I can't really discover who my antagonist is?

by Marija
(Frankfurt, Germany )

Question: Well, so I am writing a novel (Genre: Fantasy/Magic) about an older Brother (Let's call him John) who wants to bring his little brother "back to life" because he fell into an deep sleep and can't wake up.(kinda like in the sleeping beauty)

In order to do that, he needs a human (let's call him Rick) who will function as a vessel for the brothers spirit.

The older Brother, John, is my Protagonist (He's the one who keeps the story going) and Rick, who has to be the vessel, is my main character. (He's the one whom the readers are supposed to relate to). There is just a big problem because, if the younger brother is getting into Rick's body, Rick himself is going to die.

Now I have a problem to choose the "villain" or antagonist of the story.

Because my Protagonist is not evil at all, he just wants to save his family and is ready to do everything to reach his goal, even if that means taking someone's life.

And Rick the main character doesn't want to die so he's not ready to help John. But as the story proceeds they get to know each other and get into an love-hate relationship, so that at the end, John cares about Rick's upcoming death, but getting his brother back is still more important to him.

As you see I really can't say who the villain is. I really tried to use some tips from your awesome site but every time I get some useful information, I also get to the point where I finally have to decide who my antagonist is.

So the Story goal is to save the younger brother. But Rick and some other people are kinda trying to act against that, does that make them the bad guys?

I really hope you can help me with this! And Thank you for everything you were already helping me with my novel a lot!

Answer: I think part of your difficulty here stems from the fact that you have not really thought through the moral issues of the story.

Keep in mind that every "villain" in real life and in stories thinks their actions are right and justified -- or at least finds some way to rationalize them -- even if they are completely immoral.

Can you really
say that John "is not evil at all, he just wants to save his family"? Maybe that's how he sees it. But killing someone against their will is an immoral deed, even if it is done to save someone else's life.

If Rick wanted to sacrifice himself to save John's brother, that would be morally commendable, but that's not the case you describe.

The fact that Rick is the main character compounds the problem. If the reader sees the story from Rick's point of view, then John would obviously be a villain for wanting to take Rick's life.

The other thing that I think is giving you difficulty is that John is the protagonist. There are stories in which the villain is the protagonist (the character pursuing the goal) and the hero is the antagonist trying to stop them. Because the story is told from the hero's point of view, this fact is often missed.

For example, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Voldemort is the protagonist pursuing the goal of obtaining the Philosopher's stone. Harry is essentially the antagonist trying to prevent this goal from being achieved. In many James Bond films, the villain (e.g. Blofeld) is the protagonist, pursuing some nefarious goal while Bond is the antagonist trying to stop him.

Generally in these stories, the villain is thwarted, which makes them tragi-comedies. They are "tragic" because the goal is not achieved but "comic" because the main character has a good ending.

On the other hand... it is possible to make John a good guy rather than the villain, if that's what you want to do. Here are the steps I think you might consider taking to achieve this...

1. John must not want to take Rick's life against his will. (Even if he does want this at first, his opinion must change as their friendship forms.) You could even have a moment where Rick volunteers to sacrifice himself, but John finds another option.

2. You might consider creating another villain -- possibly someone who caused the brother to fall into the coma in the first place. This would be the adversary John and Rick must confront at the climax.

3. Even if Rick is host to the brother's consciousness, the heroes must make it their mission to find a way to save both Rick and the brother.

Best of luck.

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