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Why Must You Embrace Your Antagonists?

Updated: 7 days ago

Upon hearing about my upcoming weekend intensive, Embracing Your Villains, one of my students said "I'm afraid you're going to make me love my Antagonist". After a bit of a chuckle my response was that "you don't have to love them. But you do have to understand them. Because you can't write what you don't/won't understand".

But this brings up a bigger question about storytelling in general and why it's so important to embrace our Antagonists? The answer is: because, in any story, it's the Antagonists that are required to do a tremendous amount of the heavy lifting to make sure the story is great. Therefore they must be well developed.

If your Antagonists are not complex enough, annoying enough, powerful enough, or in some cases, diabolical enough, then they will fail to offer the proper buyable resistance your Protagonist needs. They won't deliver that special brand of push and pull, between protagonist and antagonist, that gives your story its spark. The more challenging that battle of competing needs, the more exciting the story becomes.

But again, you can't write what you won't understand. And so, like it or not, as writers there's no getting around the need to challenge ourselves to get inside the minds of our Antagonists, to get present to their needs and allow them be fully and unapologetically who they are, for whatever their "reasons". No matter how awful those reasons might be.

As a coach, I empathize with why writers have resistance to this part of the process. It can be quite pokey depending on how personal the story is you're telling. Who wants to understand what essentially might be their own bully? It can hit too close to home.

But there's no reason this has to suck. In fact, this is why I ended up creating my new 8 part intensive, Embracing The Villains, because I wanted to help make this part of the character development process as entertaining and painless as possible. To help writers laugh and nurture each other through it, while still ensuring they don't shy away from the depth needed to do their story justice.

If you feel inspired to do this important work, and you'd like some support to make sure you dive in deep, consider joining us as we work through all 8 parts of this intensive in a live virtual retreat this weekend (May 17th- 18th).

The weekend will consist of a fun mix of listening to prompts and enjoying solo writing time, and then popping in on Zoom calls to share in the camaraderie with your fellow writers. All you have to do is sign up HERE

Or if you can't make it this weekend, but still want access to the prompts, you can buy them HERE

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