Ways to Make Readers Loathe Your Antagonist

10 Ways to Make Readers Loathe Your Antagonist

Your story’s antagonist will make or break the book.

What’s that? What about the protagonist, you say? Well, yeah, he’s kinda important too. But without a worthy opponent, he’s not going to have much of anything to do except sit around and admire his hero hairdo. As important as it is to create lovable, relatable, fascinating protagonists, it’s every bit as important to create antagonists who can stand in your character’s way, prevent him from reaching his goals, and, as a result, create conflict.

Just as your good guy doesn’t have to be a perfect person, there’s also no rule that says your bad guy has to be heinous. In fact, shades of gray are almost always going to make him that much more interesting a character. The only true qualifier for an antagonist is that he be an obstacle interfering with the protagonist’s pursuit of his story goal. As such, the antagonist could be a nice little old lady, a sick child, or a virtuous social reformer. An antagonist doesn’t even have to be a person.

But, with that said, it’s also true that most readers enjoy an entirely loathable bad guy just as much as they do a lovable good guy. Today, let’s consider a few of the traits that take your antagonist’s shiver factor up a notch—or ten!

1. The Cruel Antagonist

Nasty bad guys who are nasty just because they can be are always going to be scary. We all fear pain (physical, mental, or emotional), so the thought of someone who not only doesn’t mind inflicting pain, but even wants to do it is downright despicable.

Example: William Tavington in Roland Emmerich’s The Patriot

2. The Hypocritical Antagonist

Hypocrisy is loathsome. It’s one thing to bad and be proud of it. It’s another level of “eww” to be bad and pretend you’re really a saint. This façade can be something the antagonist honestly believes in or a pose for the sake of respectability.

Example: William Dorrit in Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit

3. The Relatable Antagonist

Sometimes the scariest, most loathsome thing about a person is how much they remind us of ourselves. When readers are able to glimpse even the smallest bit of themselves in the motives or actions of an otherwise horrific person, it will make their reactions to him that much stronger.

Example: Commodus in Ridley Scott’s Gladiator

4. The Arrogant Antagonist

Bad guys who hold all the cards—and know they hold all the cards—and want to rub the protagonist’s nose in that fact—are just plain obnoxious. Bad enough that they stand in the protagonist’s way, but do they really have to be so smug about it? Yes. Yes, they do.

Example: President Snow in Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games

5. The Domineering Antagonist

A close cousin to arrogance is dominance. When an antagonist holds power over the protagonist and abuses that power in a way the protagonist can’t easily resist, he becomes not only obnoxious, but rightfully scary. Domineering antagonists come in all flavors, but often their most chilling manifestation is as a family member.

Example: Countess Rodmilla de Ghent in Andy Tennant’s Ever After

6. The Frightening Antagonist

Some of the best antagonists are those whom we don’t so much hate as fear. Serial killers, freaks, psychos—yep, they all have the potential to be visceral and powerful antagonists. As Carmine Falcone puts it in Christopher Nolan’s Batman Begins: “You always fear what you don’t understand.”

Example: Darth Vader in George Lucas’s Star Wars

 7. The Imperturbable Antagonist

Bad guys who are so bad that nothing ruffles their feathers may occasionally walk the line of being boring. But when their authors pull it off, these bad guys can be infuriatingly, terrifyingly inhuman. Even though they undoubtedly have their weaknesses, they seem unstoppable.

Example: Frank in Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West

8. The Skilled Antagonist

Presumably, your hero is pretty awesome in his own right. As such, he’s going to need an antagonist who can go toe to toe with him—someone who’s maybe even a little better than he is. Readers respect skill, even when they don’t like the guy wielding it. Skill is intriguing and, when used for evil, sobering.

Example: Syndrome in Brad Bird’s The Incredibles

9. The Insane Antagonist

Insanity means unpredictability. Unpredictable evil is always gonna be hard to resist. It puts the protagonist at a disadvantage, both because it does the unexpected and because it goes places the protagonist, in his sanity, would never dream of. As such, it make for one downright scary antagonist.

Example: The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight

10. The Traitorous Antagonist

What hurts worse than a friend or family member who suddenly turns against us? Hate is often just love flipped on its head. A loved character who goes rogue can often become one of the most hatable of all bad guys.

Example: Nizam in Mike Newell’s Prince of Persia

Mix and match these traits until you come up with a bad guy that gives even you goosebumps!

Tell me your opinion: Which category does your bad guy fall into?

10 Ways to Make Readers Loathe Your Antagonist

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.


  1. Fabulous post. Very helpful!

    • K.M. Weiland says

      Thanks for reading!

      • As much as the insane antagonists can be scary, the PSYCHOLOGICAL ones are even more so, because they can get inside your head and mess around with you till you’re so spun around and confused, you don’t know how to get up right away. Example: Scarlet Witch in Joss Whedon’s “Age of Ultron.”

      • Cassandrahousley@gmail.com says

        Mine would have to land under 10 9 and 3…the 10 things helped alot c:

  2. I actually would say my current antagonist doesn’t fall into any of these categories, he/they fall into an 11th: the self-righteous antagonist. To be sure, elements of #1 and #6 are present, but this one feels that they have an obligation to do the bad things they do, and have no regrets in doing so.

    Generally, though, my antagonists fall into the #1/#6 categories, with a bit of the Skilled Antagonist thron in for good measure.

    Great, thoughtful post!

    • K.M. Weiland says

      Aw, yes, well spotted. I like to call these antagonists “Crusaders.” They may not even be “bad” guys; they’re just people who passionately believe in a cause that is opposed to the protagonist’s.

      • Precisely. 🙂

      • ohhhh! Very interesting! Can you give an example of A “Crusader” antagonist?

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          St. John Rivers in Jane Eyre (although not technically a “bad” guy) comes to mind. Ultron in the second Avengers was a bit of a Crusader. The doctor in Maze Runner. Meryl Streep in Doubt.

          • In Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Jacob Marley is a Crusader. Scrooge at first wants to be left alone and count his money. So Marley is the antagonist.

            Then I think Scrooge gets with the program, and the antagonistic force is his own lifelong habits.

      • Christy Moceri says

        Magneto of the X-Men is a great example of a Crusader. He’s one of the most interesting villains of the Marvel Universe, in part because his pain and suffering (remember, he survived the Holocaust) drives his belief that he has a duty to protect mutants by any means necessary — even if it means stooping to the level of his oppressors. His goal and Professor X’s are essentially the same, they just differ in their methods. This results in times where they must collaborate to achieve a goal or where they find themselves on opposing sides. Throughout the history of the X-Men, Magneto has done everything from teach at the Jean Grey School to attempt to exterminate humans, concentration camp style. He is a wonderfully complex antagonist.

    • One of my favorite villains is of that kind. She also has mixtures of #3 and #10, which make her even more scary (or I hope it will) because she is very similar to the MC. Basically, she’s just on the other side of a political idea, and believes very strongly in it.

  3. The main conflict in my story doesn’t generate from antagonists, although there are plenty that haven’t been seen too much yet since I haven’t written far enough. I’m not entirely sure what categories they will fall into, if any, but I will say that hypocritical, frightening, skilled and arrogant antagonists tend to be my favorite. No matter what the main antagonist has to be dangerous. Cheesy and incompetent villains can be done right, but even then there has to be someone reigning over them who is a real threat. Good post!

    • K.M. Weiland says

      It’s important to note that an antagonist is anyone or any*thing* that stands in the way of your protagonist accomplishing his goal. What I’ve detailed here is pretty much exclusive to “bad” guys. But your story definitely doesn’t have to go that route. Sometimes a hero can even be his own antagonist.

      • I realize that all stories don’t have to have people for antagonists. I even read one of your older posts centering on that subject soon after I read this (I liked that one too by the way). For the context of my story the antagonists are still technically important, they’re just not the main source of the conflict. Too put it more clearly, I guess the conflict between the protagonists and the antagonists would be considered more of a sub-conflict compared to the primary one which isn’t a person or animal. In general, I really admire how many different angles you delve into when it comes to writing. Thanks a lot!

  4. My character is very similar to Liberty’s. Someone who believes wholeheartedly that what they are doing is for the greater good, but ultimately is cruel and domineering.

    • K.M. Weiland says

      The majority of bad guys *should* believe what they’re doing is for the best. Agent Smith is one of my all-time favorite antagonists. He’s extremely hatable, but he’s also relatable because he’s coming after the protagonist out of a deep-seated belief in his own paradigm.

  5. Oh, awesome post! I would add the villan who would do whatever it takes to get what he wants because he has nothing to lose :O
    Thanks, I´ll have this in mind! Loved the mention of the joker, that´s the reason I think he is a fabulous character 😉

  6. Wow. I loved this article, it finally put into words what I’ve always wanted to know about antagonistic qualities. Thanks!

    One question: Is it ever a problem to have most or even all of these traits in one character? Is that too confusing/frustrating for the reader? My antagonist, (An intergalactic Princess) meets almost all of the types you listed above. (Except traitorous and insane.)

    What are your thoughts?

    • K.M. Weiland says

      Complicated bad guys are never a bad thing, so long as we’re able to pull it off. So, I’d say, “no.” Definitely no good reason you can’t create a very awesome bad guy by throwing most of these traits into the blender.

  7. I have a relatable antagonist. He’s a man who is a victim of horrifying experiments and modification that enhanced him to superhuman levels, but erased his memories and identity. As he’s sought to find them out, some have details have returned, namely that he’s married, and has a son, but because of all the changes, they no longer recognize him, and he could no longer be a good husband or father, so he has to stay apart from them as he sets out to restore justice in the world.

    • K.M. Weiland says

      Great example. Antagonists are always going to be the hero of their stories – and that’s exactly what you’ve presented here.

    • Your antagonist sounds awesome. In fact, he seems more like a protagonist than an antagonist to me. Even though I don’t know anything else about your story, I think I would be tempted to read it for that reason alone. Keep up the good work!

      • Thank you, and I assure you. He is not a protagonist. I forgot to mention on here that he uses bombings, shootings, abductions and faux executions, sabotage, and so on to achieve his ends. He’s a terrorist, really. So, I suppose he could also be a Crusader villain.

        • That certainly does change things a bit! The crusader/terrorist type villain seems to be used often, but their’s nothing wrong with attempting to write your own. It sounds like you’re on the right track for a deliciously complex villain and character all around.

  8. Terrific post. Very helpful. Thanks. My antagonist is a domineering antagonist, but I think he needs a little work.

  9. I enjoyed reading this list and thinking how much each category applied to the main antagonist in my debut fantasy novel, in progress. I think the categories that apply the most are Imperturbable and Skilled. Towards the end of the story, the antagonist proves also to be Cruel, Arrogant, Domineering and Traitorous. Frightening might apply, but the readers will have to confirm that. Some readers might even think some or all of the other categories apply too.

    There are other villains in my story, some working with or for the main antagonist, some at odds with the antagonist. Each of your categories applies to at least one of my tale’s villains.

    • K.M. Weiland says

      It’s fun to mix and match traits, especially when we have more than one antagonist to play around with.

      • If you ask me. My antagonist is not really a bad guy at all really, he’s just being controlled by an ancient force that no-one can control. But the thought of his name still gives me the shivers, and I created him!

  10. Oooooo – I think the ones that got my creative juices flowing the most are “relateable”, “skilled”, and “traitorous”….especially relateable. I never really thought about it before, but when I see something of myself in a bad guy, all of the sudden he’s REAL. ….and that makes him so much scarier. 🙂

  11. My antagonist falls into a different category, lets call it The Unaware Antagonist.

    He doesn’t know he is the ‘bad guy’, he thinks he is the good guy, punishing the wicked or traitorous deviants, even if one is his own sister. He is like this simply because of belief. He has full belief in his cause and what he does and is doing and doesn’t consider himself wrong because his eyes haven’t been opened yet and that is what his sister is trying to do.

    You could also name this category of antagonist ‘The devout believer, antagonist’ because belief can be dangerous in many forms and is something people can relate to, think of this antagonist as an eye opener. He could be the sort of villain who makes people think ‘i believe, but am i really like him’ because unfortunately i have met many people like this. You see this role being portrayed by pious villains and leaders.

    Thank for the article, informative and helpful and thanks for reading unto this point.

    • K.M. Weiland says

      As I mentioned in a previous comment, I like to call this type of antagonist the “Crusader.” In truth, the vast majority of bad guys need to believe they’re really the good guys. Bad guys are the heroes of their own stories, and as such they need to passionately believe in what they’re doing, for whatever reason.

  12. Great post, Katie! My bad guy falls between a couple of them because he’s two different people. He’s bad as both characters, but in different ways. This makes him difficult and fascinating to write. 🙂

  13. My antagonist, the oldest brother of a royal family, starts out as a self righteous and arrogant person really committed to the “traditional values” of his culture which is slowly developing an Egyptian-like “the king is a god” outlook. As the story progresses he moves towards cruelty and in the third act as the antagonist, his youngest sister, slowly begins to “win” he goes slowly insane. I’m not entirely sure I can pull it off but as you often state in both your wonderful books (shameless flattery there, they are very good books) a character arc is more interesting than a static character.

    • K.M. Weiland says

      And you raise an awesome point in that powerful antagonist characters need strong arcs, just as much as do strong protagonists. Often, those two arcs are mirror images of one another.

  14. I hadn’t really thought about all the personality types that could apply here before, but as I was reading through them, I kept thinking, yes! As a reader, I really want to hate the antagonist. Sometimes I’m okay if I don’t. It’s also interesting if the parallel lines that are drawn make us realize that we have similar traits to the antagonist, but I love it when an author goes out there enough in making these deplorable people that I admire how much I love to hate their characters. I feel like that is good writing.

    • K.M. Weiland says

      Loving good guys is fun. So is hating bad guys. We want to make our readers *feel* something, whether that emotion is good or bad.

  15. Firstly, I’m impressed that you reply all your comments.
    This was really helpful. For now my antagonist falls under skilled, cruel and relatable.
    Cheers 🙂

  16. I’m kind of partial to handsome, likeable and charming antagonists, in the Hitchcock mold, so much that they’re almost more appealing than the nominal hero. In fact didn’t Hitchcock say something like a movie is only as good as its villain. I guess these kind of antagonists might be seen as a variation of #’s 3, 7 and 8 : skilled, relatable and imperturbable.

  17. My favorite antagonists to write are always the hypocritical types. After all, lies and deception are associated with wrongdoing, and I see hypocrisy as an elaborate lie. So elaborate, in fact, that sometimes a hypocrite lies to themselves, especially the ones who really believe what they preach, even if they don’t necessarily practice it. But, domineering antagonists are a close second, since there’s a bit of betrayal when someone whose authority the protagonist and those around the protagonist trusts decides to abuse that power.

    • K.M. Weiland says

      Oh, I agree. Hypocritical antagonists get my goat like no other type of baddie!

      • Do to character development in the story the main villein has become all of these at once: 1. The Cruel Antagonist, 2. The Hypocritical Antagonist, 6. The Frightening Antagonist. Hes gone from a frightened lackey getting smacked up the side of his head to a lonesome evil necromancer . :3 Bad guys are fun ^-^

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          Layers are good! Antagonists rarely fit into just one of these categories, so it’s great to explore as many facets as possible.

          • darkocean says

            I was hoping that would be so. ^-^

            I’ve been revising my book again lately, and have found that I killed off an antagonist far to quickly, In fact from the comments i’ve gotten from cridics in cccircle. So that needs to be fixed for sure. doh! ugg hindsight.

  18. You’ve pretty much covered all the bases with these antagonist character types. Of course mixing types together in one person makes for even more complexity. The more complex the better, in my opinion.

    What can ramp the conflict up several notches is if the protagonist loves the antagonist. Maybe the feelings are reciprocated, maybe not. Throwing love between protagonist and antagonist (not just romantic love, but every other kind as well) into the mix makes everything take a new turn. The story’s resolution will be more complex as a result, because just defeating the ‘villain’ or antagonist won’t be enough.

    • K.M. Weiland says

      Totally agree. I adore stories in which the protagonist and antagonist have a complicated love/hate relationship. Raises the stakes about a hundred percent.

  19. This totally helped me create my antagonist! It helped me.

  20. K.M., my bad guy does what he does because he fits a specific FBI profile, albeit with a few “quirks” I’ve added. He’s not lovable, since he’s insane (one of your cats), but he pretends to help my protag while plotting to have her. I’d call him very “in your face.” I’ve taken to heart your advice about him needing to have as much to lose as my protag. He wants her, desperately, but she’s committed to friendship and nothing more. Do you think he has as much to lose as she does?

    • K.M. Weiland says

      Desperation is always a sure sign of high personal stakes. It isn’t so much the size of a desire that raises the stakes as it is how much that desire matters to the person who wants it.

  21. Oh I just love inventing antagonists who you can’t suspect . They have to be very skilled to avoid detection until the last few pages. I don’t ever make them insane or unable to function in society since that would stick out too much. They are never driven by the need to just do evil. There is always a plan and a certain lack of barriers when it comes to doing bad stuff. Also if my proganist knows how their opponant is I do still like to keep readers in the dark.

    • K.M. Weiland says

      Sometimes the most “normal” antagonists are the most compelling, simply because they’re the most relatable.

      • Well I find that a pure evil and insane character limits me because you don’t have to wonder what they will do, they will do the worst thing possible. So thats all kind of obvious and when they are relatable and “normal” there is still an element of surprise possible

  22. I don’t know what my many different story ideas’ antagonists may be classified as maybe the emotional, distraught king filled with blood lust and revenge could be the relatable antagonists because he has the sorts of motives people can almost, almost agree with but defiantly understand. Would it possibly make him scary that I keep him very human while he’s still murdering people without a care for their lives.

    While this may be one of my bad guys my favorite are always, ALWAYS the insane antagonists. I love, or more accurately loathe them, I just think they are really awesome.

    • K.M. Weiland says

      In my opinion, the most frightening bad guys are always those who are the most relatable – because they feel as if they could actually appear in our own lives.

  23. Good post, but how about another category? The Apathetic Antagonist.

    This is the type of antagonist that does not concern himself/herself with the notion of right or wrong, that does not see his/her actions as malicious and/or loathsome, nor pure hearted and/or selfless. They concern themselves solely with their goal at any expense no matter the cost. These Antagonists are usually considered to be neutral.

    Examples that fall into this category are:

    Boba Fett (Star wars): Only concerned with earning credits.Is not guided by morals, simply his own ambitions.
    Dr Manhattan (Watchmen): Displeased with humanity, he takes the objective route in determining the betterment of mankind.
    Tyler Durden (Fight Club): Wants to make a statement to the public at large, even if it means killing others or causing damage to property in order to get his way.

  24. Ralph Powers says

    There’s also the antagonist who feels that what they’re doing IS the right thing to do, they’re not exactly insane but not all the cards are in the deck as far as reality and consequences are concerned.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Those people are scary. They think they’re doing the right thing, but their ignorance only makes their conviction more dangerous.

      • Exactly, and one of my minor characters is just that kind of an antagonist… but not to the primary character… he’s got his own problems with someone else that suddenly decided to have a vendetta against him, for no real particular reason other than it’s “sport”. The antagonist is a marine sniper.
        The “convinced of his own rightness” is a major general in charge of a nuclear weapon.
        Hows that for scary.

  25. Would the antagonist have to be deplorable? Or could he even be likeable? I have a really good feeling about an antagonist who outright refuses to kill. I wouldn’t really see him as an “evil” guy, just someone who opposes the protagonist. Ambiguity is a good thing, but I’m not sure if this is going a bit far.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Certainly. Many fine antagonists are anything but hatable. And in that case, the points in this post definitely wouldn’t apply.

  26. One way i liked to approach an antagonist is the way other people look at him/her…In fact one quote i thought of to describe the antagonist is this
    “Donald Gallant is crazy in a way that makes crazy look sane”

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Sounds like Jack Sparrow. 🙂 It’s always nice when we can put even a small positive slant on an antagonist. Keeps things real.

      • Thank you, but I must ask.Since my antagonist does not really appear until the second half of the story, do you think that a buildup to him would make the impact more thematic?And do you think that making the antagonist “funny” while doing atrocious things make him/her more interesting?. For instance, my main antagonist likes to play golf and uses holes that he also uses to imprison his victims….(among other things he does to them)
        (sorry for the long post i just love to ask questions)

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          The antagonist needs to be at least foreshadowed in the first quarter of the book. Other than that, when he actually appears in person depends entirely on the pacing and plot requirements of your own story.

          And, yes, a “funny” antagonist can become very engaging. The Joker in Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight is a great example.

  27. One last point, The main thing i wanted to etch in with my antagonist is that, if you were to see him on the street, you would think him as just a normal guy…Do you think this would be effective in making him a good bad guy and viable since he is the leader of a mercenary organization in post-apocalyptic south american amazon?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It’s a great approach. The idea that evil somehow stands out from the crowd is a false one propagated by fiction. Some of the most evil people in history have blended right in.

  28. I like mixing and matching my antagonist traits as well and it’s hard for me not to. The descriptions for each of the villains in this article are helpful; sometimes even as a writer, I have moments where I confuse my antagonist’s goals in my head and I need to remember what kind she/he is.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      A book is such a lengthy endeavor that it *is* easy to lose track of even small details sometimes.

  29. The antagonist in my book, “Joshua’s Island,” is definitely #1. The Cruel Antagonist. My book deals with bullies, and while in real life, some bullies do what they do simply because they are lashing out, others do it because their sense of right and wrong is completely skewed (or worse, totally absent). The two primary bullies in my book, a boy and a girl, inflict cruelty because of the sense of power it gives them.

  30. Natsumi Imso says

    One character I hate so much (please don’t mind my English, it’s not my first language!) is Steve Leopard/Leonard in The Saga of Darren Shan.
    He knows the truth but refuses to believe in it and literally makes his life for revenge! Since nine years old when he thinks he has been betrayed but instead he has been saved by his best friend who becomes a vampire which was basically his DREAM!
    So for eighteen years he’s been craving revenge…..
    Since the age of Nine……
    You so HAVE to HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE HATE him…..if he were alive and real….he wouldn’t last for a moment with me in sight!!!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Hah! This is *exactly* the kind of response authors want to inspire in reaction to their villains!

  31. Kelly D. Holmes says

    I’m finding that in my current novel my two protagonists (one main and one secondary/object) sometimes have a different antagonist at different times, though they share the hurdles/consequences together. The antagonists are more or less a series of people who drive the secondary protagonist to ruin and eventual redemption, the last part of which the main protagonist assists in. How would I keep the multiple-antagonist plot from creating too much conflict within the story? Is there ever really such a thing in the first place?

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      First thing to do would be to make sure that each of these antagonistic characters is essential to the plot. If you can streamline them by deleting or combining any of them, that’s usually a good step to take.

  32. What do you think about mixing and matching these different antagonists?
    Such as a Cruel/Imperturbable antagonist?

  33. Great post!! One big problem is that many/most of these antagonist types have already been grossly overused and misused. Our challenge is to make our antagonist actually human – a legitimate character, not just a “type”. And I would warn almost any young writer away from using the insane antagonist, unless they’re knowledgeable about his specific type of insanity and have a good reason to include an insane villain.

    I lean toward the traitorous antagonist as my personal favorite. I find lots of room to expand this villain into a believable human with real motivations such as fear or greed. The traitor also presumably has a connection with the protagonist or his cause, which creates all kinds of fascinating emotions and complications. For example, in one of my stories, two men plot to overthrow an evil government, but one of them turns informer because he is afraid of capture and not prepared to face torture/death.

    Anyway, this is a great summary that I will absolutely keep in mind as I write!

  34. Christy Moceri says

    My book has a few antagonists (you could argue that the real antagonist of my story is “the war,” so what the characters really are combating is an ideology shared by many.) One is a violent, immature youth hell-bent on making his mark in history, probably in the ”Cruel” or ”Crusader” category. I’m struggling, in particular, to make the youth into a fully realized human because the acts he commits against the female protagonist are so vile. I’d like to portray him as a bit naive, not fully understanding how the world works, and sort of stumbling onto his sadistic side by way of a unique alignment of events. Ideally, and I know this is kind of gross, his pivotal scene shows him exploring sadism for the first time. And the whole time you’re thinking, “But this is just a stupid kid.” But it is difficult to reflect all of that complexity when he appears in only two scenes in the novel.

    One person who does antagonists exceptionally well is Lois McMasters Bujold in her Vorkosigan Saga series. In her series, you will find everything from the most well-meaning people wreaking destruction to the most vile and sadistic humans imaginable. In her masterpiece Mirror Dance, she somehow manages to make Mark Vorkosigan into both an antagonist and a protagonist at the same time. You hurt when he is wronged, cringe with every misguided move he makes, watch his character pushed to the absolute moral limit, and ask yourself if there is any chance of redemption. Bujold’s wide array of antagonists is reflective of reality because evil acts do exist on such a spectrum, so it hits on a very personal level.

  35. I typically have a number of antagonists, but the one I have in mind (while he definitely has strong elements of cruelty and domineering) would be best classified as a jealous antagonist. He sees the protagonist’s success and rapid ascendance as a result of it as a threat to his own position, and so uses his power and influence to hinder the protagonist in an increasingly aggressive way as the story develops. This, combined with his other abuses of power, I find makes him my protagonist’s most personal enemy despite not being the principle antagonist of the story, and technically fighting for the same side as the protagonist. What are your thoughts on this category?

  36. Florence Oladokun says

    my antagonist fits 3 categories
    arrogant,Domineering and Traitorous, is this possible
    how can i fit my person.
    The discussion and explanation is helpful

  37. Do have any good examples in literature where the protagonist is his own antagonist? While there are going to be some mild “bad guys” in my plot, the main thing that’s keeping the character from what she wants are her own misconceptions of the world. I’m going for the relatable antagonist. 🙂


  1. […] 10 Ways to Make Readers Loathe Your Antagonist […]

  2. […] you need to make sure you create an antagonist that your readers love to loathe. In this post from Wordplay, author K.M. Weiland offers 10 ways we you can do that very […]

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