Creating an Antagonist that Works

Lately I’ve been thinking about antagonists because one project stands between me and getting back to my middle grade science fiction novel. One of the problems that I’ve identified is my villain/antagonist.  I say villain/antagonist because in the original outline he is a first class villain.  He’s bad through and through and doesn’t give a rat’s rear who knows it.

The problem is that he’s also the stepfather.  My concern was that I had created a play on the stereotypic evil step-mother.  So I played around and came up with a slightly different version. Unfortunately, I think he’s too sympathetic.  With this version I don’t have an atagonist standing against my protagonist.  I have a misunderstanding.

What I need is a compelling, dark villain.  I need a Loki.  I adore Loki and why came together as I read Gillian Bronte Adams’ post.

She reminded me of one of my favorite sayings, a saying I didn’t even know was a Tom Hiddleston quote. “Every villain is a hero in his own mind.”

I have to come up with a motive that sets the stepfather against my protagonist.  It can’t be a dippy, shallow mustache-twirling motive.  It has to be rock solid.  That doesn’t mean that it can’t be a stupid adult motive — the kind of thing that is perfectly logical if not compassionate.  But it has to make sense.  It has to be the kind of thing he could defend even if his stepdaughter things it is wicked in the extreme.

The final nudge from Adams’ is to give the antagonist humanizing details. As she points out, Captian Barbosa in Pirates of the Caribbean has the apple he holds in his hand.  He longs for it but he can’t truly taste it or be satisfied it.  Yet he holds on to it.

I’m not sure what this detail will be for the step father. The big problem with that is that, in this version, he is largely off screen.  We don’t see him except through the words of the protagonist.  That might have to change so that I can work in those human details.

Off to mull over solutions to my ho-hum lackluster antagonist.