True antagonist

by Alisa

Question: It doesn't seem like a it wouldn't work out, but I wanted to ask just in case.

My main question - Is it okay to have more than one antagonist. I'd think there is supposed to be one main antagonist, and I have one, but he isn't known to be it until almost the very end of the novel. There are several people that get in the main female character's way, before she gets in contact with the true antagonist. The Story Goal is that she needs to get home.

Just to give information, I always have a female main character, but she almost always has a male main character by her side that acts as a kind of guardian or friend (sometimes even as just a jerk). Is it okay if the male character, who is not the antagonist, is a natural villain at heart?

He has a slight justification for his job and personality, so that in itself seems fine. It's just that he's on the side of law that another antagonist-type character is on (though they hate each other). He is even one of the people who get in the female character's way of completing her goal. He physically does not allow her to go home, but he also influences her in a way that he creates an inner conflict for her about whether or not she even wants to go home.

I think I asked that in an alright way ^^;

Thank you for listening~!

Answer: It sounds as though the male companion is both the Impact character (creating inner conflict) and somewhat of a Contagonist (whose function is to delay and tempt). Rule of thumb (though not hardfast) is that whenever you have a male/female team where one is the main character, the other is usually the impact character.

As for the antagonist issue... the general principle is that the antagonist's function (to prevent/avoid the story goal) should not be filled by more than one character at the same time. But there are ways to work around this principle.

Sometimes you have a hand-off situation. For instance, if the antagonist dies, his function may be picked up by a new villain. Other times, you may have a group that collectively functions as one antagonist (e.g. the Borg on Star Trek - before the Borg Queen was introduced). There are times when an antagonist is absent but acts through a surrogate. For instance, Darth Maul in Star Wars serves just as an extension of the real villain, Darth Sidious. Some apparent villains are actually contagonists.

And some characters take on the antagonist role in the absence of the real antagonist. For instance, in Harry Potter all the various Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers and Draco seem to end up delaying, attacking, or otherwise working against Harry (even Lupin), but only when the real antagonist, Voldemort, is not around.

Short answer: yes, you can have more than one antagonist, but just not at the same time.

Comments for True antagonist

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Oct 08, 2012
by: Anonymous

Thank you so much! You answered my question perfectly~

Oct 08, 2012
by: Alisa

Thank you so much! You answered my question perfectly~

Jan 08, 2014
by: Anonymous

I'm writing an historical novel about Jesus and there are multiple Antagonists along the course of His life (different men or groups of men) as well as an Impact Character (Lucifer). It is kind of hard because Lucifer fights with Jesus BOTH as an Antagonist and an Impact Character. I think I have rectified this by making Jesus the Main Character and His Inner Voice/Scripture/God the Protagonist.

It seems like I remember reading that to fully develop both the story goal conflict and the point of view conflict that the Impact Character shouldn't be the same as the Antagonist if the Main Character is the same as the Protagonist (and vice versa).

At any rate, your description of Antagonists here was helpful. Thanks.

Jan 08, 2014
by: Glen

The advantage of separating the Antagonist and the Impact Character is that is allows the Main Character to change without becoming like the villain.

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