Red fox here in Alabama.
As many writers and teachers of writers have emphatically stated: The plot of the novel hinges upon conflict. The protagonist desires “something,” and our hero’s attempt to acquire that “something” is made difficult by the antagonist: a man, a woman, the government, a dragon, a storm, the police, the military, the mafia, booze, sex, Republicans…the list goes on and on.
So we have the necessity of opposition that often takes shape as: villain. I pose the question: How villainous must our villain be? I’m currently working on a novel…into the second year…. but never mind that. I am trying my best to create the “flawed antagonist.” But isn’t that redundant? Well maybe not.
Bad people usually, not always, see themselves as “good people.” This statement introduces a host of questions. Who is bad? Who is good? Can a bad person do a truly good thing? Or can a genuinely bad person be genuinely good? We’ve now entered the realm of philosophy. What is good? What is bad? Who defines? Is Ignorance evil or bliss?
I don’t believe we as writers need to sit down and write treatise after treatise on the nature of good and evil, but I do believe that we must seriously think about the nature of the “bad” guy. It’s something like Michelangelo studying the muscles of human cadavers in order to draw perfectly the muscles of living persons. What indeed is going on in the mind of the villain?
We speak of the hero being flawed. For instance, the hero is quick to anger. Or she drinks too much. Or he cheats and lies. All of these flaws are representations of bad behavior, a la evil.
So then what about the antagonist? In other words, can the antagonist be a flawed villain? I don’t mean a villain who doesn’t drink or cheat or lie, or has a bum knee, but rather a villain who is intrinsically good.
I like the idea. What do you think?