In a piece I am writing, I want to turn an antagonist into a protagonist. I know that numerous ways to accomplish this are somewhere out there, but none of the help with a smooth transformation. Is there a way I can turn an antagonist into a protagonist in a smooth fashion?

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    Hey, you've gotten some close votes for the question being too broad. And I have to say I agree. I'm guessing it may also be a duplicate (as questions from 5+ years ago were often broader than we have today). Can you narrow it down to something more focused? What you describe could apply to an awful lot of character changes. If you do that, I'll vote to reopen.
    – Cyn
    Mar 3, 2019 at 16:09
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    Three instances in fiction come to mind: Jean Valjean in Les Miserables, Inspector Javert in that same work, and Snape in the Harry Potter series. Each of these characters reaches a dead end from which the only escape is to stop living as they do.
    – EvilSnack
    Mar 7, 2019 at 6:25

3 Answers 3


I don't think there is a smooth way; an antagonist has to reverse course, there has to be a moment of truth in which they betray their followers, or partners in evil, and transition to good.

You can show doubts appearing along the way, and building to the point the antagonist hates doing what they are doing, but there will have to be a moment of truth when the antagonist flips and first offers their aid in a helpful or altruistic act; or first refuses to pursue their own interest at the expense of causing others pain; or first betrays their fellow evildoers, and that is going to be a sharp transition no matter what.

And it should be; that is a moment of significant change, and such sharp transitions make for good dramatic moments. The Bourne Identity (and whole Bourne franchise) is built on exactly this transition; a government assassin sent to kill a bad guy, that cannot bring himself to do it while the bad guy is playing with his young children.

That is told in flashback, but nevertheless it was a sharp transition, Bourne is wounded, he has amnesia, and he turns against his handlers that are then trying very hard to kill him (as a traitor).

  • Snape. started out as an antagonist and became a protagonist in the end. (but he was ALWAYS a good guy in the time line of the series. ) Sep 6, 2019 at 20:44
  • @dolphin_of_france Did Snape ever take any direct action that harmed the Main Crew? I don't think so, because he was really a good guy the whole time, and it was eventually revealed the crew was guilty of misjudging him and his motives. Snape was not an antagonist that became a protagonist; all that really happened there was clarity was achieved on his motives and character. Snape himself did not change at all. I think this question is about a true change of motives for an actual antagonist, and that is what my answer is talking about.
    – Amadeus
    Sep 6, 2019 at 20:56
  • Yes. and No. Harry and friends were convinced Snape was the bad guy through out book 1. The big reveal at the end was, he was helping them out the whole time. So from the point of view of the MC (and the readers) Snape was an antagonist, the main antagonist (for the first 95% of book 1). Who turned out to be the misunderstood tragic hero of the series. Sep 6, 2019 at 20:59
  • @dolphin_of_france Then not "yes and no", Snape does not ever need a change of heart, period. What readers believe is not true, as is the case in many books, it is the revelation of the truth that makes Snape a good guy instead of a bad guy in the eyes of the MC and reader. There is no ambiguity here, Rowling never needs to turn an antagonist into a protagonist, Snape doesn't have to undergo any sort of moral transformation or crisis of conscience. This question is about how to accomplish those.
    – Amadeus
    Sep 6, 2019 at 22:29

Like the points on a circle, "smoothness" is simply a matter of the number of points and their spacing along the arc.

If you need a smoother transition, use smaller indicators more often over a longer period of time.


current protag is a lovebird?

Well, off the top of my head I want to say write another book from their POV. But there are several other options. My biggest idea is, in whatever method you see fit, make the current protagonist fall in love with the antagonist, now they do everything together seeming like there are two equal protagonists. Again, however you see fit, remove the original protagonist from the story. This immediately makes people think death but as you stated you want smoothness, I don't see death in any way smooth. you could use captivity, being busy, travel, or he/she might have found new love again (knowing their tendencies it was probably with the antagonist again). Hope this is helpful :)

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