Driving the Plot – Protagonist Vs. Antagonist

Writing a Novel involves a plethora of events. The planning, the voice, the plot, the characters etc., all play a major role in deciding how the novel will be at the end. Will it be liked by the readers or dropped by them?

Writers today may seem to follow the strategy of writing what the readers want to read but there is something which is lost by them in the entire process – their own voice.

No matter what the readers and the writers feel about the novel, characters actually drive the story from the beginning until the end.

Characters are the ones with whom the reader connects. Depending on the genre, the two types of characters are the Protagonist and the Antagonist. I have read hundreds and thousands of books. The plot, the storyline, twists and turns are all dependants on how the characters are carried forward in the book.



Letting the Protagonist drive the plot – Will that is a good move:

The protagonist is the one who takes the events in a positive direction. The Protagonist is the primary character whose story is actually being told. The Protagonist can be seen as the primary character who is all set to achieve a goal.

The main thing that every story out there has and what makes it an intriguing read is ‘conflict’. Without conflict, the story is not a story at all! Every person out there in the living world is struggling with many things in order to fulfill the goals and live a life.

The novel consists of three main parts – the beginning, the middle part, and the ending. Out of all three, the middle part is the most challenging to write. The reason is that it has the maximum content and it plays a vital role in keeping the readers hooked to the story.

If the protagonist is allowed to drive the plot, everything that will be happening will turn out to be in his or her favor. The whole idea of the conflict would be deemed as useless. Protagonist driving the plot would be something like winning a race with your own self. But there are exceptions to the rule…

When it is a good idea to let the protagonist drive the plot?

There are numerous books like Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn, And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie and many more in which the Protagonist plays the Negative role! The two sides of the same coin are also the same.  

This situation can be the grounds of playing the Ace card, letting the protagonist drive the plot. The bad side to it is that the story could end up being a cliché too!

Creating the Antagonist –

The antagonist is the guy who stands in opposition to your primary character, the Protagonist. The Antagonist should be developed such that he or she is complex and compelling. The readers’ attention will be riveted to the antagonist’s journey.

However, the primary conflict that is the root of the story shouldn’t be ignored. The conflict part should be given more consideration than focusing on the character’s journey alone.

One thing to be taken as a rule, in general, is that the Antagonist is the protagonist of his or her own story. The antagonist is in the belief that they are not doing anything wrong or in opposition to what the main character or the protagonist is doing. One thing to be noted here is that Antagonist need not necessarily a “Bad Guy”.

Protagonist and Antagonist fight for the same goal:

One thing that supersedes the conflict is that the two important characters of the story share the same common goal. The classic character archetype can be seen in the movie The Dark knight. Out of all the Superheroes, Batman is somewhat still my all-time favorite superheroes.

The Dark Knight had two primary Villains, The Joker, excellently performed by the late Heath Ledger, and Two-Face, played by Aaron Eckhart. For our example, we will consider only Joker at the moment.

The main protagonist of the story, Batman is fighting to free Gotham City from corruption. Every action he takes is driven by this goal.

Joker, on the other hand, is also fighting for a goal. Every action he takes is driven by his goad. Any guesses what his goal was?

A Gotham City free of corruption.

The conclusion here is that Batman and the Joker are fighting for the same thing!

The story needs to be written with extreme caution in this scenario. Either the end goal of the Antagonist shouldn’t be revealed to keep the intrigue or if the end goal is revealed, the actions that the Antagonist does should be opposite of the goal he or she is trying to achieve.

Protagonist vs Antagonist:

The two characters should be placed in opposition to keep the conflict going on. Now, their goals can be in opposition with each other or their perspectives of achieving the goal should be in opposition to each other.

A story still can’t be complete if the conflict isn’t resolved. This takes us to the thought of letting the Antagonist drive the plot.

Letting the Antagonist drive the plot:

Unlike the protagonist, the Antagonist’s thought process while writing the story will be more intriguing both while writing and while reading.

If as a writer, you ever get stuck at some point in the story, rather than thinking like the Protagonist, think like the Antagonist. What he will do if he gets stuck at that point?

You will straightaway get the answer of where the story should go next. As a reader also, the intrigue, suspense, the thrill is there as the readers are more inclined towards the Villains actions than the Hero’s.

Another important benefit of letting the Antagonist drive the plot is to see the fun part of how the Protagonist will make in order to oppose the moves of his counterpart.

Each and every move will bring both of the Protagonist and the Antagonist closer together towards the climax.

Summarizing the points, if it gets harder for you to come up with what your protagonist is doing or should do. Maybe the Antagonist’s actions will help you in figuring out the actions of the Protagonist and what he or she should be doing to beat the Antagonist. In this way, the middle part will be written automatically. If not, at least you will have that direction in which your story is going.

Who according to you should drive the plot, Protagonist or the Antagonist?

The story was first featured in Storizen Magazine April 2019 Issue.


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