Does every story need antagonist?

by Ell

Question: If I have a problem to solve and the hero has already enough obstacles, do I still need a bad guy?


Answer: Not every antagonist is human. Sometimes Nature can be the antagonist. Society, a supernatural force, an animal, or a machine can be the antagonist.

Even a human antagonist doesn't have to be an evil person. He or she could oppose the protagonist with all the best intentions, or simply have a different agenda that is incompatible with the protagonist's aim. Sometimes too, different characters can take on the role of antagonist at different points in a novel.

All that matters is you have an entity that opposes or seeks to prevent the Story Goal from being achieved.

My guess is that your antagonist is somewhere in that list of obstacles you've created. But you'll know if you need an additional antagonist if the story goal will seem too easily achieved.

Without an adequate antagonist, there's often little to stop the goal being achieved in the first chapter. Or the goal may seem so easy that the hero's success is no big deal.

Readers enjoy stories about characters who must face tough problems, and antagonists are there to make the problem tough.

So, no, you don't need a comic-book style villain to be the antagonist. A guy in a black cape and long moustache hatching evil plans would be out of place in many novels.

You just need to make sure the protagonist has a big enough problem to tackle.

Comments for Does every story need antagonist?

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Nov 12, 2018
wait...
by: Anonymous

so if you write a book about a guy making a sandwich no one will like it but if you make the same book but add traffic and closing stores and anything else you can think of people will like it

Nov 12, 2018
to Anonymous
by: Glen

Not exactly. You can't just add random obstacles and call them the antagonist.

First you have to know what the protagonist's goal is. What he trying to accomplish by making a sandwich no one will like? What problem does that solve? Why does it matter?

For instance, is he trying to get fired so he can start following his dream of a different career? Is he wanting revenge on the restaurant owner? Is he hoping to ruin a gangster's lunch in order to provoke a fight?

Once you know what his objective is, you can create an antagonist who is opposed to this goal.

For instance, let's say your protagonist wants to get fired. But he has a boss who refuses to fire him. Instead, the boss wants to train the protagonist to be a proper chef. So no matter how bad a sandwich the protagonist makes, the boss sees it as a learning opportunity and hovers over him, making sure his next sandwich is terrific.

Or maybe the boss is the protagonist's father who keeps arguing that the protagonist should give up his dream of a different career and spend his life running the restaurant.

See, only if you have a meaningful goal can you have a proper antagonist.

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