Wednesday, March 7, 2012


by Kimberly Packard

Some of the toughest characters to write are the antagonists, or bad guys, or in some cases, straight up villains.  I’ve always had a little too much fun writing the bad guys, maybe in some way they allow my nice girl self to live vicariously as a mean girl.

If you are having trouble writing good bad guys – and by “good” I mean three-dimensional, realistically-motivated, love-to-hate antagonists – watch Glee.
I think this is one of the best shows on TV right now. The writers aren’t afraid to tackle tough subjects (loved the episode last season of the kids getting drunk and dealing with the hangover the next day) and they aren’t afraid to have multidimensional bad guys.
Sue Sylvester is probably one of the best examples of a great antagonist. She’s constantly working against the glee club coach, but we also get glimpses of humanity – loneliness, the desire to be loved, dealing with serving as a caretaker and then the passing of a mentally disabled sister. You hate her when she’s working against the Glee kids, but you couldn’t help shedding tears when you see her softer side. In her humanity, we get the motivation behind her actions.
Another example is a minor character from season 1, a closeted football player who terrorized openly gay Kurt. Once we realized that this other kid was grappling with his own sexuality it made it a whole lot harder to hate him.
There are endless examples of good bad guys on Glee. And really, we shouldn’t use the term “bad” or even villain unless someone is an outright villain (Joke, Buffalo Bill, Cruella deVille). These are antagonists, their job is to work against the protagonist, but to make them believable, we need them to be human as well. It’s a matter of perspective. A protagonist in one story might be the antagonist in another.
After all, we’re all the heroes of our own life’s story, and shouldn’t our antagonists see themselves that way?

Kimberly Packard Walton is Vice-President for Greater Fort Worth Writers. She writes as Kimberly Packard, has completed two books and is in the submission process with agents. 
In her day job, Kimberly is Vice President of Communications at North Texas Commission and specializes in media relations, branding and strategic planning, crisis communications, message development, program development and pretty much anything else that gets tossed her way.
Friend her on Facebook/Kimberly Packard Walton.


Jeff Bacot said...

Good post Kim. I struggle constantly with making the enemies of my heroes EVIL, but just evil enough to hate them, but secretly kinda like them.
Antagonists should be awful but authentic....ummm...assholes.

SusieSheehey said...

Very well described, Kim. Couldn't have analyzed it better myself. Maybe that's why I can't stop watching Glee every week.

Ruby Johnson said...

Can't say Glee is a favorite show, but your explanation of antagonists versus protagonists is good. One of my favorite authors, Harlen Coben said "good protagonists may skate close to the line, but antagonists are normal persons who have gone over the line.

Kimberly Packard Walton said...

Thanks, guys! I really do like writing the antagonists, maybe a little too much. :)

George said...

Antagonists' "job is to work against the protagonist, but to make them believable, we need them to be human as well."

I'm going to memorize that one. Thank you for DTB (doin' the blog.) You're good at: do the DTB more often.

Kimberly Packard Walton said...

Thanks, George. Every now and then, something good comes out of my mouth (and keyboard). It balances all the baloney.

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