You see, although everything's progressing like it should, there's been a slight snag, something just out of sight. Like a floater, every time I tried to focus on it, it eased out of reach. Although we all have different methods, it seems that putting together your novel is often like working on a puzzle. You have all the pieces (though some try to hide in the couch cushions), and you have to figure out where they go.
I, however, had a puzzle piece that didn't quite fit. Oh, it looked like it did. It had the proper shape, the right curves, the perfect indentations. But when I wiggled it into place, it fit askew. I tried to smash it down and pretend that it worked. It didn't. I ignored it.
This morning, however, as I walked along the river contemplating nature, my WIP snag popped into focus. It's embarrassingly obvious, actually. I'm not sure why I didn't see it before.
My antagonist is one dimensional. I've known all along that he wasn't "right" somehow, but I wasn't sure how to fix it. Or how to put it into words. Or, sadly, why he even existed. I had written him into existence so that there would be conflict, so that my protagonist could defeat him, so that there would be a story.
Those aren't bad reasons -- without conflict there's no story -- but left at that developmental stage, they suck. Officially.
So, this is what I've done the past several hours:
1. Explore the bad guy: he has to be human, motivated by the things that motivate all humans, and he has to be believable. Humans are motivated by self-interest: taken to the extreme, that self-interest reveals itself in flares of power, greed, jealousy, etc.
2. Give the bad guy "good" dimensions: the audience needs to be able to identify with pieces of him. In order to be truly effective, an antagonist should be almost likable at some point.
3. Tweak the good parts: when you take those "good" parts of a man, then twist them somehow, you create equal parts empathy and horror. An audience who identifies with a certain act or emotion will begin walking the path with that character. It hurts all the more when the antagonist does his naughty deeds.
4. Allow the bad guy to influence the plot line: Once I realized what was motivating the antagonist, I had to let him guide pieces of the plot. And you know? It didn't mess anything up. Instead, everything felt tighter, more fluid, and ultimately stronger. Today's a good day!
How about you? Who's your favorite bad guy? bad girl? How do you flesh out the antagonist(s) in your novel or short stories? What's the hardest thing to accomplish?