I read a book.
When I turned the last page I felt sick to my stomach. Because for the first time I didn’t connect with the main character, but the “villain”.
And this “villain” was stereotyped to the worst degree. And it just got worse with each chapter I finished. And three months later, I still can’t think about the book without feeling a little sick. Yes. The book stuck with me. But for all the wrong reasons.
But it made me think about antagonists. I love the villain character. Especially when they are done well.
The antagonist needs to have a story, a life, a history, his/her own goals, motivations, struggles, faults, strengths – all the aspects of a protagonist. I love reading a book where I can have empathy for the villain. I see a vulnerable side, a look into his/her past, and I feel compassion. I might still be rooting for the main character but I understand the villain. And I understand why he turned out “evil”.
For example, Severus Snape. Snape is my main man. He is an example of a well-crafted villain. I loved his character. Especially in the Half Blood Prince where we see how horrible Harry’s dad treated Snape. I felt compassion. He lost the girl. He got picked on. I don’t blame him for turning out the way he did. And so, I liked him.
So, going back to the book I read. I wonder how much more powerful the story could have been if the antagonists in the story were three dimensional. If they weren’t stereotyped, but shown as real people, struggling and making wrong decisions like everyone else. I think the story would have rocked.
Do you put as much time into developing your antagonist as you do your protagonist? What do you think?