Monday, June 1, 2020

2020 --

Part 6 of 12  of Job Titles for Story Characters • © 2020 All Rights Reserved

As I wrote last month— Antagonist is an umbrella term that covers the WHO or the WHAT that will actively thwart the protagonist. Last month, we delved into what constitutes THE WHO, which is a human or being. This month we look at THE WHAT, which can be— 

Mother Nature (storms, asteroids, insect swarms, volcanoes, etc.)

Disease (natural, man-made, mutant, etc.)

An entity (vampires, deities, magical creatures, ghosts, etc.)

Aliens (intelligent life that comes from another planet, realm, dimension, or eco-system, etc.)

To achieve a believable WHAT as Antagonists means paying attention to world-building, science, and the natural world. After all, The What in the story needs to be worthy enough to successfully oppose the story's Protagonist.

Let's look closer at The What list— 

MOTHER NATURE — Devastation arises from storms (like tornadoes, flooding, blizzards, forest fires). Then there are insect swarms (beetles, locust) and even suffocating algae blooms. The list includes earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis. Any or all cause dire destruction, lives lost, property and land damage, infrastructure collapses (highways, power sources, etc.). At stake is survival.

DISEASE — For the past few months, we've all gotten a first-hand look at the impact of the coronavirus. The pandemic has been likened to a war with hospitals being the front lines and far too many lives lost. Then there is "shelter in place," shortages of food and protective gear, a shrinking if not stagnant economy, unemployment, businesses closing, and hardships. Again, at stake is survival of people, of mankind, and civilization isn't going to be the same again.

As to ENTITIES, the basic point of having an entity as Antagonist is that the story is more about the Protagonist realizing and dealing with some type of truth. 

Entities are also the creatures of fantasy and science fiction, so believability is paramount. Questions need to be asked before drafting a tale, like— 

How did that entity come to be? 
What powers does it posses? 
What can it control? 
What will destroy or kill it? 

A writer needs concrete answers because the story will likely fizzle out mid-way or the ending goes flat. 

As to ALIENS, there is a wide range form human-like to robotic, from Artificial Intelligence to mutants, and so on. Aliens are The What of science fiction and fantasy. Again, believability is an issue. That's why a great deal of forethought should go into the type of alien (and why that specific type), motivation (why they are a threat), their limitations, their Achilles' heel, etc. After all, at stake is the survival of the fittest, the Protagonist and what that Protagonist cares most about.

Make no mistake, readers are cynical disbelievers so it's imperative to find ways to suspend their disbelief and get them to believe in The What as the Antagonist. The secret is to give The What human characteristics or compare it (or them) to human's and the human environment.

As to disease and Mother Nature, most writers rely on facts and science to extrapolate a believable What as Antagonist. Mind you it's not about formulating some text-book tome, but providing just enough actual facts or tweaked facts that the premise is believable to the reader.

Lastly, remember a good story pits a great villain against a great Protagonist—two equal forces facing off. 

Next Month  **  2020 —July The Antagonist's Entourage and Henchpersons

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