Antagonist... who is not really an antagonist

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Question: Ok, after this rather confusing title, let me explain to you: My main character's objective is to defeat a terrible man, a dictator that rules her country, since all he did was evil and cruel to the people of her country. She is actually his daughter, but she never had a conversation with him except for one in the beginning when he tried to control her mind (yeah, some of my characters have powers). However, since he is her father and she ends up knowing a lot about his past through her uncles, the pictures of him and his old diaries, she kind of knows who he used to be.

He acts like a psychopath, and the characters often hear stories about innocent people who were killed by people under his orders, or even by him. So, the main character and her friends have no doubt he is a terrible man who needs to be stopped.

Now, finally the real question, that is related to the title.

His mind is actually being controlled. He is actually a pawn that, due to his extremely advanced powers, got controlled by an even bigger group of enemies. So I want the first book to end when he dies and the main character actually finds out there is a bigger obstacle, a bigger threat behind the guy she always thought was the enemy, but was actually a good person. But... it sounds just... bad. It sounds sudden, like an idea that fell out of nowhere to make the main character's life terrible. It feels... like there needs to be more to it. Finally, my question: how should I reveal this plot twist in a more normal way? Like, when the reader sees this moment, he/she thinks "aha! It all makes sense now!", instead of thinking "ugh, what a lame plot twist, not gonna read the next book."

Answer: I think the solution is to not make the idea fall out of nowhere, but to foreshadow it. This is tricky to do, but you need to insert tiny clues throughout the story -- clues that do not draw attention to themselves when introduced, but which the reader can look back at the end of the story and see how they all add up to the truth.

Something else to consider is whether the main character's goal is really to depose her father or to understand why he is doing the things he is doing, to resolve the contradictions between his current behaviour and the man he used to be. (In other words, is deposing him simply a way to get to the truth?) But that might be too obvious.

You may need to surround the main character with others who have different opinions regarding her father, so that it becomes a dilemma of whose opinion to trust. Someone who looks like they don't know what they're talking about could turn out to be partially correct.

Another approach is to ask yourself what the real antagonist is doing at each point in the story. You create mystery when characters react to things, but the reader doesn't get to see what they're reacting to. In other words, you hide the villain's activities, but not their effects. The reader will expect/hope to have everything explained in the end. Then, when you present your solution that explains everything, it doesn't seem like it comes out of nowhere but has been there all along, just behind the curtain.

Best of luck.

Comments for Antagonist... who is not really an antagonist

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Feb 22, 2016
by: Anonymous

Thank you. I just didn't understand what you meant by "You create mystery when characters react to things, but the reader doesn't get to see what they're reacting to." What characters, the villains or the good ones? Can you give me an example of that kind of situation?
My biggest problem with revealing plot twists is that I'm afraid I might sound too obvious. Guess it's something people learn with experience, right?

Feb 23, 2016
by: Glen

Well, the most obvious example would be if the father does something that doesn't make sense because he is being controlled by someone with a different agenda. But the reader doesn't see the order being given.

Or perhaps someone does something because they are being blackmailed, but they can't tell anyone, so their actions seem odd or hostile.

Perhaps a friend suddenly becomes cold and distant for reasons he won't disclose.

Perhaps someone quits their job, or leaves town, or a judge gives an unusual verdict, but gives no explanation.

Perhaps a particular law is passed and the politicians tell the public serves a good purpose, but it actually helps a villain who bribed the politicians to get the bill passed.

Imagine the story world is like a chess board. The villain keeps making moves to further his goals, but the characters (especially the main character) only see the pieces move. They don't know who's moving them. They don't know what the goal is, until the very end.

Feb 23, 2016
Thank you!
by: Anonymous

I didnt really expect to have so many examples, thanks a lot! I really appreciated your help!

Jul 07, 2016
by: Anonymous

This sounds like a really cool idea

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