The Multi-Layered Antagonist
When sitting down to design your characters it’s easy to get wrapped up in your protagonist(s). They’re the good guys, the heroes of your story, and it’s fun to beat them up, and then watch them rise above to overcome the bad guy. What folks forget, though is that your hero is only as good as the adversary he goes up against. Don’t neglect your antagonist.
When I say don’t neglect the antagonist, I don’t mean to simply make them vile and powerful. It’s all too easy to have Reginald the Rapacious wipe out a village or two as a means of establishing his villainy, and leave it at that. Yuck.
A complex, multi-layered antagonist is much more interesting, and will serve to bring the overall quality of your story up. Heck, your antagonist might not even be a bad person. She might be fully convinced that Kingdom XYZ is responsible for murdering her son as a means of undermining her rule and putting the royal lineage in jeopardy. She may respond in a brutal manner, and use inappropriate force against people who had nothing to do with the murder, but in her heart she believes she’s doing the right thing to protect her people and avenge her child. That makes for a much more complex and compelling story than Bart the Bloated who kills because he’s evil <insert mustache twirling here>.
That last sentence really is the crux of the matter. Too many stories, too of them fantasy, take the stance that individuals, even entire races of rational beings, are inherently evil. There can be cultural differences that cause so much strife between peoples that they each view each other as evil or corrupt. An investigation of these differences can make for a great story. But to simply label someone as irredeemably evil (and knows it) is the cheap way out.
For an excellent view of how to handle this sort of situation, I recommend Brandon Sanderson’s ‘Warbreaker’. It does an excellent job of exploring two lands with differing religious belief systems, and how they see one another. Joe Abercrombie, in his book ‘The Heroes’, does an outstanding job of showing the conflict between the Viking-like barbarians of the north and the expansionist Empire. Both groups contain good and bad individuals, but both believe they’re cause is just.
In the end the main goal is to make your antagonists as interesting to read as your protagonists. You don’t want people skipping through the chapters featuring your villain because they’re so flat and unimaginative it’s obvious their only purpose is to serve as a mirror for your good guy’s ‘goodness’.
Have fun with your bad guys, and your readers will too.
Exile’s Gamble Excerpt
Even before they rounded the last corner, the screams from the throne room battered at Renoir. The elves ahead of him increased their speed, but anything less than a sprint the priest judged as too slow. He chafed at his position at the back of the group. His imagination tore at him, filling him with an urgency he’d never felt on a battlefield before. “Too slow,” he hissed.
“We grow careless, we die,” Tyan said. “We die, we don’t save anyone.”
Harry spat a glob of something onto the wall. “You point-ears take your time with everything. Old age will drop the priest and me before any demon sinks its claws in us.”
At the head of the party shouts and bright lights filled the hall. Lord Icewind and Lady Swiftbrook engaged the enemy. A wave of chill air, mixed with hair-raising electricity blew over Renoir. Then flames lit up the way ahead and a blowback of heat burned the human’s cheeks. The pace increased.
I’m coming, Tarako.
Exile’s Gamble Synopsis
The demon possessed army of King Oblund has been crushed but at great cost. The people of Teresland, betrayed by their king, face a winter without leadership, manpower or food. The elves, unwilling regents of this devastated human kingdom, struggle with understanding a people foreign and hostile toward them.
Now, the demons which destroyed Second Home have scented the vulnerability of Teresland and set out to draw the elves into more conflict. Conflict which they cannot ignore but are ill-prepared to face. With Lord W’rath trapped within his own mind, comatose, the elves must prepare for battle without his strength.
Raven, restless to prove herself, decides on a reckless plan, one which could either provide the elves with a new weapon, or doom her and W’rath both.
Exile’s Redemption Blurb
After four hundred years, isolated from the rest of the world, the Elven Nation has finally reestablished a presence on the mainland of Allasea. With their return, the elves have built the city of Second Home, a place of learning, open to all who would come to study. For Raven, a young Shadow Elf historian, and one of the few elves born on the mainland, it’s an opportunity for her to research the truth about the first child born to the elves, Umbral K’hul, a god-like boy whose attempted patricide and subsequent banishment triggered a civil war that fractured the Elven Nation. A more sinister presence sees the elves’ return as a chance to strike, filling the beautiful city with an army of chaos and death. But along with the demons, strides another: after ten thousand years of exile, Umbral K’hul has escaped his prison. Now, the elves’ greatest pariah and an untested heroine must face an enemy bent on genocide. In the process they will discover secrets their people have kept since the elves established First Home. Secrets which could prove even more devastating than the demons.
Not entirely sure why you’re reading this, my books are far more entertaining, but since you’ve bothered to pop over I suppose I ought to have the decency to tell you a little about myself. I’ve done many things over the years, including daring the horrors of IT for over 24 years. At the moment I’m reinventing myself (i.e. retraining) as an accountant. I know, that sounds terribly dull, but it is a profession in demand pretty much everywhere, so I can live where I wish and not have to worry about keeping a roof over my head. Of course, there is more to me than that. I’ve worked with digital art since 2004, and have gotten to the point I am able to occasionally sell said art (sometimes to myself – see my cover). Photoshop is heavily involved in that area as well.
Oh, and yes, I write. It’s nearly a given these days, isn’t it? As of July 26th, 2014, I am officially a published author, with my book, “Exile’s Redemption” available at Amazon in Kindle and Trade Paperback formats. I’m working on the sequel, and hope to have it out before folks have forgotten what happened in the first book. I live with five cats, four Siamese and one horrified orange tabby. I live in the desert but hope to relocate to the Pacific Northwest after I finish my current studies.