antagonist not related to the main plot being too good/bad

by Keegan
(USA)

Question: So in the story I am writing I have a minor antagonist that has little to no connection with the main plot, who is there to spark emotional conflict with the two main characters. The problem is they are a preacher, someone who is generally considered a good person, and I am having trouble finding the right balance of good and bad to make them a interesting and sincere character. Advice?


Answer: Bear in mind that an antagonist is not necessarily an evil or an unlikeable person. An antagonist is someone who is opposed to the story goal. Other characters can be evil or unlikeable without being the antagonist.

Also, a character can be moral, well-intentioned, and likeable but still advocate the wrong approach for the current problem. They may be misguided, have a false objective, or have a false grasp of the problem. People can also overvalue ideals or ideology and undervalue the facts of a situation and the real-life impacts of their choices. A person's emotional investment in a belief system can make them fail to recognize that following their beliefs will lead to results that are the opposite of their intentions.

In some cases, people will embrace a belief system that justifies the immoral actions they want to do. The belief system lets them convince themselves and others that they are really good people. An obvious example is Hitler, who on some level believed he was doing the morally right thing with his eugenics program, regardless of the horrific suffering and injustice it caused. If you look around, you can find many other issues today where ideology is used to justify suffering, greed, and injustice.

Getting back to your story, your preacher might be...

* An impact character: someone who forces the main character to re-examine or doubt his/her approach to handling problems by arguing for or providing an example of a different approach. The main character's personal crisis would be the moment when he/she decides whether to stay with his current approach or switch to the impact character's approach.

* A contagonist: someone who tempts the main character to take the easy way out or seek immediate rewards rather than pursue the long-term, big picture rewards. A contagonist can also delay characters by throwing obstacles in their path. Causing an argument between friends might be one way of doing this. Talking them into the wrong course of action would be another.

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