The Many Layered Antagonist

Now with television references!

As a participant of The Great Blogging Experiment (you should read the experiment name in a loud announcer voice), I'm supposed to talk about creating compelling characters.

The most important thing to remember is that your characters can't be one dimensional. They all need to have some depth that helps them be relatable to the reader. Yes, even the spare change guy that tips off your hero in Chapter 3.

Of course, not all the characters you come up with will have the same level of depth. The bigger the character, the more levels they should have. For me, the most compelling characters are always the antagonist of a story. This is because as a writer, we're trying to justify why the antagonist* is an ass.

Almost by definition, antagonists have to be multi-faceted. After some thinking, all adversaries should have the following 4 levels of characterization.

Surface Level. This what we see from jump. They're snarky, malicious, and lie all the time, shove you in a locker. They're bad ass and, in real life, we'd avoid them at all costs. Think Spike in early Buffy.

Intelligence Level. Almost always, the antagonist is clever, even if not smart. If not, then you're dealing with Jessie and James from Team Rocket. If the reader and the antagonist think the same, the humanizing process begins.

Mr. Softie Level. Just like your protagonist should have that streak that's less-than-honorable, your antagonist should have something that softens them up instead. This is another way to show how no matter how shitty of a person they are, they still feel something. Dr. Claw did have a cat.

Justification Level. This is the final part of the character puzzle the reader and your protagonist sees. It's a slow process that, as writers, we try to craft from page 1, aka The Why Of It All. What happened to them that taunt your protagonist's *insert deep meaningful relationship tie here* every possible minute. The justification doesn't have to make logical sense, but your antagonist needs to believe it. The backbone to The Why Of It All usually ends up being A Great Hurt that a reader can relate to. They were betrayed by their mother; the Fates decided to fuck around again; the girlfriend screwed with their head too many times; or Serena gets all the attention and I mean ALL.

What other layers should your antagonist have?

* Antagonist in this case is being used in villain terms only.
_______ hit of the day:  You by Candlebox

REMINDER: Music Month is still happening for two more weeks. The best comment of the week gets a mix CD.