How to keep my villian's status as the main antagonist clear?
Ok, so, here is the premise for my story... Young man (yes, man, not boy) who is training to become a great warrior, is suddenly orphaned after his family is killed by a dragon. The dragons had gradually been growing in strength and numbers, and now it appears they are strong enough to not only kill his father (a world-renowned dragonslayer), but also destroy the world. So this man must go find a way to kill the dragons, not only for revenge, but to ultimately prevent the rest of the world from suffering the same fate his family did.
But, here is the thing: it seems to me that this main protagonist is going to have to have some opposition on his quest to stop the dragons, so I decided that there is actually a powerful evil being who is calling the shots for the dragons, and HE is actually responsible for the death of the man's family, and soon to be responsible for the destruction of humanity.
So this evil being is going to be working mostly behind the scenes, until the climax, where he fights the protagonist once and for all. So, how do I convey to the audience that this guy is the main villain? Will they already assume that he is the top dog, because he said so? Or should I make this evil guy do more "evil-guy" things, like physically and avidly try to stop the protagonist? Or should he have a "henchman" who does it for him? I really hate the corny-ness of evil henchman, but I feel like if I make the evil-guy be on the foreground of the operation, it will seem like he isn't the MAIN villain, and that the main villain is actually the collective, destructive power of the dragons.
But that brings up the other thing I was wondering. Would it work if the "main antagonist" wasn't a single man, but was the impending doom that is the dragons? And maybe this evil man calling the shots is more of a secondary antagonist, who prepares the way for the dragons: the main antagonist. But the whole reason I included this evil-man as the one in charge of the dragons was to give the protagonist a more human feeling of revenge, because it seems like a man killing his family hold more weight than a powerful animal killing his family.
So, basically, my question is: How do I give my main character a strong antagonist that can provide him with a route to channel his revenge toward, and also someone who can oppose him in his quest?
Obviously you will need to choose
who is really in charge of this evil campaign: the dragons or the human who seems to be working with them.
But here's something to consider...
Dramatica points out that sometimes there is...
1. The symptom: what appears to be the problem.
2. The response: what the hero does to combat the symptom.
3. The problem: the real, underlying problem that's causing the symptom.
4. The solution: what will lay the real problem to rest.
For instance, in your story, the dragon killing the young man's father could be an illustration of the symptom -- that the dragons are becoming emboldened and more threatening. His response is therefore to embark on a quest to stop the dragons.
However, it may be that the real problem is the evil guy who is breeding or empowering or egging on the dragons in order to achieve his own ends (perhaps weaken the human society so they'll make him leader, or so they'll be ripe for takeover, etc.) The real solution, which the hero may only discover at the climax is to defeat the evil guy.
To play fair with the reader, you would need to create some mystery (perhaps hide the villain's actions so we see only the results of what he does, but not that he is the cause). At the same time, you would provide some clues as to what's really going on. For instance, someone could point out that the dragons don't typically behave this way, or that certain people in the past had the ability to control the dragons, etc. The trick is put all the evidence in place, but not draw attention to it, and to put in plenty of red herrings to draw the reader off the scent.
Your henchman could be a red herring. For instance, if some clues point to a human controller the henchman could seem like an obvious suspect. However, he could turn out to be just a Contagonist (someone who delays the hero or tempts him to abandon his quest).
Only at the climax will the hero discover or deduce that the evil guy is actually the one controlling the dragons.
You will have to figure out why the evil guy has a presence in the story all along, while appearing innocent.
Of course, you could also do the reverse: make it look like the evil guy is the real villain and the one who killed the father, but have him actually turn out to be the puppet of an intelligent dragon. In that case, the red herrings will make him look like the villain, while the clues actually add up to the dragon as villain.
Hope that helps.