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Heroes Community > Tavern of the Rising Sun > Thread: What makes a good antagonist in a story?
Thread: What makes a good antagonist in a story?
TDL
TDL


Honorable
Supreme Hero
The weak suffer. I endure.
posted July 24, 2015 01:49 AM

What makes a good antagonist in a story?

Pretty self-explanatory, I would love to know what you think. No specific reason.
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friendofgunnar
friendofgunnar


Honorable
Legendary Hero
able to speed up time
posted July 24, 2015 03:24 AM

believability, in both motivations and abilities.  That's the only thing that's necessary really.

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blizzardboy
blizzardboy


Honorable
Undefeatable Hero
posted July 24, 2015 05:46 AM
Edited by blizzardboy at 05:47, 24 Jul 2015.

This wouldn't apply to every antagonist, but generally speaking, the kind that makes the audience hate to love them and love to hate them.

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Zenofex
Zenofex


Responsible
Legendary Hero
Kreegan-atheist
posted July 24, 2015 08:22 AM

A well-made antagonist is much harder to create than a well-made protagonist because he or she is the person who should stand against what you consider right but should not look artificial or superficial. You may dislike him/her or downright hate him/her but he/she should also make you respect him/her and make the protagonist(s) sweat, bleed, suffer and even die before he/she's ultimately defeated. Without a good antagonist, the protagonist is just a shallow, pompous prick standing in the spotlight for no apparent reason. When the adversary is intelligent, competent, resourceful and motivated, the hero also becomes far more interesting, as long as the plot does not twist in a ridiculous way just to achieve some result.

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PandaTar
PandaTar


Responsible
Supreme Hero
Celestial Heavens Mascot
posted July 24, 2015 09:28 AM

I like when the antagonist, in spite of all things already said here, have a very solid background, a fair universe entwined with the protagonist universe, the living purpose, touchable. I'm an amateur writer and it's really amusing writing the antagonist side. Mainly because you don't want to reveal too much just yet, and preparing plot twists are always a bonus during the process. But I believe it's harder and even more interesting reading a story where's there's not right or wrong, or good or evil. You have THIS and THAT, and you may as well choose what to cheer for.
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artu
artu


Promising
Undefeatable Hero
My BS sensor is tingling again
posted July 24, 2015 04:45 PM

I also prefer fiction where the line between good and bad isnt always so clear, most of the time, a black and white world is a shallow one. (Still, Darth Vader rules.)

That being said, we can take the meaning of the word a little broader. Is Captain Ahab really such a bad guy? Don Barzini is not more or less guilty than Don Corleone. Javert is a man of duty, whose obsession with Jean Valjean is, in his opinion, totally justified and for the better of the public. Yet, all of these characters are clearly placed as the antagonist in the structure of the story. So, in that sense, I think the most important thing for the antagonist is to be convincing. Convincing both as in "yes, I believe a character would do this in such a situation" as oppossed to a cartoon of evil, and as in "well, he seems to have an interesting argument after all." Also, a charismatic antagonist is a big bonus for any story, even though it isnt always a necessity.
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TDL
TDL


Honorable
Supreme Hero
The weak suffer. I endure.
posted July 24, 2015 04:51 PM

Is it possible to have a big baddy and not have it be a two-dimensional character? If the author insists he is the most evil being in the universe or repeatedly shows he is, even with all the believable backstory and entanglements with the protagonist, would it still be possible to have him be a good antagonist?

I've been reviewing some games to decide which of those had good antagonists and some critics have rightfully said that in games such as Skyrim and Dragon Age Inquisition, the antagonist falls short overall...
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PandaTar
PandaTar


Responsible
Supreme Hero
Celestial Heavens Mascot
posted July 24, 2015 05:16 PM

I think one of the reasons one can judge if it's a good antagonist is the appeal and understanding for one's own reason to be that way. If we can understand (not actually sympathize, but 'get' the feeling), it's a bit more in the path to become good. Somewhere in the tale, this comprehension should arise, imho.
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Science isn't about WHY. It's about WHY NOT.

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kiryu133
kiryu133


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Legendary Hero
Highly illogical
posted July 24, 2015 05:26 PM

Depends what kind of bad guy you want. Skyrim falls short since Alduin spends the entire game doing snow all for example. Sure, he's "the end times" and all that jazz. He's a force-type villain. They don't need personality or development as long as they are at least threatening or imposing. Alduin is neither since, well, he doesn't do Jack snow the entire game. Being a force of destruction means you need to actually be that force. Meeting Alduin is just sort of on the to-do list.

I like Corypheus, though It's clear he didn't receive as much attention as he might have needed to truly be great. I guess he just misses some personality or something: a villain that gets as much screentime and dialogue with the hero can't be left with just "powers". There needs to be some sort of investment to build. Basically, Corypheus would've been better if he didn't show up or talked as much (Which is strange since the dialogue was still good).

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TDL
TDL


Honorable
Supreme Hero
The weak suffer. I endure.
posted July 24, 2015 06:28 PM
Edited by TDL at 18:30, 24 Jul 2015.

I suggest you read this piece on him (the article). I absolutely agree with the writer's view on Cory, with the issues concerning writing and the like, the two-dimensional dialogue and his failures. He looked menacing, he looked threatening, the backstory sort of was there, but never prevalent throughout the whole series. I liked him, but he was too much of a klutz.

(also, i'd rather avoid spoiling too much about the game to those who haven't played it so i'd rather not talk about some other characters who are important and better written than him)

However, if I am ever to stand in their stead, I would have done him differently. And this is why I want people's opinions on how they'd imagine a good antagonist. Because people are usually so involved in their idea that they fail to hear the voice of reason telling them they should fix/polish some things and probably this is what happened to bioware's writers.
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Tsar-Ivor
Tsar-Ivor


Promising
Legendary Hero
Scourge of God
posted July 24, 2015 08:14 PM
Edited by Tsar-Ivor at 20:16, 24 Jul 2015.

Quote:
I've been reviewing some games to decide which of those had good antagonists and some critics have rightfully said that in games such as Skyrim and Dragon Age Inquisition, the antagonist falls short overall...


I think what they did in DA: O was pretty smart, having 2 antagonists, one was the generic "evil" there to destroy everything, and the other is one who is an obstacle to the protagonist and hounds him/her throughout the game, that was well done imho, the latter I actually desired to fight, while the former is just "there" as a sort of boogymen that I'm supposed to dislike/oppose cause I'm told to.

I think a good antagonist need not be hated, nor be some extreme anti-hero, extremes of all forms have to be avoided. I agree with blitz, an antagonist should be someone we hate to love, and love to hate, I mean a perfect character would be Griffith from Berserk, or Soo-won from Yona of the Dawn. The latter especially, since he takes the throne after murdering the king, but he's still a decent person and makes for a fine king, while the protagonist is a princess on a quest for revenge/finding herself et cetera. Or Sion from  Densetsu no Yūsha no Densetsu, much akin to Griffith in Berserk, he's generally a likeable character that comes to a choice between his friend(s) and his dream.

I like antagonists with humanity, one's if I were in their shoes I'd probably make the same choice type of peeps.
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Gold is for the mistress -- silver for the maid --
Copper for the craftsman cunning at his trade."
"Good!" said the Baron, sitting in his hall,
"But Iron -- Cold Iron -- is master of them all."

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kiryu133
kiryu133


Responsible
Legendary Hero
Highly illogical
posted July 24, 2015 08:42 PM

What makes a good antagonist varies greatly depending on the type of antagonist it is. One of my favourites are the Tyranids from Warhammer 40k and they have no personality nor an interesting motif: They're just an unending swarm of pure hunger and presented in a way to truly bring the horror that kind of thing is. They don't have dialogue, development or even personality. They're nothing but an unending wave of teeth and claws looking to devour everything. They can not be reasoned with nor contacted. They're an unstoppable force and these kind of antagonists can be just as interesting as the most well-developed, sympathetic person you can get.

speaking of which, Wind Waker Ganondorf is another favourite of mine. He showed up in OoT as little more than "the bad guy" but In Wind Waker? We got to see why he is a terrible man and even see him in somewhat of a sympathetic light. He's still absolutely terrible (and terrifying) but we understand him at the same time.

so yeah, what others have said about standard villains: give 'em just as much, if not more, development/depth as the main characters but don't be afraid of more abstract antagonists without a clear shape/individual.  

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Zenofex
Zenofex


Responsible
Legendary Hero
Kreegan-atheist
posted July 24, 2015 09:31 PM

I think I should retro-advertise this.

There could be many types of antagonists, true enough, but in order to have quality behind each one of them, they need, at the very least, to challenge you somehow. An unstoppable force with no "individualism" can have no less personality than a fully developed character with psychological and emotional background and evolution, all depends on how it is presented. If the protagonists are driven beyond their limits in an attempt to stop something that tramples everything on its way with primal brute force and even then fail, the despair that this something inspires alone gives it partial personality, although indirectly. This alone is no material for a deep, human-like antagonist, however it is enough to inspire strong, genuine feelings (fear, hate, etc.) and that's still quite an achievement.

The "grey" characters are neither protagonists, nor antagonists. The writer, director or whatever can make them more or less likeable but if their behaviour and background are explained well-enough, the audience should refrain from passing judgement. The notorious Star Trek: Nemesis presents this quite well - what would the goodish Jean-Luc Picard be at present if his past was not so bright?

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EnergyZ
EnergyZ


Legendary Hero
President of MM Wiki
posted July 24, 2015 10:52 PM

Has there ever been a game in which the character you play is actually the antagonist rather than protagonist?

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Gryphs
Gryphs


Supreme Hero
The Clever Title
posted July 24, 2015 10:56 PM

If you play around with the original Dark Souls lore you might be.
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TDL
TDL


Honorable
Supreme Hero
The weak suffer. I endure.
posted July 24, 2015 11:22 PM

Planescape Torment rings a bell.
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kiryu133
kiryu133


Responsible
Legendary Hero
Highly illogical
posted July 24, 2015 11:23 PM

No, but there are plenty where you play as the villain. Pro-tagonist is the character the story follows/is about. The one you root for so to speak while the An-tagonist is the one who serves as hindrance or creates the conflict. Naturally most protagonists are heroes but not necessarily.

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fred79
fred79


Responsible
Undefeatable Hero
posted July 25, 2015 01:16 PM

i almost always root for the antagonists in movies/books; does that make them my protagonist? can i redefine a word simply by what it means to me?

i say, yes. just because a word/idea was created by someone else, doesn't mean i can't bend it to my own will. my good guys, are most people's bad guys; at least in movies/books. real life is somewhat different.

or maybe i should just stop hoping that horror movies/books will cross over into the romantic comedy genre, and create well-deserved bloodbaths of epic proportion?

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