Character Development,  Inspiration

Five Character Types That Make Great Antagonistic Forces

Because of the contrast and the potential for great conflict, you want to develop your antagonist as richly as you do your main character. These five destructive character types could make your antagonist richer and even more realistic.

Little Miss Victim: Their life is so, so hard.

This person has mastered the art of getting others to do their work for them. They may not even realize that they are their own worst enemy. In fiction, this could be a puppy-eyed waif who has a constant look of want. This person could also be an arthritic ailing aunt who will remind you constantly of her troubles and how she really can’t do anything without help.

What makes them a good antagonistic force?

These types are resistant to change, especially if the change requires something radical on their end. They also refuse to take responsibility for their own state, so this can be a point of annoyance and resistance to the protagonist. They often can’t be trusted because their own interpretation of reality is so skewed. They may be passive to a fault, lazy beyond imagination, and manipulative. They really don’t want to do anything at all to help themselves so they have an armory of tactics that they use to get others to do their work for them. They may also be incredibly charming or attractive and they know it.

The Secret Sabotager:  Life isn’t fair, so it’s time to even the score!

This person is full of secret resentments and bitterness. They also see themselves as victims, but instead of being passive about it, these little devils deliberately manipulate circumstances to get others to fail.

What makes them a good antagonistic force? Their deviousness!

They could feign innocence when they get the coffee order wrong. They could “accidentally” misplace something important. They often come up with the cleverest lies and they do it so well that they’re actually believed. They also fight back against any kind of accountability. They despise authority figures. And they may talk a great game about how dependable they are, but they pretty much only do what they feel like will be the most advantageous to them.

The Self-Important Martyr: No one else can do it like they can!

 This person is definitely a hard worker, but they know it. They push the expectations of themselves and of others too far, so they often slip into micromanaging details. They have control issues, big time. And they can’t allow anyone to have credit in what happens in the office, or at the church event, or at the family Thanksgiving table.

What makes them a good antagonistic force?

They complain about everyone’s lack of contribution. Want a good conflict? Put a self-important martyr and a little miss victim in the same room. The martyr will go on and on about how they are the only ones who work while the helpless waif just sits there. Even if our martyr has offers from others, he/she may have such ridiculously high standards that they lose the help they want. “It’s just easier to do it myself,” they often wail. Yet they may also say, “if it weren’t for me this whole place would fall apart.” When you set up your protagonist’s goals, the martyr will be the one who micromanages them and wants to take them over.

The Storyteller: “Guess what happened to me last night?”

This person is all about entertainment. They long to be the center of attention at all times. They will interrupt to say what’s on their mind. They may not have a filter — so they could be inappropriate and loud. They have little regard for tasks or others’ time commitments, so they make people late with their stories. They may even have an exaggerated perspective on what a good story is.

What makes them a good antagonistic force?

Even though they don’t realize it, they can slow the protagonist down with their constant anecdotes and attention-seeking. If your protagonist is on a deadline, or the stakes are high, your storyteller could block them from getting things done. If they are corrected, the storyteller may get defensive.

Storytellers also like drama — so if they can gossip, divide allegiances, reveal secrets, start rumors or make insinuating suggestions all the better. They could be maliciously aware of what they are doing or, they may be completely innocent.

The Psychopathic Bully: This could be the most obvious and the most fun antagonistic type to write.

But the danger in writing them is that you can slip into cliche´╝çand we really don’t need another Mean Girl, do we? This character is above the rules — whatever rules you’ve placed in your setting. And could even mean rules of morality. Yikes. We’re talking psychopath here and done well, they are the most fun to read about.

What makes them a good antagonistic force?

A true psychopath has no empathy for anyone. That means that there is little or no mental acknowledgment of suffering, pain, inconvenience or offense. A psychopath doesn’t care who he hurts or how. He/she is not the least bit intimidated by repercussions, in this life or the life to come. And if they show restraint, say, they choose not to do something violent or destructive, then it’s because they are just biding their time. The psychopath could easily be all of the above antagonistic types simultaneously. The agenda that they have, they will fully believe, is completely justified and they will stop at nothing to get what they want.

I’ve met every one of these character types in real life and I bet you have too.

Consider using them, without slipping too much into exaggeration, for your next antagonist.

They’ll make life miserable for your main character, and that’s exactly the point.

Katharine Grubb is an author, poet, homeschooling mother, camping enthusiast, bread-baker, and believer in working in small increments of time. She leads 10 Minute Novelists, an international Facebook group of time-crunched writers. She lives with her family in Massachusetts.