So it begins.
October is upon us. Aside from being one of my favourite months, this is the last countdown until the beginning of NaNoWriMo. One month left to do all the planning and research you’ve been meaning to. And then it’s time to climb in the ring and go thirty rounds with your story. You’ll both be pretty punch-drunk by the end, but with any luck, someone will be getting their hand raised.
To that end, for this month, all my Monday Challenges will be related to things I’m considering about my own upcoming novel project. These are questions that I’m asking myself, stuff that I think I should know before starting. So, aside from being a writing prompt, this is also a behind-the-scenes look at my creative process. Be warned that it’s pretty fucking messy back here. Mind where you step.
One of the things I like* most about this story is the antagonist. God help me, I do love a good bad guy. And he is bad. He wasn’t born that way, of course, but his life and his choices have brought him to this stage. And now he’s ready to do whatever he has to to achieve his goal.
That’s the thing about bad guys, in my view. That’s the reason I tend to enjoy writing them: they want it. Whatever it is—power, money, prestige, freedom, love, whatever—they want it, and they have reached a point where nothing will stand in their way. The wanting is stronger than anything else. You might hate them, you might want them to die horribly, but, god damn it, they have conviction. It’s mesmerizing, in its own way. It pulls you in.
If you’re writing an antagonist, you’ve got to give them that resolve. Whatever they want is usually opposed to what the protagonist wants. And since that conflict is one of the primary movers of the story, it’s got to be a good one. The antagonist has to really want their outcome. The protagonist must be in serious danger of not achieving their goal because the antagonist wants their goal so badly. It has become their driving force, their reason for existence.
So, my question, for you and for myself, is what would it take it take to make the antagonist turn away from it?
Now, I’m not saying it’ll be easy. I can feel my antagonist giving me a look inside my head, like he’s thinking, The fuck did you just say? But if he’s a person and not an automaton**, then there has to be a sequence of events that would lead to him changing his mind. It doesn’t have to be likely, it doesn’t have to be possible, but it has to exist.
So what would change your antagonist’s mind? A pardon for crimes committed? The death of the person she holds responsible the situation? A boatload of money? Write that sequence, either as a scene or just as character notes. Consider how they could change. It doesn’t have to be for the better; they might create something worse. But what change could there be that would alter their current situation, and therefore their motivation?
In the case of my lad, I already know what would change his mind: love. I hesitate to say it, because it seems trite, but if a very specific person asked him, there’s a chance he’d stop. But she won’t ask.
So it’s probably going to be death. And that is not going to be easy.
*Probably not the right word, since he’s a dyed-in-the-wool bastard, but it’s the best I’ve got.
**If he is an automaton, then you’ve got a whole other set of plot questions.