‘Bad guys’ make any piece of fiction great. Without a ‘bad guy’ there’s no conflict. Now don’t get me wrong, the ‘bad guy’ could be your main character and anti-hero, but either way they need to be interesting. And they need to be someone that people can connect to.
Here are three things to keep in mind when developing your antagonist:
1. Make them relatable.
Making your antagonist human is probably the best thing you can do for your story. If the audience can relate to your ‘bad guy’ and even gain an understanding of ‘why’ they’re doing what they’re doing, then you’ve succeeded.
Think of all the movies, TV shows and books that you’ve ever loved and I guarantee that a part of that love comes from the fact that the antagonist was relatable. It’s usually when a character is so far extreme with no reasoning behind their bad behavior that a story falls apart.
2. Give them some meat.
Sometimes it’s easy to get so wrapped up in your hero’s story that the ‘bad guy’ ends up being a two-dimensional shell. Give them a meaty past and backstory, put as much time in developing your antagonist as you do in your protagonist. I guarantee just by digging in deep and truly figuring out your ‘bad guy’s’ motivations will lead to great things not just in your plot, but in the interactions between your characters as well.
This one might be a bit controversial and, I admit, it’s a personal pet peeve of mine, so please excuse my ranting!
3. Be sparing with the vices.
This goes for ‘good guys’ too! Why oh why does anyone think that by giving a character some kind of addiction this constitutes depth? I hate to break it to you, but not all characters with personal demons have addictive personalities! It’s a writing crutch. And it’s cliché! I cringe every time I read a book, or watch a TV show or see a movie where the character is addicted to drugs, or smokes, or has a gambling habit. OMG! Just stop! It’s not interesting, it’s not new, it’s tired and over-played. If you want to give a ‘bad guy’ or even a ‘good guy’ personal demons, then give them depth in their back story, or in their actions, not in a writing device. It’s lazy, so stop it!
Unless your story is actually about addiction, or people with vices, it has no place in any other kind of story.
Hope this helps! And here’s to making good ‘bad guys’ great! (Like Mayor Wilkins!)
I'm a writer of YA fiction, fiction, comics, television and movies. I try to make all my stories full of jumbly goodness :-)