Feb 17, 2010

Finding the Right Antagonist

My new WIP has a problem. No protagonist. I have the entire book plotted--the whole series actually--but can't figure out what evil force is fighting against the good. Here's the premise:

Since the beginning of creation it has been foretold that a time will come when the earth will weaken and need to be mended. That time has come and there are four chosen to do the task. They are each half human, half earth spirit, each one representing one of earth's elements. Aquatara, the water spirit. Blayze, the fire spirit. Willow, the earth spirit. And Sky (not sure on this name yet), the air spirit. At the end of the series they come together to heal the earth. Their powers will combine to seal it so that the natural destruction that is taking place (earth quakes, volcanoes, etc) will stop and the inhabitants will be safe.

And here is the problem.

I don't think the natural disasters working against them is enough. I feel like there needs to be a stronger force causing these things to happen, an evil force that is working against humanity, trying to destroy the earth for its own purpose. So what is it?

Should the evil forces also be spirits? Maybe the 1/3 that chose Satan in the war of Heaven? When the world was created, were they sealed within the earth's core and they are trying to get out? Or is there a demon on the surface of the earth chasing the element spirits? As much as I struggle NOT to make this about the environment (ozone layer, pollution, etc), I'm sure there may be some of that in here, but I don't want that to be THE force against them.

I also have one more element--a fifth--that I'm weaving into the overall arc of the series, that will be revealed at the end. But it is a good element, something that will make the others' powers stronger and controllable, like the ground wire in an electrical system.

What I really need is a brainstorming session with my writing buddies. So here's your chance to be creative and give me your best. What kind of evil forces can you invent that will fit this story? I can't wait to see what you all come up with.


  1. What about the concept that an evil force has been trapped there? Perhaps if it is too powerful to destroy the world without destroying itself. But if the world should be destroyed by other means, then the prison will be broken and the evil force can wend its way out into the universe.

    The WHY is so important when creating an antagonist. It isn't enough for the bad guys to want to destroy the world, we need to know why or else they just seem random...silly.

    If you go with the twin brother idea you mentioned, jealousy could be the root of it. Perhaps the good brother created the world's spirit essence and the bad brother tried to interfere out of spite. The good brother, seeing how his brother's maliciousness could damage other worlds in their universe, sacrificed the peace and well being of the beautiful world he created in order to trap his brother there. Oh the bittersweetness of the world he created, beauteous in so many ways, but doomed to suffering on account of his brother's striving towards its destruction.

    Of course, this might all seem a bit too reminiscent of Christ and Satan...

  2. I love those ideas Kim. The fifth element has a brother who has just died (or we assume he is dead) and the story begins with him going to CA to bring his widow and young daughter back to live with his family. I've thought about the other brother being a twin and being evil and NOT dead. Still twisting everything around in my tiny little warped brain. I'm having a hard time getting everything to FIT. And like you said, it needs to have a PURPOSE, not just some random thing happening.

  3. This is a tough one, and interestingly enough, this sounds like an elemental story. I'm working on one of those myself. Fortunately, yours sounds vastly different from mine, so I feel safe now.

    The question isn't who is my antagonist, but what is the problem? If you figure out the problem, then you can weave in an antagonist who is associated with the problem.

    Here are some questions I have.
    What can threaten the elements?
    What can be gained by fighting against them?
    What would happen if the elements lost?
    What is the opposite of your protagonists?
    Is there more than one?

    Antagonist are tons of fun to create, but they are tricky. You can't have them be evil just cause. They must have a reason, a valid reason, one that shows the weaknesses that is inherent in everyone.

    I don't know if I'm being helpful or not, but these are the kinds of questions I ask myself. If I can't figure out the problem, then I don't have a story to go on. Approaching cosmic doom is a nice touch.

  4. Evil forces working to destroy humanity are very common in these books with elemental powers. Here are a couple ideas from books I've read that take a slightly different twist.

    In the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson, there are two forces - Ruin and Preservation - that are struggling over influencing their world. The interesting thing is that the bad state of the planet is actually caused by a new mind taking over Preservation's power, and then bungling things up (such as moving the planet too close to the sun) Ruin doesn't intercede until he sees the action would leave a net positive.

    In the Books of Bayern by Shannon Hale, there are girls who learn to "speak" with the various forces of nature. Their main antagonists have been those with the gift of "people-speaking" meaning they can influence people to believe and do whatever they say. These people-speakers then try to take over countries/start wars. This doesn't seem to go with your plot very well, but maybe it could spark something.

    Another idea for the antagonist's goal - he wants to turn the earth into something else, such as a gateway to another dimension, or something on which he can travel to other galaxies (the latter was Sephiroth's goal in FFVII - Advent Children).

  5. GREAT questions David, and they are exactly why I wrote this post. I need to be able to answer all of them. I usually come up with the problem first when creating a story, and then figure out the solution. This story idea happened backwards and it's driving me NUTS. Which is why I've solicited for ideas.

  6. I like the name you picked for the air spirit, but I'd spell it different. Like Skye, or something even more unique.

    As for your antagonist issue, I can see a demon working to destroy the world, to bring an end to humanity. But what I see is he/she works through people. Like an influential steel magnate or the head of an industrial company that wants to build, build, build and to heck with the scars he gives the earth in the meantime. So with each book you could introduce a new "villain" they have to defeat--their goal being polluting the air, or destroying the water or land, etc--and in the final book when the protagonists come together they have to battle the demon unmasked.

    Another thought I had is the antagonists could be the protagonists' twins. Not in the traditional sense, because the evil twin thing has been done a lot, but in the sense that they are also half human, half element beings but their goal is to destroy rather than preserve. But then you kind of have to figure out why they turned rogue.

    With the demon it's easy--the faster the world can be destroyed, the more spirits he'll have in his realm to enslave.

  7. I don't know much about the scope of writing yet, but I had a couple of thoughts reading this:

    Since you have kind of a Jesus vs Satan element, mentioning the 1/3 cast out--it reminded me of the Millennium and how we will bind Satan and his followers so that we won't be tempted by them any more.

    What if you have the twin brother idea, and somehow all of his power is tied up with his followers. He needs them in order to have complete power. Somehow his followers got sealed up. Now they're trying to break out by someone on the surface giving them power by influencing people to do things that will harm others and the environment, etc, making them stronger so that they can break free. (Or have the twin sealed up but his minions cause destruction to free their maker.)

    Or you could go along the lines of the evil ones having the same powers as the good, but they are selfish and try to gain something by causing disasters. Only the special good people you mentioned realize that they are more powerful working together, and in so doing, overcome the evil. Of course I don't know what the fifth element is, but he could have his opposite in the sixth element that is the driving force for those others.

    Kind of reminds me of the Wheel of Time concept, the Seals on the Dark One's prison breaking free.

    I hope all this makes some sense, I'm just rambling here.

  8. Well geez. Are you gonna pay us? I don't come cheap, ya know ;)

    Uhh, turns out I don't have anything to add. These people are a lot smarter than me and I have to leave because I'm too intimidated. You can pay them, what you would have paid me.

    That's a lot, right?

  9. what if three of the elements had to combine against the fourth? What if fire decided it was unappreciated and wanted to take over the earth? Think about a wildfire - though it does a good thing for the earth, no one appreciates the destruction it wreaks. Water has always been pittd against it - and usually wins.

    What if Water was an arrogant jerk? (we do have to give our good guys foibles, too, right?) with a superiority complex and fire decided it had had enough?

    Earth is replenished by fire, so what if earth took fire's side, while Air would be fire's natural enemy since fire consumes it in the burning... hmmm...

    hey, this is getting good... I just might use this myself.... :)

  10. Thanks for all your wonderful ideas, guys. Now it's my turn to get to work and get the thing written.

  11. How about the force of darkness itself?

    It looks like you have lots of good advice here so I won't dilute it with my rambling. Congratulations on all the work with the WIP