6 / 7 / 8
from the List of 13 Bits of Advice to Start Writing Your Book
You can’t have a wonderful protagonist unless you have a twisty wicked antagonist. This is the key to the Start Writing 3 blog.
When a former student recently asked for advice on how to start writing his first novel, he shared the cranial bone of his idea which gave a strong hint about his central antagonist. I’ll share the bit of bone here, since many stories, including the recent Hunger Games series and the 1970’s Logan’s Run, are built on the same brain bone.
BTW, that’s the reason ideas cannot be copyrighted, only the form that your idea takes through the words you put on the page. When someone steals your words, word after word after word, page by page, scene by scene, then that’s breaking copyright . . . and you can go get them!
So, in the bits of advice for him that I’m sharing with you in Start Writing 3, the conflict characters come after the primary characters.
6] Your antagonist sounds like the institution running the supposedly Utopian society, which means you have a masked dystopia—always fun to write the dawning realization by the protagonist who then must convince the allies of the dystopia and rally them and others to fight!
Side Excursion to Logan’s Run
a. Logan’s Run does this exceptionally well. As flawed as the film of the novel is, the film did an excellent job of shocking the audience with the switch from Utopia to Dystopia.
b. Along with the protagonist, the reader has a double -surprise following that realization followed by a second double-surprise with the protagonist’s allies. Then comes the quadruple-obstacle of escaping the dystopia—problem, problem, problem, problem—and still the writer is not finished with surprises. Escape only starts up a whole new set of shocks.
c. If you want to understand surprising the audience, you need to study Logan’s Run.
- The film is highly dated and chauvinistic and therefore offensive to modern sensibilities.
- If you want to see how much society has changed in less than 50 years, the film is the exemplar as a product of its time and the patriarchal mindset, to be much derided now–but fun to watch and point out the changed way of thinking while throwing popcorn at the screen.
- However, it’s also a well-written story with constant movement that gets the necessary surprises right.
7] Besides this major antagonist, you will need minor antagonists more “local” than the mastermind. Make each antagonist more difficult to defeat as the story progresses.
8] Defeating the institution will seem impossible—defeating each antagonist should give a key to unlock the walls guarding the institution.
Be careful as you consider this blog’s three bits of advice. They may seem simple; they’re not. Many great writers have whole novels fall apart when they haven’t created strong antagonists. And the weaker the antagonist, the weaker your protagonist.
Surprises keep stories moving and readers reading. When you can tie multiple surprises to your antagonists, you have great story telling.
Understanding Protagonists and Antagonists and developing great characters is the focus of my writing craft book, Discovering Your Characters, second in the Discovering set and all part of the Think Like a Pro Writer series.
Discovering Your Novel goes far beyond characters and the initial start to your writing. From World Building and Character Motifs, to the Big Push of the Draft, and on to the Proof-Plus before publication, this will guide you through your first year of writing AND completing your first novel.
Completing the Novel is HUGE, BTW.