How to Write a Scary & Strong Antagonist [Novel Boot Camp 2]

Creating a terrifying antagonist can be just as hard as creating an endearing or likeable protagonist. In this video I’m going to go over the most common pitfalls and mistakes that could weaken your antagonist.


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Comment Question: What’s the hardest part about writing an antagonist? What’s your biggest struggle?

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15 thoughts on “How to Write a Scary & Strong Antagonist [Novel Boot Camp 2]

  1. Rick Sherman says:

    Another great video, thanks, Ellen. In my current novel I’m working on, the antagonist has much depth. In my last novel I was working on, it was quite the opposite. It was as you said, the disappearing act. I got up to just over 70k words and shelved it due to too much work going back through it and fixing it. Lesson learned about outlining for me. K.M. Weiland’s software has helped me greatly. You made a great point in giving the antagonist equal attention as the protagonist. Thanks again, Ellen.

  2. Troy "TC" Costisick says:

    I have a problem with my antagonist. He’s more of a puppeteer pulling the strings of other bad actors while the protagonist just tries to get along with his life. As a result, he doesn’t appear much on stage though his henchmen do. My struggle is with making HIM seem dangerous and threatening in a “showing” way instead of a “telling” way. I feel like my characters just talk about how he’s behind the scenes of everything bad.

    • Ellen_Brock says:

      Is the antagonist taking steps to advance his plan? If not, the issue is probably that the antagonist is just sitting around being the bad guy without affecting the plot.

  3. Editor's Quill says:

    Great video, Ellen! Last year I discovered my antagonist was doing the disappearing act, like you said in your video. He was too much like Sauron… but without the fear or conflict. Haha. Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about my antagonists and the side villains and figuring out their backstories– figuring out that moment when they started to justify their bad behavior. I’ve found creating antagonists is just as fun as developing protagonists.

    On a side note, I love your shirts!

  4. Blake says:

    Great video! My problem with the antagonist is that she sort of pulls the disappearing act mentioned in the video. Plus there are a couple of antagonistic forces separate from her.

  5. ang says:

    So helpful- thanks! I have a question: my antagonist dies early in my novel, but the abuse he inflicted on my main character has lasting effects that run throughout the story. Would this be considered a disappearing act?

  6. Annie says:

    My antagonist feels too much like a trope to me, and I’m not sure what to do about it. I don’t know how to find something that makes them unique – seems like its easier to make a protagonist stand out 🙂

    Also, just wanted to say thanks, Ellen, for doing these workshops!!! I’m sure it’s a lot of hard work, but your efforts are definitely appreciated!

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