Writer's Corner
How to Create an Antagonist or Villain

Guest Post by

Lilac Mills

I’ve been asked about how I go about building my antagonist or villain. And at first I thought “but neither And a Sixpence for Luck nor Elephant and Pinky Moon has an antagonist. But then I realized –  there’s always an antagonist, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be another character, either

Okay, let me explain what I mean. Take my latest novel, And a Sixpence for Luck. There is no one person who prevents Daisy getting what she wants, or what she deserves. There is no one standing in her way, or threatening her, or making her goals difficult. If there has to be a person, you could probably say that Daisy herself is her own worst enemy. She jumps to conclusions, doesn’t think things through, or else overthinks them.

Or maybe the sixpence itself could be seen as a false antagonist. Or luck, even.

The same goes for Elephant and Pinky Moon. Nina’s introversion causes her as much of a problem as a real antagonist would, as does her lack of belief in herself.

Neither Daisy nor Nina needed anyone to thwart them – their own personalities did the job without any external help. And how they react to the situations they find themselves, and how they learn from it in order to grow and develop as characters is what makes both ladies believable (hopefully!).

Neither character is wholly based on people I know, but rather they are based on personality types, and I’ve stolen bits and pieces from various people I’ve encountered in my life, to build up the picture of each one.

I did the same with Neil, though he is a very real and rather nasty antagonist in Under the Cherry Tree. I’ve encountered people like him in my life, but again, he’s constructed out of several moving parts and not from one person. I actually really enjoyed writing his character. This time, because he is an external factor and not simply part of the main character’s make-up, I could go to town on just how nasty and repulsive I wanted him to be, without having to temper his personality.

I’m looking forward to having more real life antagonists in the future, because they’re simply so much fun to write.

However, a lack of an actual real-life antagonist is common in chick lit, where the issue is often the main character’s view on love, life, marriage, etc, or the way they react to certain situations, and this can cause as much trouble for them as a jealous ex, or an evil potential mother-in-law, or the friend who ends up being the exact opposite. And I believe this speaks to us on a deeper level than outward appearances might lead us to believe, as we can relate to those insecurities, and this is what makes chick lit such a moreish genre!

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