It is quite common in fantasy novels to over play the good vs evil aspects of life. Where the heroes are good in every way conceivable, and the villains are true, pure evil that cannot be matched in reality.
While the trend in writing has started to veer from that, it’s hard to avoid. Simply because in a world of magic, of sweeping landscapes and escapism, it seems so ideal. It’s also much easier to write.
Which may be why I’ve run into problems with my antagonists.
None of my protagonists are really the ‘Hero’ type. A thief, a runaway and a brothel owner. None of them are out in the world trying to save it, trying for gold or glory or to be remembered.
Mairwen is an exiled thief, unaware of what she did to deserve her exile, surviving off what she can steal and having no qualms with doing so. Her past is shrouded in dark secrets that she is afraid to uncover, and most of the time, if she can avoid it, she won’t help others.
Alyse is a spoilt rich noble who longs for adventure and excitement, but find the idea of being a pirate or a thief far more entrancing than rescuing anyone. She’s thrust into an adventure that is more spurred by revenge rather than anything noble.
Adrienne is perhaps the darkest and the farthest from a hero of the three. She owns a brothel that she uses as a front to stay involved in the underground crime world. She uses whatever means she finds necessary to get the information she wants, and she’s not above killing people simply to make a point.
With such ‘heroes’, how can you create villains that properly mirror them?
When characters become more than good versus evil, the antagonist must be as in-depth and sympathetic as the protagonist.
Only Mairwen’s villain comes close to such an assessment. Her story allows for the conflict between the ‘hero’ and the ‘villain’ without either character being either in their entirety.
Sadly, Alyse and Adrienne’s antagonists have to be… something else. Alyse’s antagonist currently does not have depth. She is simplistic, rather than detailed, and she falls rather flat, reads rather boring.
And Adrienne’s? It seems too hard to write a proper antagonist for her. Then again, I shall perhaps have to wait for the villain to introduce themselves in the same way the rest of the characters have.