The Evilness of Opposition

by Britney

Hey there!

I've been working hard over the past weeks to build the foundation on which my plot will be built. I have solid ideas, but several holes I'm filling in. The biggest eye-sore of everything I have so far is the lack of an evil/antagonist/opposition/etc.

Basically, I'm a happy go-lucky person trying to concoct the all-so-necessary "evil" to my story... and I can't for the life of me figure it out.

Any tips? How do I - someone who lives with so much happiness, goodness, and positivity - find a route into the darker side of life to create a believable evil?

Any advice or thought would be much appreciated.

Response: First, remember that evil villains seldom think they are evil, except perhaps in two-dimensional stories. Villains always think they are doing the right thing.

Hitler, the KKK, and Osama bin Laden all believe/believed they were fighting for a noble purpose. Similarly, any free market capitalist will tell you how right they are to pursue greed and self-interest above all, even though for thousands of years that has been the very definition of evil.

My point is not to take sides politically, but just to point out that it is human nature to want to see oneself as good, to rationalize one's actions as good. No one says, "I am evil. Yeah me!"

The thing to do is look at your Story Goal, the main objective your protagonist is trying to achieve, the big problem he is
trying to solve that will impact your story world. Then ask yourself who might be against this goal. Look for someone who sees the solution as something to be avoided.

Give your antagonist a strong reason to be against the goal. Maybe it goes against his self-interest. (This works well if you want the reader to see your antagonist as evil.) However, your villain may not be evil and selfish at heart. He may just be wrong in his assessment of the situation. He may be trying to do what he really thinks is in everyone's best interest, even though it isn't. Or the Goal might simply be threatening his values or beliefs and he doesn't want to give them up for emotional reasons.

Sometimes people have experiences that teach them to see the world a certain way. But what works in one situation may not work in others. Nonetheless, people cling to what has worked before.

In some situations, a person who is rigid or authoritarian could stand in the way of the right solution. In other situations, someone who is happy-go-lucky could be on the wrong side. Every approach is right sometimes and wrong other times. As the writer, you determine the right solution for your story. Your villain has the opposite opinion.

To put it another way, it's differences of opinion that make for conflict. You have to put yourself in the shoes of all your characters, even those you would never agree with in real life.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.