The Ultimate Face Switch – Hero or Villain?

What happens when Protagonist is the Antagonist?

Building a story plot is can be a daunting task for some writers but excitement for others! While reading the works of one of my favorite authors Sidney Sheldon, I was just lost in the plot. I simply wondered, how does this guy do it?

Authors have the special edge of seeing the story from an entirely different angle. The perception which follows the intuition gives an extra spark to the story. I came up with a topic that was lurking in my mind for two weeks now. I was wondering, what would happen if the protagonist is also the antagonist? I have written few points from my observations. It will definitely help you in creating your plot.

The Conflict

We all know that the protagonist and antagonist are dealing with some sort of conflict. If there is no conflict, then the plot becomes bland. There is something for which the protagonist is looking.

The goals of the story which the protagonist sets for himself must be met. The conflict is created by the antagonist(s) of the story so that the protagonist doesn’t get there.


But what happens when the protagonist is the antagonist? The hero of the story is the villain himself. It can happen in any of these cases –

  • The conflict is with his inner self
  • In the case of a Psychological Thriller (personality flaw)
  • When there is no one to oppose them
  • When the protagonist is plain wrong or evil   

Whatever the case may be, the conflict has to be there in order to give a direction to the story. In the case of many movies as well, there are several instances when we see that the good guy is also the bad guy.

One of the movies I can think of is American Psycho, a psychological thriller where the protagonist and the antagonist are both played the same person.

The Timing

Be it a novel, a short story, or a movie, the timing plays an important role when it comes to the flow of the events. The situations, the chain of events, the roles, everything should be done at proper timing.

But when it comes to the case of when the protagonist is the antagonist, the game becomes slightly more complicated. Though it will look similar to the normal story while writing, care has to be taken that the bad guy is also the good guy.

The events have to be jotted down under the bad and good columns and the roles of the character have to be well defined while writing the story. This would help to prevent any conflicts from building up in the writer’s mind.


Also, the revelations have to be made at the proper timing. Whether to reveal the true nature of the character is in the hands of the author, but if it’s done it should be done at a right time.

The Perspective

While writing my stories be it a romance or thriller/suspense genre, I make the perspective clear. Whether the story has to be revealed to the other characters or to the readers, I write down the story accordingly.

Usually, I keep the readers hooked by dramatizing the plot. The readers know the true nature of the main character, but the other characters struggle with the plot, unaware of the upcoming twists.

This makes the readers attached to the characters or as they follow the plot. They empathize, sympathize with them, they laugh with them, they cry with them!

Another way round, the characters know what’s going on but the readers are unaware of the story buildup. It has to be hidden from the readers by impeccably devising the plot and must be revealed at the proper time (usually towards the end).

The perspective is to be cleared a the beginning to make sure that the story goes well with the flow and preventing the writer’s block.

Fighting Writer’s Block

Whether it’s true or not, I have felt it sometimes. Sometimes it’s just a mere feeling of boredom from doing all the mundane stuff daily, sometimes it’s a serious issue. I remember myself not writing for 3 months straight.

My take on writer’s block is listening to some soothing music, change the pattern of the work you are doing, start reading something new, watch new movies or a web series. You can try out other things also like working out (walking/running helps). The point is to give your mind a fresh new environment.

The writer’s block might happen while writing a story in which the protagonist is the antagonist. The mind will become saturated with the ideas of how the character will behave and when.

The simple rule of thumb is to jot down the ideas and make your mind clutter-free. this will help you in finalizing the story in a well-structured way.

The Final Roundup

As the good guy is also the bad guy, the plot should end on a moral. Whether the character is fighting with his own inner self, or with nature, there should be a message for the readers.

In a psychological thriller, for example, the main character either dies or is caught up by the police and thrown into a prison or a mental asylum. Seldom the case can be that the character is smart and gets away with his wits.


Both the scenarios provide a message. The idea is to keep the storytelling aspect smooth for the readers so that they don’t get confused or get a feeling of being cheated.

The actions, behaviors, events should be justified to the readers. Avoid creating clichés.

It might be a tough one, but can be exciting one too! I focus on the latter as I write the story.

This was my take on the topic. Do share your take on the subject and how you write your story where the bad guy and the good guy are the same!

Useful Articles to help you sketch out the perfect characters –

Building a Character – The Journey and the Process

Illuminating the Characters – Building the Character Sketch

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