Craft post today, Squiders.
Protagonist, antagonist. Self-explanatory, right?
Well, to some extent, yes. But let’s talk nuances.
Your protagonist is the main driving character of your story. It is the person whose dilemma we care about the most. In most cases, this is the main, viewpoint character but not always. (A “main” character may play a narrator or sidekick role instead.)
Additionally, scenes and subplots can have a different protagonist from the overall work.
In simple terms, the protagonist is the person trying to accomplish something in any particular scene, plot, or work. In more general terms, the protagonist is usually the main character, the one who readers identify with and stay with throughout the story.
An antagonist, by definition, is someone or something that stops or tries to prevent the protagonist from getting what they want. In many cases, especially in a clear good vs evil plot, this tends to be what is referred to in the writing world as a Big Bad. (Or maybe it’s a TVTrope that we writers have just stolen. I am unsure.) The Voldemort to Harry Potter, the Empire to the Rebel Alliance, the Maleficent to whichever prince it is, the Ganondorf to Link–you get the point.
But ANYONE who acts in opposition to the protagonist is an antagonist. To continue with the Harry Potter example, because that’s probably the most univeral, both Snape and Draco would be considered antagonists as well. But so could Hermione in some cases.
Have I lost you?
There’s places in the narrative throughout the series where Harry (our protagonist) wants to do something, and Hermione actively tries to stop him from doing whatever it is. Since she’s acting in opposition, she counts as an antagonist in those scenes.
Protagonist and antagonist are highly subjective and depend on the point of view. Flip viewpoint character in a scene and who’s the protagonist and who’s the antagonist can swap.
And an antagonist doesn’t need to be a person. It can be an object, a force of nature, even a character’s own thoughts and feelings. Whatever is preventing the main character from getting what they want counts.
But almost everything will have both, in some form. Because without both, you lose conflict, and without conflict, a story isn’t interesting.
Know any really interesting interpretations of protagonists and antagonists, Squiders? Share them with the class.