LESSON Character Design: Creating Antagonists

Discussion in 'DEVELOPING CHARACTERS & CULTURES' started by Bob Ross, Nov 6, 2011.

  1. By a ‘good villain’ I mean one that is memorable; the whole clichéd and the whole “necessary” evil leaves you with an unmemorable 2D figure. This is a list of somethings to take into account about trying to create a antagonist that isn’t your anime or cartoon super villain:

    *They try to control events outside of their control or own powers.

    *They think that free will allows them to do whatever they want. Heroes will often do the same thing, but are humbled as the plot progresses, often times villains do not; which is why they are often called the shadows of the heroes.

    *They will lead to their own downfall; whether by their own personalty flaws or by the hands of the hero.

    *Must be easy to relate to. You can’t just have someone or something that wants to blow up the world. They need a unique reason behind their actions and why they do what they do. They have to enjoy what they are doing.

    *Is intelligent and can have face to face discussion with the said hero. However try to avoid the anime style of wall to wall taunt of why the said antagonist is doing what they are doing.

    *In some sense, will stop to rethink about why his/her plans failed, not go into a blind rage and make mistakes. This is all too many times done in animes and other melodramas.

    *Said antagonist is charismatic, cultured, and is eccentric in some way. Only has a subtle aura of menace. In your day to day life, you aren’t going to find a Lex Luther type hiding and plotting in public. They are normal human beings, not clichéd super villains.

    *Has violent outburst, but only at key times and when practical.

    *Is a quick thinker, and is thusly able to read emotions of others. This way, they can outwit, outplay, and out move a hero when they need to. Because of this the antagonist respects, and is respected by the hero. Thusly, they will win every once and awhile.

    After this, it depends on the genre, terrorists make good villains because they help keep you in suspense until they are stopped. The very ideal of “for the greater good for humanity” is what empowers villains. They are doing what they believe is best for their people. In Iwaku World: Azazel, the titular antagonist is a good example of an ideal villain. He does what he believes is for the best interest of the other characters; however, some of the protagonists don’t see them as being the right course for the future.

    Another memorable villain can be someone that you know in your day to day life, like a neighbor. A perfectly good person can be corrupted by their own twisted sense of what’s right and wrong. Just because some one is “so nice,” doesn’t mean that they are a good person. Good and nice are two separate things.

    Betrayal of trust is the most common theme in villainy and it works out very well. Holy men that turn members of their own faith over to the Dictatorial state are a good example. These tend to be emotionally vulnerable people with motives that you can understand and if not some what agree with in the end.

    A villain will often have some quirk that makes them interesting, even something that in normal circumstances would be considered endearing. Using one of my own antagonists for example, Rane is a likeable protagonist at first; however, her quirk is that she was left behind by a series of events that have made her demand revenge for something that was not in her control. Another good example would be leaving flowers for a victim at the scene of their death or a letter asking for apology for their behavior. This will make them more human, than over the top.

    Finally, it depends on your World View. If you are not highly religious for example, then you might base a villain off of things that violate some dearly held tenant of your faith or the targeted audience’s. Take an overly zealot person, they will hold onto a belief and may even help society in some ways, but their fundamental thought is in violation of fact or normal reasoning. You might want to use a seemingly admirable person who does good works and contributed with society until the acts that lead to their downfall.

    In Summary: The opponent of the protagonist should be able to achieve their goals. They should never be pushed over for the protagonist. Wooden dolls don’t make memorable opponents.