IWSG: Antagonism


It’s June and the first Wednesday of June and that means it is time to post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where once a month we get together to share our insecurities, our successes, and generally help share the burden of the writing life.

This past month has been a bit crazy. I had a recurrence of poison ivy while trying to weed, which has started to make me feel like I’m at war with my yard – and my yard may be winning. This past weekend I had a migraine while watching this experimental art house film. I had to leave and sit down for a minute while my eyes stopped seeing weird things in the corner. Seriously freaky. Life is hard sometimes.

At this moment in my writing life, I’m fleshing out character development for my antagonists in particular. I struggle with writing about evil, real evil. I keep wanting to pretty it up, to save the bad guy from him (or her)self. Not in a cool, antihero way either. In a Care Bear, let’s all hug away the bad guy’s secret pain sort of way.

I think my watered down conflict is an extension of my own insecurity, a tendency to want to avoid conflict at all costs. Maybe I need to dig deep and not be afraid of the worst that could happen. That sounds so scary though. Why can’t we all just get along? Like how Sherlock and Moriarty hug it out in the end – all the way to the bottom of Reichenbach Falls, right?? Right… 🙂

How do you deal with conflict in your writing? What kind of conflict makes for a good book? Can you think of your favorite literary villain? What makes that villain really work? How does their story end – or how do you picture it ending?

Happy IWSG Day!

19 thoughts on “IWSG: Antagonism

  1. I think I would struggle to write truly evil characters or really terrible conflict. I hadn’t really thought about why that’s the case until I read your post. I don’t like conflict in real life, so maybe it’s related to that. Something interesting to ponder this morning over coffee 🙂

  2. I am continually trying to up the conflict in my books. It’s probably my biggest challenge. I just read a wonderful young adult contemporary that could be seen as light and fluffy, but the conflict was so great! There were actual stakes for each step in the character journey–if she didn’t do XYZ, then actual, tangible things would go wrong and people would be hurt. It was a great lesson to see that even light reads need real stakes.

    Goal, Set, Check! Setting SMART goals

    1. Thanks Stephanie, that’s a good tip that I think goes along with your blog post too in a way. Definitely measurable goals and steps. Hm! Will have to think about that.

  3. Conflict is never easy, in life or writing. Having never met someone who was either all good or evil, I can’t write antagonists who don’t have some redeeming quality. They still act badly, and push the plot along, but I never let them be perpetually “bad.” That feels false to me.

    Good luck!

  4. I’m very conflict-averse in real life, so writing conflict has always been difficult for me, too. But the antagonist in my current story has some redeeming qualities, but….he’s basically a snake. So I’m trying to write him as the weak, shallow snake that he is.

  5. There are moments when people offend me. I want to stand up for mankind or the underdog and I feel righteous. Since I won’t dare go face to face, I write what I’d say to them. I don’t hold back on paper. The best part is I save it for when I need an evil doer. Then I pretend the offensive person is the good guy and away I go. 🙂

    Anna from elements of emaginette

  6. I can’t write truly evil. My villains think they are heroes, that they are right. Just in a warped way of thinking.

  7. I like antiheroes and villains who have some redeeming quality. It’s hard for me to write characters who are truly evil with no redeeming qualities because I can’t stomach that much evil. It makes me sick.

    1. Thanks Lori. I know what you mean and I think that’s why it is so hard and something I avoid – but then my chars need a real conflict, so maybe that little grain of goodness is the key.

  8. I have the same problem, Anne, writing antagonists. I had my baddie being kind of hunky and badass in a cool way at first, until my critique peeps pointed out he was more likeable than the hero. So I had to do some serious backtracking to bring him round and to pep my hero up!

  9. Who said that “every villain is the hero in their own story”? I love that. Ever since hearing it, I try to incorporate that in my writing some how. Bad guys are never just bad (not normally). They have reasons. They see something totally different than the hero.

    But I LOVE writing villains. I don’t know… they seem more fun. Like they’re done for anything.

    Good luck!

  10. I’m not too good with villains either, which is annoying because antagonists are often one of my favorite things in fiction. So far, the best I have are a pair of antiheroes who pick whichever side benefits them most, and a manipulative traitor that’s intended to be hate-able.

  11. I think I’m in the same boat as you, Anne.
    I’m a peacemaker who tends to avoid conflict. I haven’t written anything pure evil.
    Why can’t we all just get along? I agree. 🙂

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