Monday, December 27, 2010

Antagonist Hate

So, I'm supposed to be on blog holiday. Well, I am, but I'm not, and such is the state of my life sometimes.

On my blog holiday, besides some work, some vacation, cooking a heck of a lot, and eating even more (if that's possible), I've also been reading.

I just finished reading Book III (Shadowrise) and Book IV (Shadowheart) in Tad William's Shadowmarch quadrology. It was supposed to be a trilogy, but he overwrote Book III and split that book into two books. Luckily, the distance between publication of Book III and IV was only about 5 months. Woo-hoo.

Anyhow, I waited until Book IV was about to come out before I started Book III so I could finish the series in one sitting (or what amounts to one sitting over a period of a few weeks).

There were two main villains (well, one villainess) in the story: Sulepis the Autarch of Xis and Yassamez of the Qar (the fairy people). These two were the antagonists.

As every writer knows, the antagonist is normally what the protagonist faces to complete their goal. The antagonist is the one throwing the wrenches in all the well laid plans and making life difficult for the poor, put upon protagonist.

In most cases, the antagonist is an evil person (and/or entity). In most case, at least in my opinion, the reader should dislike the antagonist, if not outright hate the antagonist.

I must admit, in Books I - III, I disliked Sulepis the Autarch, but I didn't really hate him. He was just another mad emperor set on world domination. Hello, Napoleon!! Well, then along came Book IV, and all redeeming qualities went out the window. Madness or not, there wasn't a redeeming quality about Sulepis to be found. FINALLY! Here was an antagonist with no redeeming values - not even his harsh childhood as growing up as one of a bunch of children of the current Autarch. Woo-hoo!

Early on in Book IV, the hate was flowing toward the Autarch (almost as much as I had for Dolores Umbridge in Harry Potter - now she was a character to hate).

Now, Yassamez, well my hate, even my dislike for her began to diminish as the truth behind her hatred for the mortal race began to unfold. Compassion settled in for this woman, centuries old, who suffered loss upon loss. I could understand her rage. I could understand her hate.

In the end, she allied with the mortals and lost her aspect as antagonist.

Sulepis remained.

So, now my question: is it necessary to inspire hate in your readers toward the antagonist? Do you attempt to show redeeming qualities? Do you show why your antagonists became who they were? Is creating compassion toward an antagonist a good thing or bad thing?

As for me, in my writing process, I normally try to show why the antagonists became who they became. I think this is easier to do when not writing epic fantasy because such a strong/forceful antagonist isn't always necessary in mystery or commercial fiction. Sometimes, the antagonist is as simple as the inner turmoil facing the protagonist, versus an actual physical being. Agree? Disagree? Give me your thoughts.



Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

I certainly don't have much of any antagonist in CINDERS - not a truly bad one, anyway, and it's fantasy and still works well. I don't have one in THIRDS, either. I do have one in MONARCH - well, two. I think it depends on the story, and I personally like to see more sides to a character than a straight melodramatic evil character. MONARCH borders on melodrama, but it works for the story.

Those books sound great! I love that you couldn't stay away from your blog. :)

careann said...

Antagonists need some good qualities, just as protagonists can't be entirely perfect, or neither will be believable. Even evil characters have something they value and I like to let my readers see that. I don't necessarily want them to feel compassion, but understanding.

Happy New Year, Scott.

Carol J. Garvin

Etienne's Journal said...

I feel that an antagonist, even if they surpass suspected lengths to be destructive to the protagonist, still deserve a little respect. I mean, an antagonist only commits things antagonistically because of past struggles or even present obstacles or hardships which cause them to have a bad outlook on the world. A protagonist is an underdog, doing what the antagonist should have done in a bad situation, and overcoming barriers holding them back. Give the antagonist some credit; if the protagonist goes on and forgets about the antagonist, isn't he just as bad as the antagonist himself?
Sorry for rambling there. Happy New Year :) I love your blog. From one (hopeful) writer to another, I would love to say that I wish you the best for this new year to come. Will you follow my blog? I know I am young, but my writing is certainly advanced. Thanks for reading, and please follow me?