protagonist or antagonist

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Is it possible to have a protagonist that you identify with and an antagonist that you identify with.

In my WIP, I am writing from a number of different view points, and the characters I can identify with, the good and the bad. I have developed and justified their motives.

Is there a right way or a wrong way to nominate who falls into which category. My characters are a bit of both, is that ok? Does a book, in order to be successful, need a clearly defined protagonist and a clearly defined antagonist?
 
Yes, and I would take it a step further and say you will have much more success if your audience can identify with your antagonist. It's a definite bonus becuase it means you've built him up as a real person. Rarely will you ever find some on (in real life or fiction) who is 100% good or evil (except for Disney - but if you look into their backstories it's actually not so cut and dry either). Your characters should be both.

I don't know about if you *have* to have a clear definition of who is the protagonist vs antagonist, but, personally, I would get super confused if I didn't know who I was supposed to be rooting for. But that said, they *don't need to be perfect good or bad*. It's great if your protagonist has some characteristics that aren't perfect, even that they don't like. And same for the antagonist.
 
I'm not an expert on such things but as long as motives are clear I wouldn't say it matters, nobody is 100% good or evil.

That's what I am struggling with. I am developing a 'universe' with many different characters, some likeable, some not so. Some who change from good to bad.

The characters progress over 4 books, the first book is pretty well defined, with who is good and bad.
 
Yes, and I would take it a step further and say you will have much more success if your audience can identify with your antagonist. It's a definite bonus becuase it means you've built him up as a real person. Rarely will you ever find some on (in real life or fiction) who is 100% good or evil (except for Disney - but if you look into their backstories it's actually not so cut and dry either). Your characters should be both.

I don't know about if you *have* to have a clear definition of who is the protagonist vs antagonist, but, personally, I would get super confused if I didn't know who I was supposed to be rooting for. But that said, they *don't need to be perfect good or bad*. It's great if your protagonist has some characteristics that aren't perfect, even that they don't like. And same for the antagonist.

And again, there is a struggle for me. Can you read and not care about who is in the antagonist gang and who is in the protagonist gang? without it all becoming confusing.

I suppose I have broken the themes -sequeces into these interacting groups

good children
bad children
good adults
bad adults

They all have clearly defined motives, but there are cases when characters switch from being bad to good and good or pathetic, to bad.
 
And again, there is a struggle for me. Can you read and not care about who is in the antagonist gang and who is in the protagonist gang? without it all becoming confusing.

I suppose I have broken the themes -sequeces into these interacting groups

good children
bad children
good adults
bad adults

They all have clearly defined motives, but there are cases when characters switch from being bad to good and good or pathetic, to bad.
I would say yes. It is possible. For example (@Jennifer Stone and @Stephen Drake will know exactly who I am talking about here so you two ZIP IT! LOL!)

I have a character who is portrayed as evil but when you eventually get a proper look at that character you can't help wanting them to succeed. Tooooo many spoilers for me to say much more but it challenges your perception of right and wrong.

I also have utterly an despicable evil character that @Jason Byrne is already cheering for lol! He perhaps doesn't relate to him but he sees enough realism in there to really want to know more about the truly dark nature of the twisted monster. I think really if you write real, your readers will both love and hate your "baddies"
 
I would say yes. It is possible. For example (@Jennifer Stone and @Stephen Drake will know exactly who I am talking about here so you two ZIP IT! LOL!)

I have a character who is portrayed as evil but when you eventually get a proper look at that character you can't help wanting them to succeed. Tooooo many spoilers for me to say much more but it challenges your perception of right and wrong.

I also have utterly an despicable evil character that @Jason Byrne is already cheering for lol! He perhaps doesn't relate to him but he sees enough realism in there to really want to know more about the truly dark nature of the twisted monster. I think really if you write real, your readers will both love and hate your "baddies"

Thats good, 'cos the baddies at the moment are more developed, more motivated than the goodies
 
Actors often say that they prefer playing a baddy, as they're more fun than goodies—who can be stuffy two dimensional guardians of moral principles.

I certainly found that my writing livened up when conveying the thoughts of the two serial killers in my first novel. This was written from multiple viewpoints, including the murderers, several detectives, a local journalist, forensic pathologist and the victims themselves—briefly, just before they died. In doing this, I wanted to wrong-foot the reader by making them sympathise with the thoughts and worries of evil men.

It may be an indication that I have a schizoid personality (who wrote that?), but I found this way of writing easier to do than my current WIP. I'm writing a prequel to my first novel, but told through the detective protagonist's thoughts. This is more of a who-dunnit, so this approach felt more apt. All the same, I keep wanting to insert other characters' opinions.

Perhaps I'm too empathetic.
 
The most interesting characters are the ones who are flawed because we all are. You want to avoid making people cliches of "good" or "evil," as much as you want to avoid making them all good or all bad. Your readers will identity with the humanity you give your characters, good and bad characteristics alike, because we all have traces of both.

Your challenge as a writer is to make your reader root for the characters you want them to cheer for, hate the ones you want them to hate, and everything in between. :) I can tell you from personal experience that it's not as easy as it sounds, because you're coming at it from your POV, with your personal feelings, experiences, and biases about certain traits. Your readers are coming at it from each of theirs, and of course their feelings, experiences, and biases will differ. :) It takes time and writing a lot to get a feel for this, and even then you will have readers who "hate" or at least can't identify with your hero/heroine for one reason or another. :)

The most helpful things I do when setting out to write a new story are to first have clearly defined roles for my main characters. Who do I want the readers to love? Who do I want them to not love - maybe not hate - but definitely not see as the hero or heroine? Depending on what genre you're writing, you certainly can have more than one protagonist and more than one antagonist in a story, and they don't all have to be pure or evil. They can be shades of each in between, but remember that you want to give your readers at least one character they can totally cheer for so they keep turning the pages. :)

The next thing I do is write out their personalities and backgrounds. Most of that won't make it into your story, but YOU will know it, and it will help you keep the characters consistent throughout. These details give them realism and depth. Nothing is more frustrating to a reader than to have a character flip-flop or waffle so much through the whole story that they can't figure out who this person is. Equally bad is a character who is flat or two-dimensional.

The third thing I do is write out my main characters' goals, motivations, and conflicts. Without conflict there is no story. Without your main character(s) growing and changing in some way, readers won't have a reason to keep turning pages. To understand where you want your main characters to be at the end of the story, and how and why you want them to change, you need to understand both your story arc, and your character arc for each of those main characters.

What are they trying to accomplish in this story and why? What stands in their way? What will they need to do in order to jump over that hurdle, conquer it, whatever they need to do to it, so they can reach their goal? Of course your protagonist and antagonist will have competing goals, or at least very different ones, depending on their exact roles in the story.

Debra Dixon's Goal, Motivation, and Conflict is my "bible" when I write all this out. (MUCH cheaper to order it directly from the publisher HERE than from Amazon!) She explains GMC as well as other aspects of a story, and does so in a way that simply makes sense. As one example, she uses The Wizard of Oz:

Wicked Witch's external goal: the ruby slippers; internal goal: respect
External motivation: the slippers will make her the most powerful witch in Oz; internal motivation: she's always felt inferior to her sister and the other witches
External conflict: Dorothy won't give them up; internal conflict: respect has to be earned, not stolen

As opposed to Dorothy's external goal: to get back home; internal goal: to find her heart's desire
External motivation: Auntie Em is sick; internal motivation: she's unhappy
External conflict: The wicked witch; internal conflict: she doesn't know what she wants

Dorothy and the witch have competing goals. Dorothy wants to go home and the witch wants those slippers. What the reader doesn't yet know is that those slippers are the key to her going home. I love this example because it's simple, yet complex on so many levels, and without those slippers the story arc and the character arc fall apart for our heroine. :)

No arcs = no story. It's just rambling otherwise, and your reader won't understand where you're going, or why they're supposed to care about what happens. No character arc = no growth, and your reader will be bored. If your protagonist doesn't have to work very hard to get what she/he wants, what motivation does your reader have to keep turning the pages? Why should they care what happens to these characters?

Hope this all helps. :)
 
The most interesting characters are the ones who are flawed because we all are. You want to avoid making people cliches of "good" or "evil," as much as you want to avoid making them all good or all bad. Your readers will identity with the humanity you give your characters, good and bad characteristics alike, because we all have traces of both.

Your challenge as a writer is to make your reader root for the characters you want them to cheer for, hate the ones you want them to hate, and everything in between. :) I can tell you from personal experience that it's not as easy as it sounds, because you're coming at it from your POV, with your personal feelings, experiences, and biases about certain traits. Your readers are coming at it from each of theirs, and of course their feelings, experiences, and biases will differ. :) It takes time and writing a lot to get a feel for this, and even then you will have readers who "hate" or at least can't identify with your hero/heroine for one reason or another. :)

The most helpful things I do when setting out to write a new story are to first have clearly defined roles for my main characters. Who do I want the readers to love? Who do I want them to not love - maybe not hate - but definitely not see as the hero or heroine? Depending on what genre you're writing, you certainly can have more than one protagonist and more than one antagonist in a story, and they don't all have to be pure or evil. They can be shades of each in between, but remember that you want to give your readers at least one character they can totally cheer for so they keep turning the pages. :)

The next thing I do is write out their personalities and backgrounds. Most of that won't make it into your story, but YOU will know it, and it will help you keep the characters consistent throughout. These details give them realism and depth. Nothing is more frustrating to a reader than to have a character flip-flop or waffle so much through the whole story that they can't figure out who this person is. Equally bad is a character who is flat or two-dimensional.

The third thing I do is write out my main characters' goals, motivations, and conflicts. Without conflict there is no story. Without your main character(s) growing and changing in some way, readers won't have a reason to keep turning pages. To understand where you want your main characters to be at the end of the story, and how and why you want them to change, you need to understand both your story arc, and your character arc for each of those main characters.

What are they trying to accomplish in this story and why? What stands in their way? What will they need to do in order to jump over that hurdle, conquer it, whatever they need to do to it, so they can reach their goal? Of course your protagonist and antagonist will have competing goals, or at least very different ones, depending on their exact roles in the story.

Debra Dixon's Goal, Motivation, and Conflict is my "bible" when I write all this out. (MUCH cheaper to order it directly from the publisher HERE than from Amazon!) She explains GMC as well as other aspects of a story, and does so in a way that simply makes sense. As one example, she uses The Wizard of Oz:

Wicked Witch's external goal: the ruby slippers; internal goal: respect
External motivation: the slippers will make her the most powerful witch in Oz; internal motivation: she's always felt inferior to her sister and the other witches
External conflict: Dorothy won't give them up; internal conflict: respect has to be earned, not stolen

As opposed to Dorothy's external goal: to get back home; internal goal: to find her heart's desire
External motivation: Auntie Em is sick; internal motivation: she's unhappy
External conflict: The wicked witch; internal conflict: she doesn't know what she wants

Dorothy and the witch have competing goals. Dorothy wants to go home and the witch wants those slippers. What the reader doesn't yet know is that those slippers are the key to her going home. I love this example because it's simple, yet complex on so many levels, and without those slippers the story arc and the character arc fall apart for our heroine. :)

No arcs = no story. It's just rambling otherwise, and your reader won't understand where you're going, or why they're supposed to care about what happens. No character arc = no growth, and your reader will be bored. If your protagonist doesn't have to work very hard to get what she/he wants, what motivation does your reader have to keep turning the pages? Why should they care what happens to these characters?

Hope this all helps. :)


Thanks Carol, It was most helpful. My characters are more likely to relate to the wizard of Oz than anything else. I can see that I have a lot of work to do to develop them over the course of 4 books, but I do have two massive external motivations, one bad and one good, that the characters 'gravitate' to.

I also have the idea of a background story for each character, that plays in the characters universe that gives meaning to their actions.

I get what you mean about my POV, in my minds eye, everything is clear?? but its only when I give it to a 'beta' reader will I know if its clear to others.

We live with our characters for years before we ever describe them in 2d and it's not always an easy job, but it certainly is one of the attractions to writing.
 
You could give it to ten people and they'd each have a different take on it. :) At the end of the day, it's still your story, and you have to be happy with it. You have to decide if the feedback makes sense for your characters and your story. If you're getting feedback that is consistent across more than one beta, it might be worth taking a second look at it. But if it's just nit-picky stuff that one person doesn't like, for a personal reasons, it might not be worth changing unless you want to. That's why it's so important to really know your characters first. Because then you'll understand how and why they'd react in given situations, and that will come across to the reader as a three-dimensional, real person. It will also help you filter out unnecessary changes that are simply a pet peeve of someone's, versus changes that will give your character depth or consistency.
 
Have fun with your characters. And remember also that just because they are fighting on the "wrong side" doesn't mean that they aren't doing it because they believe it's right.

I have to say some of my favourite characters are so BECAUSE of the darkness in them. I mean, even Mòrag has pure unadulterated evil within her (and she is the main, main, MAIN Character. The heroine of the entire series, but at times you start to wonder if she really is a good as you first thought) though you only catch glimpses until later in book 2 and into book 3.

Have fun with your characters. The point I like to make is that EVERYONE is flawed, and NO ONE is all good, or all evil. There is always a reason for the way people end up and always something further down the line that will shape that character even more, in either direction or both.

Fluidity in writing and realistic, true to life characters will capture your readers whether those characters are goodies or baddies. Just look at Darth Vader... who doesn't love good old Darth? He's cool, he's the baddie, but damn he's likable.

Kato in the Hunger Games, when you realise he is a product of society and he is terrified to die at the end.

Syler in Heroes. Is a perfect example. He was my very favourite character.

Loki in Avengers.

Whatshisface Mertl (I know that isn't spelled right) in The Walking Dead, who against all odds you kinda end up liking him.


I know these are films but you get my meaning. Don't go for protagonist good, antagonist bad. Some of the best stuff is because the antagonists are the more capturing characters :)
 
Have fun with your characters. And remember also that just because they are fighting on the "wrong side" doesn't mean that they aren't doing it because they believe it's right.
Every villian is the hero of their own story. **Rarely** do villians believe they're a villain. The only exception to that I can think of is maybe The Joker from Batman. But even then, I'd still say he thinks he's a hero. And that's where you get complex (which is good) characters. Your villains should have just enough good in then for your reader to think "oh crap. I could totally see how he went down that path." That makes a villain connectable.

I also write from my villains' POVs about half of the book. Why? Because for me, they're more interesting. I've been chastised for years about asking the "wrong" questions when I realized I ask them because I desperately need to know why a villain does and thinks the way he does. Which is why I write. I have to know.

If you can make your reader connect with your antagonist, then you've got a great, well-rounded character. :)
 
I would say yes. It is possible. For example (@Jennifer Stone and @Stephen Drake will know exactly who I am talking about here so you two ZIP IT! LOL!)

I have a character who is portrayed as evil but when you eventually get a proper look at that character you can't help wanting them to succeed. Tooooo many spoilers for me to say much more but it challenges your perception of right and wrong.

I also have utterly an despicable evil character that @Jason Byrne is already cheering for lol! He perhaps doesn't relate to him but he sees enough realism in there to really want to know more about the truly dark nature of the twisted monster. I think really if you write real, your readers will both love and hate your "baddies"

I have no idea what you mean? *innocently* :rolleyes:
 
The most interesting characters are the ones who are flawed because we all are. You want to avoid making people cliches of "good" or "evil," as much as you want to avoid making them all good or all bad. Your readers will identity with the humanity you give your characters, good and bad characteristics alike, because we all have traces of both.

Your challenge as a writer is to make your reader root for the characters you want them to cheer for, hate the ones you want them to hate, and everything in between. :) I can tell you from personal experience that it's not as easy as it sounds, because you're coming at it from your POV, with your personal feelings, experiences, and biases about certain traits. Your readers are coming at it from each of theirs, and of course their feelings, experiences, and biases will differ. :) It takes time and writing a lot to get a feel for this, and even then you will have readers who "hate" or at least can't identify with your hero/heroine for one reason or another. :)

The most helpful things I do when setting out to write a new story are to first have clearly defined roles for my main characters. Who do I want the readers to love? Who do I want them to not love - maybe not hate - but definitely not see as the hero or heroine? Depending on what genre you're writing, you certainly can have more than one protagonist and more than one antagonist in a story, and they don't all have to be pure or evil. They can be shades of each in between, but remember that you want to give your readers at least one character they can totally cheer for so they keep turning the pages. :)

The next thing I do is write out their personalities and backgrounds. Most of that won't make it into your story, but YOU will know it, and it will help you keep the characters consistent throughout. These details give them realism and depth. Nothing is more frustrating to a reader than to have a character flip-flop or waffle so much through the whole story that they can't figure out who this person is. Equally bad is a character who is flat or two-dimensional.

The third thing I do is write out my main characters' goals, motivations, and conflicts. Without conflict there is no story. Without your main character(s) growing and changing in some way, readers won't have a reason to keep turning pages. To understand where you want your main characters to be at the end of the story, and how and why you want them to change, you need to understand both your story arc, and your character arc for each of those main characters.

What are they trying to accomplish in this story and why? What stands in their way? What will they need to do in order to jump over that hurdle, conquer it, whatever they need to do to it, so they can reach their goal? Of course your protagonist and antagonist will have competing goals, or at least very different ones, depending on their exact roles in the story.

Debra Dixon's Goal, Motivation, and Conflict is my "bible" when I write all this out. (MUCH cheaper to order it directly from the publisher HERE than from Amazon!) She explains GMC as well as other aspects of a story, and does so in a way that simply makes sense. As one example, she uses The Wizard of Oz:

Wicked Witch's external goal: the ruby slippers; internal goal: respect
External motivation: the slippers will make her the most powerful witch in Oz; internal motivation: she's always felt inferior to her sister and the other witches
External conflict: Dorothy won't give them up; internal conflict: respect has to be earned, not stolen

As opposed to Dorothy's external goal: to get back home; internal goal: to find her heart's desire
External motivation: Auntie Em is sick; internal motivation: she's unhappy
External conflict: The wicked witch; internal conflict: she doesn't know what she wants

Dorothy and the witch have competing goals. Dorothy wants to go home and the witch wants those slippers. What the reader doesn't yet know is that those slippers are the key to her going home. I love this example because it's simple, yet complex on so many levels, and without those slippers the story arc and the character arc fall apart for our heroine. :)

No arcs = no story. It's just rambling otherwise, and your reader won't understand where you're going, or why they're supposed to care about what happens. No character arc = no growth, and your reader will be bored. If your protagonist doesn't have to work very hard to get what she/he wants, what motivation does your reader have to keep turning the pages? Why should they care what happens to these characters?

Hope this all helps. :)
NICE!
 
I would say yes. It is possible. For example (@Jennifer Stone and @Stephen Drake will know exactly who I am talking about here so you two ZIP IT! LOL!)

I have a character who is portrayed as evil but when you eventually get a proper look at that character you can't help wanting them to succeed. Tooooo many spoilers for me to say much more but it challenges your perception of right and wrong.

I also have utterly an despicable evil character that @Jason Byrne is already cheering for lol! He perhaps doesn't relate to him but he sees enough realism in there to really want to know more about the truly dark nature of the twisted monster. I think really if you write real, your readers will both love and hate your "baddies"
I generally identify with psychotic villains. Weird.
 
Yes, and I would take it a step further and say you will have much more success if your audience can identify with your antagonist. It's a definite bonus becuase it means you've built him up as a real person. Rarely will you ever find some on (in real life or fiction) who is 100% good or evil (except for Disney - but if you look into their backstories it's actually not so cut and dry either). Your characters should be both.

I don't know about if you *have* to have a clear definition of who is the protagonist vs antagonist, but, personally, I would get super confused if I didn't know who I was supposed to be rooting for. But that said, they *don't need to be perfect good or bad*. It's great if your protagonist has some characteristics that aren't perfect, even that they don't like. And same for the antagonist.
Is it possible to have a protagonist that you identify with and an antagonist that you identify with.

In my WIP, I am writing from a number of different view points, and the characters I can identify with, the good and the bad. I have developed and justified their motives.

Is there a right way or a wrong way to nominate who falls into which category. My characters are a bit of both, is that ok? Does a book, in order to be successful, need a clearly defined protagonist and a clearly defined antagonist?
I would agree with Nicole — it is perfectly natural and desireable that you as the writer, and the readers as well for that matter, should identify with both the protagonist and antagonist — it means you've built them both up as real, complete people.

-agonist essentially means struggle — protagonist is to struggle for, and antagonist struggle against.
What is your book about? Loss of innocence and maturation into the competence of adulthood? Who struggles for this? Protagonist. Who struggles against their goals? Antagonist.

You can have an utterly grotesque, nightmarish person as the protagonist, struggling for the goal of the story's theme, and likewise an upright, virtuous antagonist struggling against them. I wrote a book like that, and LOVE LOVE LOVE it! And that vile, psychotic protagonist likely believes he's a good person, acting for good reasons. Mine did. And if you manage SOMEHOW to make him likable, you have a HELL of a story!
 
Ditto - I'm almost always more interested in the villains than the heroes.
Depends on the hero mind you. I hate goody, goody heroes. I like a good dose of personal darkness in there to shape the character. But yeah. The bad guys are always better. I mean really, bat man or the Joker (Heath Ledger) who was better? I think the Joker every time. The batman character is just blergh in my opinion.
 
Depends on the hero mind you. I hate goody, goody heroes. I like a good dose of personal darkness in there to shape the character. But yeah. The bad guys are always better. I mean really, bat man or the Joker (Heath Ledger) who was better? I think the Joker every time. The batman character is just blergh in my opinion.
Interestingly enough, I like both equally. Batman is one screwed up protagonist and is one of my favorite-- if not the favorite-- comic book heroes because of it. However, I do like The Joker. It's rare you come across someone who wants to watch -- literally -- the world burn other than for that exact reason. Just to watch it burn.
 
Depends on the hero mind you. I hate goody, goody heroes. I like a good dose of personal darkness in there to shape the character. But yeah. The bad guys are always better. I mean really, bat man or the Joker (Heath Ledger) who was better? I think the Joker every time. The batman character is just blergh in my opinion.
NOW WHO WILL YOU CHOOSE...:eek:
 
Interestingly enough, I like both equally. Batman is one screwed up protagonist and is one of my favorite-- if not the favorite-- comic book heroes because of it. However, I do like The Joker. It's rare you come across someone who wants to watch -- literally -- the world burn other than for that exact reason. Just to watch it burn.

Submitted for your approval:

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Some screwed up "protagonist" comic book heroes.
 
NOW WHO WILL YOU CHOOSE...:eek:

Gads neither haha! I know. I'm a lost cause... I'd rather a choice between....
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And I'd probably pick Largatha or Black widow every time lol!!
 
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