what’s the word of the month, and do ya need it in your manuscript?
(Not the actual word, but what it stands for.) (Well, do ya?—Yep, I’ve
added another “bracket line” to my repertoire. Gotta keep things fresh.
. . .) As ya might’ve guessed from the title, our word is antagonist.
Antagonist: 1. a
person who is opposed to, struggles against, or competes with another;
2. opponent; adversary. the adversary of the hero or protagonist of a
drama or other literary work: lago is the antagonist of
There you have it. Two examples.
(Have I hit 700 words yet? Guess not. Sigh.) I suppose I could’ve given
ya three examples, but somehow a drug that binds to a cell
receptor without eliciting a biological response, blocking binding of
substances that could elicit such responses didn’t seem to
fit the circumstances.
Most writers have an antagonist
in their manuscript to create conflict and because they know readers
want someone to hate. (Nasty business, hating. I’ve decided to ditch it
altogether.) Who better than a character who does everything within his
or her power to stop the protagonist? (Sorry, but
you’ll haveta wait for next month’s column for that word. I thought
this word would be more fun. Ah, of course, protagonist
is a great word as well, so make sure y’all read my column next month.
. . .)
Taking two lines from the
acclaimed motion picture Pretty Woman, the Italian
gal says, “Do ya have a goal? Ya gotta have a goal.” (Of course, her
friend’s goal had been to star in the Ice Capades, and she ended up as
a hooker—am I allowed to use that term? Anyway, all ended well, because
the Italian gal moved on to Beauty School. Sometimes I think she made a
better choice than I did. . . .)
Well, our antagonist has a goal:
to keep our protagonist from achieving his/her goal. But that rarely
happens in the books I read. Why can’t the antagonist win? Why can’t
he/she grind the protag into the ground with his/her boot heel?
(Sorry.) Doesn’t happen often in the movies I see, either. (I can’t
remember the last time I actually had time to go to a movie, but I
recall seeing one that had a chariot race. Never did figure out why
they called a dude named “Ben” a “Hur.” Oh well.) Anyway, our
antagonist works against our hero/heroine, usually making him/her (the
antagonist, that is) the bad guy . . . or gal. (This political
correctness is annoying, so I’m going with the male gender from now on.
Oh, the power.)
fallacy. I mean, that the antagonist is a “bad guy.” (Unless I’m
the protagonist. Sorry.) Nope. That’s not what the definition reads.
Just ’cause a character opposes the hero doesn’t make
(Here’s the part where I’m supposed to give you a literary example to
back up my claim. Uhm, can I say I decided to wait for the movie . . .
?) Okay, fine. How about the whale in Moby Dick.
Can ya blame him? Here comes some dude encroachin’ in his
ocean, and the guy has a harpoon! (I’d like to know where Greenpeace
was when that whale sorely needed them.) Can anyone blame the whale? I
can’t. I know, I know. Captain
Ahab could be considered the
antagonist in that book, seein’ as his vendetta caused the death of
every sailor aboard the vessel, except the guy whom the author made
sure got rescued, ’cause someone had to narrate the story, right? (Ugh.
Don’t like that, but I don’t expect much from an author with two first
names. So, sue me.) To me the whale wasn’t the bad guy, he just didn’t
like the captain’s goal. In fact, mayhap the whale is the protagonist
and the captain is the antagonist. The creature simply had the goal to
live, and Captain Ahab wanted to make candles outta him.
Where were we? Oh, yeah, my
column. We’ve established an antagonist is a character who messes with
our protagonist, that he often doesn’t succeed, and that opposing the
protagonist doesn’t necessarily make him a villain. What else is there?
Since I’m at 707 words: nothin’.
Until next month, miss me.