|The author, Dane F. Baylis|
CHARACTER TYPES AND WHY THE MC ISN'T ALWAYS THE MOST SYMPATHETIC!
The Good, The Bad, and Where The Hell Did He come From?
We left off yesterday with a list of three types of characters you can have in any story. We listed protagonists, the antagonists, and supporting characters. So, just who the hell are these potential members of our cast?
The protagonist is our Main Character in any tale. It is this character who will be looking towards resolving a conflict and attaining a "goal". The protagonist has a driving desire, he/she wants something vital. What does something vital look like? Freedom, wealth, peace, survival - Whatever, it is something VERY important to the MC. The object of our MC's desire is what determines our entire focus in the story. Most often, our protagonist is working against an antagonist, which can be a person or thing, that stands fast against the protagonist attaining his/her goal.
If you create a little "Mano y Mano" between two people it isn't always the easiest thing to determine who wears the white hat and who wears the black. Protagonists aren't always likable. In noir fiction and cinema, protagonists may be a murderers trying to get away with a crime. On the other hand, some antagonists can become absolutely magnetic.
Speaking of which, the antagonist works against the protagonist, (ant- means against). He/she/or it stands in the way of the protagonist accomplishing the goal of the story. Yes I said he/she/or it, because the antagonist can be weather, fate, nature, or anything for that matter, so long as it provides a sufficient barrier to build tension in the story. A classic of reversal is the antagonist in, "The Fugitive". Here we have a detective trying to capture an escaped felon, convicted of murder, who is trying to prove his innocence. The detective is never portrayed as a "bad guy", just a dedicated cop doing his job.
When it comes to how detailed your antagonist should be - Check out this posting by Kathryn Lilley over at The Kill Zone on what it can take to create a really bad guy. It might surprise, and shake you up a little to see how unfamiliar the ones in our stories may be compared to real life.
Finally come those quirky characters who may or may not have anything to do with either our protagonists or antagonists. These are members of the cast who might only make very brief appearances, but whose job it is to move the story along in the direction we intend. These are supporting characters.
They help to generate a diffuse conflict that permeates all levels of our story and can add dimension to protagonists or antagonists. They may have little to do, personally, with other characters, appearing and hovering in the periphery. They might be an informant, or rival, or a demanding boss. They may not be amicable but their paths cross and, in those crossings, they supply tidbits that can deepen mysteries or supply Ah-Ha moments. They can even be more subtle, sending the story in a direction without any greater effect other than acting as signposts.
So the protagonist wants something. The antagonist stands in his/her way. Supporting characters help move things along. All of this to accomplish some DESIRE. Which is what we'll tackle in the next installment.
Meanwhile...live, love, write.
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Dane F. Baylis