An unforgettable novel must have an unforgettable antagonist (the bad guy). He must be as fully developed as your protagonist (the hero). You want your reader to develop an emotional bond with every character in your book. If you create an antagonist that is nothing more than a cardboard cutout, a one-dimensional character whose only motivation is "because he's evil, muahaha," the reader is not going to care about him and is not going to care about your novel. You must make your antagonist come to life. You must make him real.
In order to create an unforgettable antagonist, define these three characteristics:
- Goal: What does he wants?
- Motivation: Why does he want it?
- Conflict: What is stopping him from getting it?
Each of these characteristics must be fully formed, explained, and believable. As your story progresses, get inside of your antagonist’s head. Reveal his thoughts and his back story. The reader doesn't have to like your antagonist, but on some level, he should come to sympathize with him.
Oftentimes, the antagonist's motivation isn't explained until the reveal--the pivotal scene where he lets the reader, protagonist, or both know the details of his plan. And that's fine, but you should be developing his character throughout the book.
If your book contains red herrings, or characters that the reader may believe are the villain, ensure that each has a believable goal, motivation, and conflict. These may not necessarily be true, but in order to mislead the reader (and the protagonist), they must have the potential to be true.
Goal, motivation, and conflict are your keys to making the antagonist come to life. Without them, both he and your story will lack the depth required to fully engage your readers.
Writing: Creating Memorable Villains [Caren Johnson Literary Agency]
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