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How To Make Multiple Antagonists Shine In Your Story
by ROBERT WOOD
Can multiple antagonists work in a story? The answer depends on the author, but that shouldn’t be surprising when the term is so loosely defined. There are people who’ll tell you that a truly great story shouldn’t have any antagonists at all, and some who’ll tell you that you need at least three to create a narrative worth reading.
What you’ll hear less often is how difficult it can be to write a story with multiple compellingantagonists. That’s a shame, because while it’s a difficult endeavor, it’s one worth pursuing for authors who want to create engaging, realistic conflict in their stories.
Happily, that’s exactly what this article is about – I’ll be touching on how appreciating the antagonist’s role in a story can help you incorporate more than one, how to ensure minor antagonists pack a punch, and how to use differences in ‘kind’ and ‘scale’ to craft multiple antagonists who pose unique threats to the protagonist. Before any of that, though, we have to start by defining a term.
What is an ‘antagonist’?
An antagonist is a character who opposes the protagonist. At first glance, it seems like a synonym for ‘villain’, but the differences between these terms are important. To start with, a villain is wrong or immoral, whereas an antagonist just opposes the protagonist. They’re someone who stands in the way of the protagonist achieving their goals, and that means that if the protagonist of your story is a villain, the antagonist might even be a hero.
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