Antagonist=opponent, competitor, enemy, rival
AKA The Villain
He's the monster under your bed, or in your closet, or in your head; the ghost of Christmas past, a disloyal friend, or a stepmother’s wrath; the ghoul chasing your soul, the zombie craving your flesh, the flaming eye, the pie in the sky, and the genie who offers you a wish!
I am currently reading the “Villains” section of SCREENWRITING TRICKS FOR AUTHORS by Alexandra Sokoloff. She does a wonderful job describing the importance of these baddies imperative to any novel. What I found particularly interesting was her suggestion that villains make up half of an entire story’s theme. This makes perfect sense, since theme deals with subtle messages and all those hard choices between good and bad, or in a real tense novel, between bad and worse.
The great Donald Maass, in his book THE BREAKOUT NOVELIST describes the mostly used “Mwoo-ha-ha Villains” as the cardboard variety that never work. He suggests making the antagonist multi-dimensional, so that the reader is swayed in unexpected directions and even accepts the antagonist’s point of view. Writer’s Digest posted a recent article 4 TECHNIQUES FORCREATING BELIEVABLE VILLAINS which uses strategies taken from James Scott Bell’s CONFLICT & SUSPENSE. These strategies also suggest giving the antagonist a sympathy factor in order to lend a powerful current of emotion to the experience.
I’ve been working on the back story of my “villain” and learning all kinds of interesting tidbits to use in my novel. The more I understand the reason for the antagonist’s bad behavior, that more I can “grow” the story and all its juicy conflicts. I feel sorry for my protagonist just thinking about it!