bored like normal people. It all depends on her character. But essentially I wouldn't worry too much - after all, if she's created the guards to look after the gate, then isn't that her basically looking after the gate, but with a manifested middleman?
     
  3. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    I ran this dungeons and dragons game back in the day about half a dozen wizards fighting over control of the planet. They didn't lead countries, but they would screw with kings, use artifacts, time travel, talk to gods, whatever. They thought they were petty gods.

    Anyway, one of them hires the party to go steal something from a rival. Of course a player asks, "why don't you go do it." His answer was, "I can only step away from the charms I'm maintaining or this other wizard will use his artifact."

    And that's almost always the kind of answer you get. The witch isn't interested in maintaining a realm. That's the whole point of hiring guards and janitors. She has other shit to do. Maybe she wants to use a realm to build a rainbow bridge to the base of the hundred thousand steps of mount celestia to steal the goblet of kings from a fire-winged angel, and it's going to take her a minimum of five years to get it done, plus the ritual creating the bridge, and then brining herself back to life with her phylacteries. The last thing she wants to do is negotiate workers rights with slaves she sent goblins to kidnap.
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2019
  4. John-Wayne

    John-Wayne Madman Extradinor Contributor

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    In my current story, I have two antagonists for the main character to deal with. However they are not the villains. One of them is the driving force behind in the story and the other just pisses off the main character whenever he can. LOL
     
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  5. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    Do you think it would be okay to never meet the witch even, just hear about her?
    The other potential is, if I write a sequel she could be in that.
    Thanks for answering so far x
     
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  6. The Piper

    The Piper Contributor Contributor

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    The answer to that depends purely on the direction you want to take your story. From what I know of if, I'd say we need to see your witch here and there at least, but I know very little. It's definitely possible to have an antagonist without ever meeting her.
     
  7. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    If you were writing a TV series, that would be normal, right? You have your series threat, and your season threat, and your episode threat.

    So you kill the witch at the end of the series finale, the golem at the season 1 finale, and you rescue your friend from the cop-goblin at the end of the first episode and go on the run. That kinda thing.

    As long as the first book comes to a close with the main action of the character being completed along with their internal arc, then larger, overarching problems can be confronted in later books.

    I mean, when to Harry Potter kill the lich or whatever?
     
  8. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    Thanks, John.
     
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  9. Matt E

    Matt E Ruler of the planet Omicron Persei 8 Contributor

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    Villainy is an attribute and antagonist is a role. Antagonists don’t have to be villains, and villains don’t have to be antagonists. Villains just have various evil traits associated with them. Laughing maniacally, scheming to take over the world, etc etc.

    Multiple different characters can wear either the antagonist or the protagonist hats throughout the book. It depends on which is protagging or antagging the story at a given time.
     
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  10. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    Thanks for the help.
    I was thinking though would "realm" even be the right word?

    The places she creates are not quite in the dream world where only the mind can go and no real physical harm can come to you, but it's not real world either. It's something in-between the two. Where the body can go not just the mind, where harm to you is real. But it's like being stuck in someone else's dream where they are in control.
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2019
  11. jannert

    jannert Who? Whooo? Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I like the idea—expressed by a few others here—that the witch can't be bothered with the little stuff, so she creates entities to look after stuff for her. (Delegation, but with more clout.) Perhaps it never enters her head that one of these entities might develop a mind of its own.

    Think Saruman in LOTR. He thought he had control of all his minions, so he trusted them to do his bidding, and be his eyes and ears. But what if one of them had found the means to betray him? (A Nazgul who breaks free and maybe joins the other side?) That would have made a different story, but it might have been interesting in its own right.
     
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  12. Katibel

    Katibel Member

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    I'm not arguing anything here. Rather, I think, adding to it. Many fundamentalist Christians tend to think about "God" as a "creature" akin to us. But if you read through the Bible without that notion, God is presented more like a foundation to what life is. The way I like to help imagine this (unfortunately there isn't a perfect analogy) is by taking a loom and having it represent "God." Upon the loom is colored thread. The loom weaves the thread into an object upon which are pictures. We are the pictures, the thread is matter, and the loom is God. Three entirely separate things, but without the loom the rest wouldn't exist (like I said, imperfect analogy, but you get the point, right?). Since that is the case, the thread and the pictures are a reflection of the loom (hence why we "disgrace" God by acting evilly; God is trying to make pretty pictures and we're uglifying them, essentially). So what the people of the Bible are trying to convey is this idea that God doesn't have human desire because whatever God is isn't us--it is a foundation upon which life is springing. Therefore, God being "everywhere" is pertaining more to God the foundation's influence (which would include matter's most basic principles down to our very natures and existence) than a near-magical ability to be consciously everywhere at once. God "knows" us "perfectly" because it essentially is us. God is love, because God is the foundation off which the nurturing nature of life sprang. So on and so forth.

    So is your witch like that? Then I would say she is, technically, doing everything herself. Her influence is everywhere. I would, however, then question how she is supplying an autonomous form of intelligence in and creating her gatekeepers. Because if they are simply reflections of her, wouldn't they have all the same base motivations as her? One gatekeeper might rebel, but in his essence isn't he just a reflection of his creator? Why would he spontaneously lose pieces of his essence and stop feeling compelled to perform his duty (is he proud; did she hurt him; does the situation feel injust)? Or does his creator have more complex motivations that aren't being expressed? Is the magic that the gatekeepers are made of a physical part of the witch? If so, won't they die if she does anyway? Can she die? Or is she simply using a substance that is actually without her being? Is the witch made of magic, or is magic made up of the witch?

    The two are not the same.

    Also, as a god-like entity, what would be her motivations? Why is she enslaving human beings?

    Also also, if creationary magic to this extent exists, who created human beings? Is the witch at war with this entity, possibly? What is magic? Where are magic's laws arising from? Is the witch, herself, rebelling against a higher being?

    Alternatively, I would question whether she is like a person with a corporeal form that is limited by its dimensions, senses, experiences, etc.? If so, then you could say she grows bored, sure. But that, to me, feels like a cop-out. If she was limited then I would say she simply has to accept that she's limited and physically can't do everything herself (because she would try and fail). But that still leaves the question (perhaps more so) of how a limited, technically finite being can create independent creatures outside of herself that think and reason autonomously. Has something else entered the mix? There's a thought.

    Is your witch like a god? She sounds god-like but with arbitrary limitations, to me. Why then is she called a "witch," and who calls her that? Who has seen her to know? Why must she abide by any law? Or are you thinking something similar to the Wizard of Oz? She's observing from behind the scenes and is much less than she makes herself out to be? What, exactly, is the witch? That might be where you need to start.

    That aside, it always adds an element of mystery to have an absent antagonist pulling strings behind the scenes. What you have to be careful about is building up readers' expectations about said antagonist without giving their role or character enough thought. So I would base the story around the "witch," her motivations, her personality, and make who or what she is reasonably deducible before any reveal. Make the story spring out of her temperament, if you will. That way when she is finally revealed, she will feel consistent with her actions and her universe.

    Now, my personal opinion is that I think your story thus far sounds intriguing, but I'm imagining a malevolent god-like entity with interests that go beyond the very humanistic motivations typically present behind enslavement. Oh, I'm also wondering what the fear of death is? Why does the gatekeeper fear death? Is it his love of life? I think this story could take a really fun turn when you think of it in terms of metaphor and analogy.

    Anyway, the story could go so many different directions! I hope the opinions, questions, and thoughts herein expressed help you on your road to making up a fantastic plot. :) Good luck!
     
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  13. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    @Katibel - thank you so much for your help. I've written those questions down and am going through them. This book has a lot of work left to do on it, this is like a premise that could become a story.
     
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  14. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    I'm not sure, from what info you've provided, that your premises works.

    If you need independent thinking and intelligence to be a guard, why is there only one guard with such level of intelligence?

    If the other guards are "less" aware or not aware of the consequences of not getting the job done (that they would die and that they should care about this), why are the other guards doing their jobs at all?

    If the witch never shows up and doesn't do anything in the story, why is she in the story? Is she necessary at all? (alternatively, have you thought about doing it in third person omniscient where the witch is the narrator?)

    Lastly, your question of "Why doesn't/can't the witch just do all this herself?" actually points towards a far bigger and detrimental flaw. That is: what are the limitations of the witch's powers? What are the consequences of her powers? Are there any drawbacks? Any cost to using it? Because if she's simply all powerful, that's going to be very hard to write well because, as you've pointed out already, why doesn't she just do all this herself?

    The God argument works in real life - but not in novels. Saying "She just doesn't want to bother" isn't a good enough reason to create a satisfying read.

    Also, your post seems to have nothing to do with your thread title? I'm confused. To answer the dilemma anyway though, an antagonist doesn't have to be a villain. Antag is anyone who is hindering the protagonist from his or her goals. Perhaps Death Note is the best example. Light was most definitely the villain throughout and he was also the protagonist. The antagonist was L, the detective trying to catch the murderer and by all definitions of what he was trying to achieve, the hero of the story.
     
  15. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    @Mckk - That's these are the types of questions I wanted. You can't build a story on a premise that makes no sense; the story will then make no sense. Sometimes things make sense in your mind bur not in other people's (I get that a lot).
    In regards to
    I was extremely tired when I wrote it and didn't do a good job in explaining what I meant so I'll try again.

    I'm aware that the villain and the antagonist can be separate things (as someone as mentioned)

    What I meant was is it ok to have a minor villain? So he isn't the one that created the world or enslaved people. He's not done anything that called be called “villainy”. He's more like an obstacle to over come.

    I wanted to know if it was okay to have the hero's main antagonist not actually be “the big bad one doing villain thing”. He's not necessarily the big evil but he's my characters main problem throughout the book because in order to escape she has to get through him. Or maybe she decides to try and get to the witch and then his job becomes stopping her.

    Is that any better? Having a really hard time explaining what I mean.

    Again thank you for replying and for the questions I need to think about.
     
  16. Mckk

    Mckk Member Supporter Contributor

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    As long as there are obstacles to overcome, sure, you don't even need a villain :) you need an antagonist. That doesn't mean the antagonist has to be evil or even sentient - isn't one of the main types of conflict "Man Vs Nature"? :) Think of all the survival stories you see in Hollywood - often the antagonist is through world at large or the climate. Think Handmaid's Tale - who's the antagonist there? Gilead the regime, the system, which isn't strictly "villainous". It's not even a character.
     
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  17. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    I guess if I want to have to antagonists; one that stays in the background and one more immediate challenge I need to give the background one and reason to be there. This writing lark is harder than it looks!

    Thank you again
     
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  18. Kallisto

    Kallisto Ruler of the world... somewhere... Contributor

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    Antagonist not a villain? Why not? It worked in "Frozen." Many people want to make Hans out as the antagonist, but that's not true. Identifying an antagonist is easy: What is the source of the conflict? Who stands opposed to the protagonist. In the case of Frozen Elsa as the antagonist. She created the conflict and she stood in opposition of the protagonist.
     
  19. obi-sem kenobi

    obi-sem kenobi Senior Member

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    I think it is also important to think about the benefit the Witch has in enslaving people in controlled realms. What does she want to gain and how does this scheme of her helps her do that?

    When I read your introduction post the first story that came to mind was the Matrix.

    You have a computer that created an artificial realm to enslave humans with agents inside that realm to make sure people stay in line.

    The reason the machines do this is simple: they need humans for power. Why they use agents is also clear: they can operate in the realm without breaking the illusion of the world.

    Then there's Smith who became different from the others. Why? Because he was destroyed in an unconventional way that severed him from the machine's direct control.

    Now, of course I'm not saying you should just redo the Matrix, but that story answered the question you asked in its own way and answered two other questions I think you need to answer as well:
    -Why does your witch want to enslave people? What is her end goal?
    -How/Why did the one gate keeper become different from the others.
     
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  20. Reece

    Reece Senior Member

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    She has pulled in humans and enslaved them. To do what?
    She has more than one realm, and I assume that there are slaves in the others as well.
    I think this is an opportunity to build on her motives. Why does she need slaves? Why did she need to create several realms (which I assume cost her something to create) in which to keep her slaves? Whatever they are doing, they are doing to meet a larger goal, and whatever that goal is can be what keeps her busy and out of the picture for the most part.

    ETA: It's late and I realize now that the post above mine is essentially saying the same thing :S
     
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  21. pullatapuss

    pullatapuss Banned

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    No, you don't. You are talking about a near-god, and why gods do things is often a mystery.
     
  22. Reece

    Reece Senior Member

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    That may be true, but as a reader it's unsatisfying.
     
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  23. pullatapuss

    pullatapuss Banned

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    Did Tolkein explain in LotR why Sauran wanted to conquer M.E.? Did that make LotR unsatisfying?

    (He did explain in the Silmarillion but that was 20 years later.)
     
  24. The Dapper Hooligan

    The Dapper Hooligan (V) ( ;,,;) (v) Contributor

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    I've never met a sitting POTUS or Prime Minister and they're several order of magnitudes less powerful than your villain, I think.

    Also, in 1984, the main antagonist was O'Brien, but the villain was Big Brother/Ingsoc/The Ministries. Even in LOTR, no one ever really meets Sauron, they just deal with the henchmen. So you can have a villain that's great and unknowable, or even just a concept. Or you could have your character never meet the villain because they're such small potatoes that the main villain has literally no reason to involve themselves. Not all villains are micromanagers.
     
  25. Reece

    Reece Senior Member

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    He did not, and it was one of the major failings IMO. I still greatly enjoyed it, but it would have made it better for me.
     

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