I readily admit it: I have a hard time scheming. I am not a girl for intrigue. I could never hurt someone intentionally. And that makes it a bit more difficult for me to develop a credible antagonist.
Yet the antagonist carries the story for a large part. He or she (or even it!) creates the obstacles for our heroes, the challenges they need to grow into their heroism. We need antagonists in our stories, badly.
So we should pay at least as much attention to them as our heroes. Give your antagonist the same job interview. Create backstory for them. Make them believable and give them a clear motivation and goal. I mean, they are not just dumbly focused on gaining world domination – unless you live in comic world, and probably not even there. Antagonist simply means one who acts against the goals of our hero. And possibly it all depends on perspective.
Here’s more from a psychological point of view: Most criminals never believe they are evil or wrong. They simply do “what they have to do”, in order to survive or live the way they want or have what they want to own. Nobody revels in being evil. The clinical definition of a psychopath is someone who can turn off empathy. That’s all.
And here’s a great blog article about writing antagonists: 6 Ways to Write Better Bad Guys
Even so, those antagonists are still a bit of a problem for me. You see, right now, I’m tempted to write a dragon tale. I have a girl and two dragons who said “hi”. But I lack both a goal for them and obstacles for them. This tale definitely needs some more thought – and more people. I want good dragons and bad dragons. Good people and bad people. Motivation for all of them. Possibly war, intrigue (eeek!) and love affairs.
Yes, the most basic motivations are food, shelter and sex. Might go along those lines, might want something more interesting. That’s why I’d love your suggestions in comments. Who knows, maybe you’ll be mentioned in the credits!