Recently I read a really interesting post at Heather Alexander’s blog, Interrobangs. Titled “Antagonists Need Love Too,” Alexander wrote about being as nurturing and in-depth in the creation of your antagonist as you are with your protagonist. The reason for this is that she sees to many ho-hum flat antagonists in middle grade fiction. They are bullies who bully for the sake of bullying. They have no back story. They have no justification for their actions.
The techniques she recommends will help you create not only viable antagonists but also living, breating secondary characters. Alexander asks writers to create back stories, to give non-human characters human trains, to show what they like, show where “bad” characters went bad, and show how the character is similar to your protagonist, give the history of their connection.
But there is one more thing I’d like to challenge you to do. Develop the connection between yourself and the character. In short, how is this character like you? What does she feel that you feel? Want that you want? Believe that you believe? Develop these connections because these quantities, known to you, will help the character feel genuine.
Personally, this can be a lot of fun because it gives you the opportunity to act out through your characters in ways that you, as a human being, would not normally do. In one fantasy that I wrote, I wrote a protagonist who is a misunderstood youngest child. I’ve never been the youngest child. In fact, I’m the oldest. But I know what its like to be misunderstood.
It was easy enough, in writing the antagonist, to write from the perspective of an oldest child. After all, I know what that feels like.
In creating this character relatioship, I drew on what I knew for both characters. After reading my first several chapters, several people commented that I had very clearly shown how I felt as a youngest child. I didn’t correct them. I just took the compliment and smiled. I had created a character the reader could believe.