Where’s The Baddie?
“Mommy, this is so cool.” My son says pounding his fist on my knee.
I do my best enthusiastic mommy impersonation and try to move away from the stain. I barely get an inch. This place is a seething mass of miniature Ninja Turtle enthusiasts.
I hunch even more, hoping the three-year-old behind me can see over my head. His mommy looks mean.
What I realised that day was that as beginner writers we often underestimate the power of the antagonist. If you look at any animated kid’s movie by Pixar or Disney, it is bloody scary at times. They don’t hold back on their antagonists and neither should you. Often, when we write for children (and adults) we are worried about scaring them and we decide to leave out an antagonist or create a weak antagonist.
But I want to remind you of the antagonist’s role:
- The antagonist is an opposition character who stands in the way of your protagonist. He or she stops the protagonist from achieving his or her goal. He or she should be as strong as your hero is.
- The antagonist does not have to be evil. Take the book Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney, which is the sweetest picture book ever written. The Big Nutbrown Hare is the Little Nutbrown Hare’s antagonist, because the Little Nutbrown Hare wants to win and the Big Nutbrown Hare trumps him every time.
- Study the antagonists in the books and movies you grew up with, for example, The Gruffalo by Julia Donaldson, Where The Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak. They all have antagonists.
I do believe a story should have inner and outer conflict. You protagonist will always struggle with his own shortcomings. We are own worst enemies, remember, but don’t neglect the outer conflict. Conflict drives fiction. We like it.
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by Mia Botha
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