Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Protagonist, Antagonist, Hero, Villian, Antihero, and AntiVillian

Protagonist, antagonist, hero, villain, antihero, and antivillain are crucial elements of storytelling. At least some of these roles must be filled by one or more central characters or there is no story to tell. One character may fulfill several of these roles, or one role may be filled by several characters. For example, it is common for the protagonist to also be either the hero or the villain, and the antagonist to fill the opposite role.

Identifying which role particular characters play is crucial to how you define them, how you write them. When a character approaches a crucial decision, what they do is largely defined by the role they play. In Gods Among Men, I found it useful to deconstruct these elements into separate individuals.

My protagonist, Damon Roth, drives the plot, but is neither hero nor villain. He is opposed by the antagonist, Demiurge, who also is neither hero nor villain. They both are larger than life and pursue goals that cannot be labeled as good or evil. They will not hesitate to do good when it does not affect their plans, and they hesitate to do evil even when their plans demand it of them. People are pawns in a game they play, and the world’s fate depends on which one wins.

The hero role is filled first by Morel Rihtwis, a prince whose name literally means moral, right, and wise. Morel embodies nobility, and struggles with every decision to always make the morally right choice. Later his daughter Tara grows into the hero role.

My villain is Maelgar Tregadie, also called the Y’fel. He is filled with hate and a desire to see the world burn. His desire for power is inextricably tied to his lust to harm others, especially his father, Integras Tregadie. He believes Demiurge is the key to his success.

Artemis Arrowsmith is my antihero. She has been raised to be a soldier, a killer, and she is very good at it. She is driven by desires for vengeance, a bloodlust that leads her to commit atrocities against those who wronged her. But she is willing to sacrifice herself and those desires to save others. She is ruthless when she must be, but tries to walk away when she can. She aligns her fortune to Damon Roth.

The antivillain is Widukind. He is driven by honor above all else. He will not lie, nor cheat, nor steal, nor shy from danger. His word is sacrosanct and he would rather die than break it. He is deeply religious, and remains true to his faith throughout the story. He has no problem with sacking villages, killing the helpless, and committing atrocities for no reason other than he is following orders. His conscience bothers him, but not enough to make him stop. He follows Maelgar, believing him to be a prophet of his god, Demiurge.

There are many more characters in this large, complex tale, but this collection of people form a crucial core to Gods Among Men. Without them, there is no story to tell.

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