Posted by: victanguera | April 30, 2010

Writing Prompt #177

In comics, the bad guy is evil, down right nasty. In Urban Fantasy, you often find the same kind of treatment of the antagonist. They are almost like a prototype rather than anything we’d see in an actual person.

I wonder if a writer could get away with creating such an evil person in something like contemporary woman’s fiction. In a number of the books I’ve read, the antagonist isn’t even a person but a set of circumstances that prevent the main character from achieving their goal.

Let’s say you have two people with different goals. How do you determine who has the better goal. Is one person self-serving and arrogant? Does (s)he perceive him or herself that way? Probably not. Most likely, they’d be pretty offended if you pointed it out to them. Or is their selfish behaviour only the perception of another person because their own goals are thwarted?

So for today’s prompt, what makes an antagonist? Write a scene where it isn’t necessarily clear who the antagonist is. You might have to work very hard to create reader sympathy for one character over another.


  1. I think some of the problem in UF is that many series give magic an moral dimension. If you do X, it’s black or evil magic. Anyone who does X, regardless of goals, becomes evil and corrupted by nature of doing it.

    While there are some merits in exploring such systems (and a lot of confusion, a la Force and Star wars), most of the time it just seems to be a quick and handy way to make the bad guy bad and the good guy obviously good … and ignore the fact that both parties might use the same general methods.

    My personal solution to it is to make power by itself have no morals. To quote from character from an old WIP, “If I conjure up a fork as a utensil or to gouge someone’s eyes out, it won’t affect the nature of the fork itself.” While I do like that fantasy (urban or otherwise) can explore issues that other genres aren’t suited to, I do find it sometimes leads to laziness when it doesn’t have to.

    • Very thoughtful response. I very much agree that magic/power in and of themselves aren’t evil. It’s all in how a person applies them. But…

      Okay, on to the next prompt. And you KNOW it’s all your fault (maybe inspiration would be the better word).

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