Avoid Lengthy Antagonist Narratives

How Much Screen Time Should Your Give Your Antagonist’s POV?

Avoid Lengthy Antagonist NarrativesWith literature so rich in fascinating bad guys—everyone from Hannibal Lecter to Captain Hook—it’s important to consider how much time you should actually give your antagonist’s POV.

Occasionally, there comes a story in which the antagonist is more interesting than the protagonist. However, as a general rule, it’s accepted, and even expected, that the antagonist will simply not hold as much interest for the reader as the other characters.

He’s there to provide some thrills and chills, throw obstacles into the hero’s path, and move the plot forward. As a result, be wary of forcing your readers to spend too much time in your antagonist’s POV.

3 Common Pitfalls of the Antagonist’s POV

For example, consider a historical mystery that drags readers through eight pages inside the antagonist’s head.

Now, granted, reader boredom won’t result simply because of the length of antagonist’s scene. But consider the following pitfalls that do cause this antagonist’s POV scene to be both boring and needless:

1. The villain wasn’t an inherently interesting personality.

2. He spent the entire scene mulling on his evil plans.

3. He didn’t move the plot forward by changing anything.

All of these problems serve to highlight common pitfalls that can arise in an antagonist’s POV.

3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Antagonist’s POV

Whenever your story demands you spend several pages in your antagonist’s POV, make sure you’re using the scene to its full benefit.

1. Don’t allow your antagonist to lie statically on the page.

2. Don’t give him a scene just to keep the reader in touch with him.

3. Don’t allow his scene to be clichéd gloating on his part, in which he crows about his brilliant plan and the imminent downfall of the hero.

A faulty or unnecessary antagonist’s POV can make readers impatient to return to the hero and cause them to start skipping pages—or worse. But control your antagonist’s POV wisely, and you’ll pull them even deeper into your story.

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! Have you included your antagonist’s POV in your story? Why or why not? Tell me in the comments!

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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. My favorite genre is mystery, where you never see the antagonist as a POV character the way you do in suspense. However, in my current WIP, I’m stepping into the head of my villain from time to time–mostly because it’s clear enough who he is, so I’m not giving anything away. Good things to remember here as I deal with his scenes.

  2. In the right stories, I love antagonist scenes, simply because antagonists have the opportunity to be some of the most fascinating characters. But if they’re nothing more than cliched cardboard cutouts, forget it.

  3. Antagonists can be really enjoyable, but my personal favorite character is usually the one that is either enticed to the “dark side” or begins as a villain, then shifts to the good side by the end. Always had a soft spot for them.

  4. I love dichotomous characters. Those with more than a little gray in them are always those with the most interesting questions to ask and the deepest themes to explore.

  5. Dean Koontz is one author that gets into POV of his antag, and does an amazing job.

    I hadn’t planned to poke around inside the heads of my antagonists in my WIP, but it sounds delightfully fun. 😀 I may try that in my next novel.

  6. I’ve loved writing all my antagonist scenes, but particularly Mactalde, the villain in my upcoming fantasy Dreamers. I actually ended up really liking the man – despite his problems. 😉

  7. Timely as ever! My crit group’s had questions that are best answered by inserting antagonist scenes, but I’m stumbling over how best to structure them. Thanks for the tips!

  8. Just remember that, if you flip your story on its head, your antagonist would be the hero. As a result, he needs to be just as convincing and three-dimensional a character as your protagonist.

  9. Your blog is so helpful with writing tips.
    Oh, man…see, my WIP is an alternating 1st person POV between the “hero” and the “villian.” Chapter 1 is villian, two is hero, three is villian, etc…and my friend who’s editing likes the villian better than the hero because the villian is complex and angry and the hero is physically weak and …
    I have so much work to do

  10. One of my favorite story ideas was one where my antagonist actually took over and became the hero. Sometimes there’s more “stuff” there to work with in antagonists, since they’re more complex.

  11. Awesome tips, K.M! You’re right that an antagonist shouldn’t always go on eight pages of evil, dastardly plans (lightning flashes in the background), but instead one should keep it simple and show glimpses of the antagonist.

    A writer shouldn’t delve too deep into a character’s mind or the writer might lose a few readers. Readers don’t want to know EVERY thought of the characters.

    Thanks for the reminders and tips. Write on!

  12. There’s a balance in deep POVs that both allows readers to both know a character and still flow with the plot. In large part, that balance ends up depending on the type of story you’re wanting to tell.

  13. This is definitely something I need to work on. Thanks for the great video.

  14. You’re very welcome!

  15. I’m so glad I found this site!! So much great information… I’m still digesting!! Thank you!

  16. Thanks for stopping by!

  17. Awesome information. Thanks for posting Katie 🙂 Your site is always helpful.

  18. Thanks for commenting, Tabitha! Glad it was helpful.

  19. I just wanted to tell you that I LOVE your blog! You have such great, practical information and I enjoy your posts so much.

    Hope you have a wonderful weekend!
    ~ melscoffeebreak.blogspot.com ~

  20. That’s the kind of comment that makes a girl’s day, you know that? So glad you’re finding the blog useful. A wonderful weekend to you too!

  21. Not only do antagonists not have to be evil, they do not always have to be people.

  22. Absolutely. Sometimes the best antagonists are forces of nature – or even just the protagonist’s own inner turmoil.

  23. Or an animal…like Cujo.

  24. The easy thing about animal antagonists is that we rarely have to worry about them monologuing!

  25. Anonymous says

    Sorry for going out of the context ,I really appreciate your contribution but as English is not my mothertongue this listening process is sometimes so tiring for me especially if I am at public place or somewhere so could you please add transcriptions just like you did under the video “why hypocrites make excellent bad guys?” I really appreciate it ,lots of thanks already

  26. Here you go! I updated Why the Devil Makes a Boring Bad Guy as well.

  27. There are many antagonist’s I read in the past who I loved. But I do prefer reading (or watching) good guys doing what needs to be done.
    Your post made my mind wander in my past anime watching experiences (which are actually the reason I write fantasy). In one of them, I had to watch episodes upon episodes about a guy being bad because his brother betrayed him. But after killing his brother, revelation dawned upon him that his brother was actually a hero. Talk about waste of time 🙁
    Worst part, the anime I am talking about is one of my all time fav. Makes me more angry, by spoiling it this way.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Motivations are so important when it comes to bad guys. Readers need to find a glimmer of relatability, or they’re likely to find the antagonist melodramatic and annoying.

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