Enter the Antagonist–no scratch that–Enter the Antagonists, Plural

Screenshot 2016-08-14 15.36.30This is a different sort of What Was on… There will be no ‘what was on’ my reading list. No ‘what was on’ my post-its or top ten fears. This post is all about ‘what was on’ my mind for the past few years: Antagonists.

I started thinking about antagonists when I was working on my MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts. It wasn’t too long before I came to the conclusion that antagonists—yes, antagonists plural—were at the core of the very best stories. In fact, as I examined my favorite stories more closely, I realized that there are 13 Antagonist Archetypes, each capable of producing different reactions in the protagonist and reader. This realization turned into a presentation I gave in Amsterdam, morphed into a three-hour workshop I gave in Switzerland, and then was condensed into a session I gave at the most recent annual conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

If you are interested in antagonists, or even making your story stronger, keep reading. I’m going to talk about each of the Antagonist Archetypes, explain who they are and what they can do, and give examples of stories that include each archetype. In a companion post, I talk about Romancing the Antagonists, with an Antagonists 101.

But first, what exactly are we talking about when we say antagonist? Robert McKee says, ‘Human nature is fundamentally conservative. We never do more than we have to, expend any energy we don’t have to, take any risks we don’t have to, change if we don’t have to. Why should we?’ I think we forget this sometimes as writers and make our protagonists super motivated and inventive. While the reality is, unless something pushes them, the protagonists are not going to do anything differently than they did yesterday and the day before.

This is where the antagonists come in. They are the opposing forces in a story, small and large, and everywhere in between. Human and nonhuman. The wellsprings of conflict. The ones who push at our protagonists and produce emotions in both them and our readers.

In Save the Cat, Blake Snyder talks about the Emotional Color Wheel. How the best films—no matter if they are realist drama or comedy—hit as many emotions as possible so that we can feel like a wet rag wrung out when we walk out of a film. ‘Like a good dream, we must live the [story]; we must run in place along with the hero in our sleep, clutch our pillows at the love scene, and hide under the covers during the breathtaking climax . . . to wake exhausted but fulfilled, wrung out, worked out, and satisfied.’

This is true for written stories too. The best ones hit the whole color wheel of emotions. As writers we often try to bring out these emotions by figuring out unique and inventive ways for our protagonist to act. The difficulty with this is, sometimes no matter how hard we try, what we write can come out as feeling contrived or fake, or just too fictionalized to believe. This is because of what Robert McKee said. Human Beings don’t act unless they have to. If, on the other hand, we work on the negative side to provoke a reaction by the protagonist, the protagonist will act in a way that feels natural and connects with readers.

This is where the antagonists come in. Central casting, line them up, please.

  • Pure Evil
  • Flunkies to Pure Evil
  • Villains
  • Authority
  • Viper in Our Midst
  • Flawed Parents & Guardians
  • Sidekicks
  • Flames
  • Thorns in the Side
  • Creatures
  • Hostile World
  • Ticking Clock
  • Enemy Within

To describe these thirteen archetypes, I’ll be using examples from Harry Potter, because JK Rowling is an absolute genius at using antagonists. In fact, the very savvy Mary Quattlebaum, who is an author, an advisor at Vermont College of Fine Arts, and a reviewer for the Washington Post, said that one of the major reasons Harry Potter is such a success is because of the strength of its antagonists.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at each of the Antagonist Archetypes. Let’s see who they are and what they can do. Because, not all antagonists are created equal. (Sandra Nickel 13 Antagonist Archetypes)

Voldemort (1)1. Pure Evil—Our poster boy: Voldemort

After Book 1, Rowling starts to give us his backstory. He was an orphan like Harry, and nobody loved him. But even with this backstory we have the sense he was just born bad. He is Pure Evil.

I love Pure Evil because it’s the strongest negative that exists. The possibilities are wide open for the emotion this antagonist can evoke: Suspense, injustice, panic, fear. The other great thing is that Pure Evil makes the protagonist the clear underdog. We root for the protagonist by instinct.

But, Pure Evil has limitations. Since it’s more of a metaphor than a nuanced character, Pure Evil often needs underlings who do his dirty work. Pure Evil is incapable of evoking humor. He cannot be eliminated before the climax or end of the series. And, Pure Evil is harder to pull off in realist fiction and hardly ever appears in picture books outside of fairytales.

Other examples of Pure Evil? Older Audiences: Sauron, The Lord of the Rings. Mrs. Coulter, The Golden Compass. Middle Grade: Dementors & Bellatrix Lestrange, Harry Potter Series. The White Witch, The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. Picture Books: The Witch, Hansel and Gretel. The Stepmother, Snow White. The wolf, Little Red Riding Hood.

Quirrell (3)2. Flunkies of Pure Evil—The poster boy: Quirrell

One of the great things about the Flunkies is that they’ve got the power of Pure Evil behind them, so they can evoke the same negative emotions as their master. But because they are flawed, they can provide victories to the protagonist and are ripe for the reader’s amusement, satisfaction, and even sometimes sympathy.

Think of Quirrell and Wormtail. We feel a little sorry for them. Voldemort abuses them. And, remember the scene where Harry tricks Lucius Malfoy into giving a sock to Dobby. That is pure satisfaction. Harry has gotten the best of one of Voldemort’s underlings.

Another asset of the Flunkies is that their identities can be a mystery to the protagonist and to the reader. So, for example, we know from the very first pages about Voldemort, but the allegiance of Snape provides endless opportunities for suspense and turning the plot.

Other favorite Flunkies? Older Audiences: Azog & the other Orcs, Saruman, The Lord of the Rings. Ten, Days of Blood & Starlight. Middle Grade: Captain Maugrim, The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe. Picture Books: If Pure Evil is difficult to find in Picture Books, Flunkies are even more difficult to find. The only one I came up with is the huntsman in Snow White. However, underlying the importance of Flunkies to storytelling is Disney’s invention of Flunkies for the film versions of many stories: Diablo, Sleeping Beauty; Sir Hiss, Robin Hood; Flotsam & Jetsam, The Little Mermaid. And, my personal favorite, Iago from Aladdin.

Lucius-and-Draco-Malfoy-lucius-and-narcissa-malfoy-28195216-1439-7993. Villains—The poster boys: Lucius & Draco Malfoy

These are antagonists that push and torture the protagonist for reasons other than their allegiance to Pure Evil. They are motivated by self importance, self-interest, power, or money. They are self-centered, sometimes ego-maniacs. Bad seeds. If we ask someone, ‘Who is the antagonist’ of a story—a story without Pure Evil—it’s the Villain they are going to name.

As we can see from our poster boys, however, characters can wear more than one antagonist hat. Lucius is a Death Eater, so a Flunky, but we definitely get the feeling that for him, it is more about power and self importance.

Central casting could fill the room with these Villains, and they can be used in every genre possible—sci-fi, fantasy, realist, and picture books.

Outside of Harry Potter, there is: Older Audiences: The Fairy Sidhean, Ash. Queen Levana, The Lunar Chronicles. Tina, Eleanor & Park. The Volturi, The Twilight Saga. Middle Grade: Red Queen, Through the Looking Glass. Keith Sinclair, The Great Greene Heist. The Wicked Witch of the West, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Warden Walker, Holes. The other kids, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Grand High Witch, The Witches. Picture Books: Farmer McGregor, The Tale of Peter Rabbit. The dragon, The Paper Bag Princess. The rhinos, Babar. The Grinch, How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The Archduke, Extra Yarn. Donkey, Pig & Sheep, Chick-O-Saurus Rex. The fox, Doctor De Soto. The wolf, The Three Little Pigs.

The next few archetypes are subgroups of the Villains…

Dolores-Umbridge (1)4. Authority—The poster girl: Dolores Umbridge

These are the ones who will do anything to keep the status quo—to uphold order as they see it—or, who are just hungry for power. This is the principal of the school, the captain of the ship, the court system, and the state.

Authority is particularly good at propelling the protagonist toward justice, but can also force the protagonist to make hard choices—ones that aren’t purely good or bad—and can even motivate the protagonist to choose the dark side.

One important thing to remember about Authority is to put a face to the authority. A real live being that focuses the emotion. Sure, we can have general feelings about the corruption at the Ministry of Magic, but Dolores Umbridge sharpens our emotions so that we grit our teeth each time we see her.

To name names, these villains include: Older Audiences: President Snow, The Hunger Games. The court system, Monster. The State, The Giver. Middle Grade: Miss Trunchbull, Matilda. Captain Jaggery, The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle. IT, A Wrinkle in Time. Picture Books: Mr. Slinger, Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse. Viola Swamp, Miss Nelson is Missing. Those enforcing slavery, Henry’s Freedom Box. Societal expectations, Different Like Coco, Mary Cassatt: Extraordinary Impressionist Painter. The farmer, Click, Clack, Moo: Cows That Type.

Wormtail (1)5. Viper in Our Midst—The poster boy: Wormtail

These are the traitors, motivated by inadequacy, jealousy, self-interest, or fear. The ones who are so lacking they turn on the protagonist or his allies.

This is a very special cast of antagonist because they produce emotions that are difficult for other antagonists to produce—disbelief, sadness, a nuanced anger, and hope that the Viper will realize his or her mistake and come back to the ‘good side.’

Other Vipers include: Older Audiences: Saruman, The Lord of the Rings. Jude and Noah, I’ll Give You the Sun. Maura, The Cahill Witch Chronicles. Middle Grade: Edmund, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Picture Books: The Stepmother, Hansel and Gretel. Gorilla, Good Night, Gorilla.

Dursleys6. Flawed Parents & Guardians—The poster guardians: The Dursleys Sandra Nickel 13 Antagonist Archetypes

Flawed Parents & Guardians also include Lord Asriel in His Dark Materials—so caught up in his own ambition that he alternatively abandons Lyra and uses her to advance his own desires. Mrs. Everdeen in Hunger Games—shell-shocked by her husband’s death. The father in The Tiger Rising—grief stricken and angry to the point of hitting his son. And, the classic Flawed Parent, the stepmother in Cinderella—favoring her own daughters to the point of being abusive to her stepdaughter.

Like the Viper, this type of antagonist can bring on unique emotions. Things get very muddy here. Emotions are not pure. We don’t see it that much in Harry’s attitude toward the Dursley’s. But we see it with James Potter. James wasn’t perfect and treated Snape horribly, which brought on disgust in Harry and also self-questioning. And, of course, James is dead, rarely there for Harry, which in itself is a flaw.

Flawed Parents can evoke the will to protect, love/hate, unfounded admiration, loyalty, disillusionment, self-questioning (am I like her?), responsibility for siblings, and anger. Protagonists will often risk all for the Flawed Parent, even their own beliefs of what is right and wrong. So, in What I Saw and How I Lied, Evie lies to the police and court to save her mother.

The parent doesn’t have to be evil or even highly flawed to be an antagonist. In Interrupting Chicken, Father Chicken wants Chicken to go to sleep and so has strict rules about how much interrupting is allowed in a bedtime story—and it’s these rules that drive the arc and tension of the story, and in the end, cause the surprise reversal.

Examples of Flawed Parents and Guardians include: Older Audiences: Mrs. Everdeen, The Hunger Games. Evie’s mother, What I Saw and How I Lied. The mother, Homecoming. The father, Skyscraping. Middle Grade: Lord Asriel, His Dark Materials. The father, The Tiger Rising. Poseidon, The Lightening Thief. Count Olaf, A Series of Unfortunate Events. The mother, Rogue. Picture Books: The stepmother, Cinderella. Father chicken, Interrupting Chicken. The parents, The Shrinking of Treehorn. The mother, Where the Wild Things Are. The mother, Corduroy. The father, Knuffle Bunny.

So far, we’ve looked at Pure Evil, the Flunkies & the Villains. Now, we’re going to move into the antagonists that exist in every-day life of the protagonist. These are antagonists that don’t usually come close to Villains, but have the capability to nag, torment, irritate and push the protagonist in ways that are ripe for humor and squirmy emotions. This is the realm of the Sidekick, the Flame, and the Thorn in the Side.

hermione (1)7. Sidekicks—The poster girl: Hermione

Sidekicks are invaluable for putting the protagonist in perspective. There’s a reason that Rowling put Harry smack dab in the middle of Hermione and Ron. Each of them pulls Harry in a different direction—Hermione to be a smarter, better version of himself and Ron to support him in the lesser version of himself—the one that goes back to what McKee was talking about at the very beginning. Why act unless we have to? Harry definitely has a sort of lazy, procrastinating, boys-just-want-to-have-fun side, and Ron supports that.

In The Goblet of Fire, when Harry is frustrated with Hermione for nagging him about the clues, the reader is frustrated with Harry. The reader sees things more as Hermione sees them—from the Sidekick’s point of view: Don’t be so stupid and lazy, come on, do something!

Sidekicks can also take actions to protect the protagonist that conflict with the desires of the protagonist. Hermione is so worried about the anonymous gift of the Firebolt, she reports it to McGonagall, which makes Harry angry and frustrated, which in turn makes Hagrid disappointed in Harry for not appreciating what Hermione did. A whole color wheel of emotions resulting from an action motivated by good.

The sidekick in children’s and young adult literature is also invaluable because as antagonists they are the catalysts for certain emotions that are strongest when we’re kids and teens—like embarrassment, humiliation, skepticism, smugness, and envy. And also, hilarity, defensiveness, irritation, loneliness, and resentment.

Other Sidekicks who put pressure on the protagonist? Older Audiences: Samwise, The Lord of the Rings. Haymitch Abernathy, The Hunger Games. Saphira, Eragon. Chuck, The Maze Runner. Middle Grade: The Greene Gang, The Great Greene Heist. Janie & Sport, Harriet the Spy. Annabeth & Grover, Percy Jackson & the Olympians series. Tinker Bell, Peter Pan. Pantalaimon, His Dark Materials. Zero, Holes. Reepicheep, The Chronicles of Narnia. Picture Books: Piglet, Eeyore & Rabbit, Winnie the Pooh. Gloria, Officer Buckle and Gloria.

Cho Chang (1)8. Flames—The poster girl: Cho Chang . . . and Ginny, kind of.

The whole point of a romantic relationship in a story is the longing for the other person. Honestly, it’s not very interesting when the protagonist gets the guy or girl. The story usually wraps up once that happens. So, by definition, the Flame is an antagonist—someone who is putting pressure on the protagonist to change or take action.

Flames are great at evoking all those squirmy sort of emotions—embarrassment, jealousy, desperation, insecurity, and humiliation. But also desire, denial, adoration, hopefulness, and loneliness. And, of course, Flames make great springboards for humor and superb debating partners to bring out the theme.

Ginny is actually a bit vapid as an antagonist. It’s more that Harry is her antagonist. Cho is a much stronger antagonist. She evokes frustration, embarrassment, and guilt in Harry.

Other Flames? Older Audiences: The King’s Huntress, Ash. Edward Cullen, Twilight. Mr. Darcy, Pride and Prejudice. Akiva, Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Prince Kaito, Cinder. Prince Lucian, Seraphina. Jace, Mortal Instruments. Middle Grade: Gilbert Blythe, Anne of Green Gables. Will Parry, His Dark Materials. Picture Books: The prince, The Paper Bag Princess. The Frog, The Princess and the Frog.

Colin Creevey (1)9. Thorns in the Side—The poster boy: Collin Creevey

These are the people who pester. They embarrass you by constantly taking your picture. They kick the back of your bus seat, draw attention to you when you’re trying to be invisible, are perky and talkative when all you want is a corner to yourself.

Thorns in the Side are the nice people who become antagonists because they drive you nuts and make you act in ways you are not proud of. You get agitated, irritated, annoyed, confused, disgusted, frustrated—and then feel guilty about it all. So guilty, you might become protective of the Thorn to compensate. The Thorns are good for making the protagonist human, because even heroes have someone who drives them to do things they’re not proud of.

Other Thorns in the Side? Older Audiences: Lydia & Kitty, Pride and Prejudice. Charlotte, A Room with a View. Middle Grade: Miles, The Higher Power of Lucky. Jaime, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Colin, The Secret Garden. Picture Books: Tigger, The House at Pooh Corner. Little Sister, Big Sister, Little Sister. Lily, Chester’s Way. Sam-I-Am, Green Eggs and Ham. The Lumpy Bumpy Thing, Dangerous! I know there are more—a lot more—but I think I’ve blocked them because they irritate me so much.

Nagini_Malfoy_Manor_Esstisch (1)-2 (1)10. Creatures—The poster beast: Nagini

Creatures are interesting because they can either be Thorns or Villains. A lot of the animal antagonists who are Villains play off of our inherent fears—snakes, spiders, rats, wolves, predatory cats. What’s nice about these antagonists is that they don’t need a lot of backstory. We get it. Even if the reader’s one great fear is rats (like mine), she still gets the fear of spiders or snakes. The reader is hardwired for it. These type of animals immediately evoke fear, paranoia, flight, terror, unease, and fill the role of Villains and sometimes Flunkies of Pure Evil.

Animal antagonists can also be Thorns. Pets, even if adorable, have needs—constant needs for food, exercise, play and attention. These needs can put pressure on the protagonist, especially if he is already feeling pressure. Hedwig fills this role for Harry.

Creatures include: Older Audiences: Smaug, The Hobbit. Tracker jackers & mutant dogs, Hunger Games. The dragons, A Wizard of Earthsea. Middle Grade: Mrs. Coulter’s monkey, His Dark Materials Trilogy. Kaa & Shere Khan, Jungle Book. Templeton, Charlotte’s Web. Picture Books: Mama Bear, Blueberries for Sal. The wolf, Little Red Riding Hood. The mice, Baker Cat. The cat, The Cat in the Hat. Thundering Tarnation, Swamp Angel. Monkeys, Caps for Sale. The monster, The Monster at the End of This Book. And, of course, there is a long list of more Creatures in Harry Potter: Crookshanks, Scabbers, Trevor, Mrs. Norris, Aragog, Norbert the Dragon, the Centaurs, and every living being in the Forbidden Forest.

Harry Potter Stairs (1)-2 (1)11. Hostile World—The poster setting: Hogwarts

The brilliance of Hogwarts is that it is over-the-top fun, a school that every kid wishes she could go to, and it is packed full of things that make Harry’s life difficult. It’s massive, with 142 staircases—moving staircases!—many towers, dungeons, hidden doors, easily toppled armor, the unyielding Fat Lady guarding the door to Gryffindor, the Womping Willow, the Great Lake filled with vicious mermaids, the Forbidden Forest loaded with other antagonists, and the list goes on.

But even in realist fiction, in our world building, we can set up an environment that puts stress on the protagonist and throws up obstacles in front of her. A locker door that always rebounds back open. An old car whose gas meter doesn’t work. A watch that runs slow. A jutting nail in the floorboards.

As the god of your world, you also have all the powers of nature at your disposal—tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, snowstorms, thunderstorms—they can all knock out electricity, destroy buildings, slow down the protagonist, and kill. They can act as the catalyst of the story—like the tornado in The Wizard of Oz. Or, they can be the driving force of the climax—like the river in The Bridge to Terabithia.

Hostile Worlds can evoke curiosity, desperation, determination, fear, humiliation, and rage—or just overwhelm the protagonist. Hostile Worlds also work double-time. They not only create conflict for the protagonist, they also make the world you have created more realistic.

Other Hostile Worlds? Older Audiences: The arctic, White Darkness. The arena, The Hunger Games. The Maze, The Maze Runner. The school bus, Eleanor & Park. Silversmith Workshop, Johnny Tremain. Middle Grade: The tornado, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The river, The Bridge to Terabithia. Nature, Hatchet, Julie of the Wolves, Island of the Blue Dolphins. New York City, When You Reach Me. The Train Station, The Invention of Hugo Cabret. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. Picture Books: The snow, One Snowy Night. Rising temperature, The Snowman. Fire, A Chair for My Mother. Drabness, Extra Yarn. A power outage, Blackout. Turn of the century France, Different Like Coco. The busy city, Make Way for Ducklings. Nearly everything, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

Time_turner (1)12. Ticking Clock—The poster device: Time Turner

This is the threat of impending disaster. The protagonist faces increasing obstacles as the time to accomplish his goal runs out. This is a fabulous way to put pressure on the protagonist.

Remember the climax of The Prisoner of Azkaban, where Hermione uses the Time Turner to send her and Harry back? They are messing seriously with the past and if they don’t get it right Sirius and Buckbeak will die, and who knows what will happen to Harry and Hermione. It is a nail-biting scene. The Ticking Clock is incredibly powerful.

But, the Ticking Clock is a one-hue antagonist. It adds tension and anxiety and only tension and anxiety. It cannot make the reader laugh or cry and always motivates the protagonist in the same way—to hurry. If it’s used for an entire novel, the Ticking Clock has the tendency to get repetitive. How many different ways can the protagonist say: one more day is gone, we have to hurry.

I had a Ticking Clock in an earlier draft of a mystery I was working on, but I found it too limiting, since I had introduced it at the beginning of the book. The protagonist always had to be on task and the book became only about solving the mystery in the time given—there wasn’t an honest way to have fun or conversations about other things when the protagonist was under so much pressure.

Other examples of the Ticking Clock are: Older Audiences: Racing against being discovered, The Giver. Middle Grade: Time running out to poison the witches, Witches. Picture Books: Mother coming home, The Cat in the Hat. Magic running out at midnight, Cinderella. Again, note, in all of these stories, the Ticking Clock only comes at the end.

Harry-Potter-and-The-Prisoner-of-Azkaban-harry-james-potter-9649892-1024-7681 (1)-2 (1)13. Enemy Within—The poster telltale sign: Harry’s Scar

This is self-doubt, self-hate, anxiety disorders, cancer, and other physical and mental illnesses. It also includes character flaws and hauntings.

Sometimes these antagonists have telltale signs and leave their marks on the protagonist in the forms of emaciation, cutting and suicide scars, nervous behavior, exhaustion, and hyperactivity. In literature, they can be represented by metaphorical creations and ghosts, like Ged’s shadow in Ursula Le Guin’s The Wizard of Earthsea and Cassie’s ghost in Laurie Halse Anderson’s Wintergirls.

The Enemy Within is as powerful as any Villain and is limitless in the negative emotion it can create. It can evoke terror, scorn, loneliness, humiliation, hatred, impatience, paranoia—you name it. Harry’s similarity to Voldemort creates nagging self-doubt in him—self doubt that is so strong that it continues from book to book.

Curiosity is another Enemy Within. There is no limit to the trouble it can get your protagonist into—doing things against her interest, opening the locked box, snooping in someone’s diary, slipping into the room she was told never to go in. Curiosity. Give your protagonist heaps of it and you’ll never have a dull moment.

Other Enemies Within? Older Audiences: Cancer in The Fault in Our Stars. Anorexia in Wintergirls. Self-hate in Chime. Middle Grade: Selfishness, The Bridge to Terabithia. Lack of understanding of social rules, Harriet the Spy. Impetuosity and Stubbornness, Anne of Green Gables. Picture Books: Appendicitis, Madeleine. Hatred of baths, Harry the Dirty Dog. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Dangerous! Wondering about the concept of infinity, Infinity and Me. Curiosity, Curious George. Picky eating, Bread and Jam for Frances.

The more of these 13 Antagonist Archetypes you use in your story, the stronger it will be. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone proves this point. It is one of the most popular stories of all time. It is read by children and adults alike, has sold over 100 million copies, and has been translated into 73 languages. Who are its antagonists?

Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia, baggy clothes, taped glasses, Dudley, Piers, unintended magic, Dudley’s gang of friends, Draco Malfoy, self-doubt, fame, Hermione, Crabbe, Goyle, platform 9 3/4, Voldemort, McGonagall, sorting hat, Peeves, Snape, Harry’s scar, Mr. Filch, Mrs. Norris, portrait of the, Fat Lady, moving stairs, people in paintings moving, doors at Hogwarts, Hagrid, Neville, suits of armour, Fluffy, curiosity, spell on Harry’s broom, Madam Pince, shrieking book, Mirror of Erised, Ron, homework, Norbert, darkness, The Forbidden Forest, killer of the unicorn, Bane, devil’s snare, flying keys, giant chess pieces, Snape’s potion puzzle, ropes, Ticking Clock of enchantments…

And the list goes on and on. Rowling nails every single antagonist archetype in this one book!

So, I hope the next time you are sitting at your computer, trying to come up with inventive ways for your protagonist to act, you catch yourself and think—no, scratch that—what kind of antagonists can push her to bring out everything I need.

Please feel free to use the 13 Antagonist Archetypes while teaching and writing about storytelling and creative writing. All I ask is that you refer to this article, Enter the Antagonist–no scratch that–Enter the Antagonists, Plural. Anyone teaching writing to a younger crowd? After popular demand, I put together a Buzzfeed with the 13 Antagonist Archetypes. It’s short and sweet. Well, not exactly sweet, but you know what I mean. Harry Potter & the 13 Antagonist Archetypes

And, don’t forget, there’s a companion post: Romancing the Antagonists.

If you would like to know more about me and my writing, please visit


13 antagonist archetypes 13 antagonist archetypes 13 antagonist archetypes 13 antagonist archetypes13 Antagonist Archetypes 13 Antagonist Archetypes 13 Antagonist Archetypes 13 Antagonist Archetypes

Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel Sandra Nickel

13 thoughts on “Enter the Antagonist–no scratch that–Enter the Antagonists, Plural

  1. Pingback: Romancing the Antagonists | whatwason...

  2. Pingback: Evil Wins | Lyn Miller-Lachmann

  3. Very interesting! I was pleased to read about the topic of your presentations. Your lucky conference participants must have left inspired and better prepared to create multiple antagonists.

    • Thank you, Jean! As writers we so often focus on the protagonist, so it’s been eye-opening for for many–including me–to think about the important role all the different antagonists play.

  4. Wonderful post. You have compiled it beautifully. I’m sending this to others who would appreciate it!
    If I may add one, it might just be my favorite sort of antagonist: the kind that turns out not to be. Maybe we would label it “the Evaporated,” and in the HP context Snape (a most interesting character we think about long after we finish the series) fits the bill.

  5. I just noticed this today! Just when I needed this post, Sandra! I’m looking at characters in my novel. I love that the notion of the antagonist is a lot broader than I realized.

  6. Pingback: Reading and Writing Links - Caroline Starr Rose

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