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How To Write A Marketable Screenplay - An Ongoing Series - Chapter 1.4

March 9, 2018

Hint 4: Every Coin Must Have a Flip Side – The Antagonist

In order for there to be a compelling story for the audience to watch, your character has to come up against something that prevents them from getting what they want – otherwise, what are they doing there in the theater, and why are they watching in the first place? This should come in the form of your antagonist, whose job it is to stop your protagonist from getting whatever it is what they want. If your hero is a bank robber, your antagonist is a cop.

It’s also important to take note that your antagonist does not necessarily have to be a physical, corporeal presence – it just has to be standing directly in the way of your protagonist getting whatever it is what they want. If your hero is a talented scientist who is trying to save the world from a viral outbreak, then the antagonist is the virus itself – see how that works? As long as the two forces have an oppositional relationship to one another, they count as having an antagonist/protagonist relationship and will serve the purposes of your screenplay.

That being said, it is important that you create an antagonist that is in direct proportion to your protagonist – if it’s too easy to defeat, your audience will feel like your hero didn’t really accomplish much at the end, and if it’s impossible to defeat, then your audience will feel cheated because the character they were rooting for never had a chance to win the game to begin with.

It is important that your antagonist is both proportionate, and naturally occurring, to the protagonist’s environment. If your protagonist is a kindergarten teacher, it does not make sense to have her antagonist be a world class North Korean assassin – the two would never conceivably interact.  Think of Walter and Hank, from Breaking Bad – Hank is a DEA agent, so naturally, his job is to arrest drug dealers, which is going to put him in direct conflict with Walt, even if they are brothers-in-law.  As long as the relationship is natural and proportionate, the audience will care about what happens to both of these characters.

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