Quick Link: How to Plot a Book: Start With the Antagonist

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At Helping Writers Become Authors, K.M. Weiland shares her tips on how to avoid making one of the biggest mistakes on plotting a story. Spoiler alert, you need to start with the antagonist, not the protagonist, because the whole story revolves around them. Sure the hero is important, but without a worthy foe how can the hero shine and be the best things since sliced bread?

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How to Plot a Book: Start With the Antagonist

by K.M. Weiland

"And then instead of moving the assets to the positive side of the accounting sheet, the evil bean counter divided the dividend...."

“And then instead of moving the assets to the positive side of the accounting sheet, the evil bean counter divided the dividend….” Bad protagonists aren’t bad enough.

I hate antagonists. Not so much because they’re, you know, the bad guys. No, I hate them because 90% of the time, they bore me into catatonia. Evil plan to take over the world? Yawn. Just please do whatever you gotta do to make the hero look good.

That’s how many authors approach their antagonists–as an external force who is present in the book solely for the purpose of giving the hero a reason to do all his cool hero-y stuff.

You may have planned almost all of your story–in your head, in an outline, or in a first draft–before giving even an afterthought to the antagonistic force. This is a mistake. Why? Because the antagonist is the catalyst for everything your hero does in his story.

TL;DR: Your antagonist is the catalyst for the entire plot.

In short, if you’re struggling with how to plot a book, the answer is easy: start with your antagonist.

The Plotting Mistake Almost All Authors Make

I’ll admit it if you will: my creative inspiration for my stories is always the protagonist. I can see him so clearly in my mind. There he is: going all Jason Bourne on some faceless thug, maybe weeping touchingly over a fallen comrade, then striking a melancholy heroic pose against the sunset. Let’s start writing!

But the plot? Hrm. You mean the reason why nameless thugs are coming after him, felling his comrades, and leaving him in such a melancholic mood? You mean the antagonistic force that’s opposing him for presumably watertight reasons?

Um, yeah, that’s a little blurry.

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