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So I’m writing another series. No surprise there, at least not if you know me.

I wrote my first series on an idea, and let it reveal itself to me as I wrote. That was a good a method for the specific idea I was writing, because I was completely creating my own fantasy world. In that world I came up with a villain so dangerous and terrifying she even scared me, and had to stop writing a few times because I actually thought I was going to have a heart attack.

Anyway, I can’t do that this time because I’m not creating a world from scratch. My story takes place in New York City, because it fits my main character. My main character is a lone wolf type of protagonist. She lives in orphanage in Manhattan, because she has two different colored eyes(blue and gray) so her parents thought she was a freak and didn’t want her. She is constantly stirring up trouble, running away, shoplifting, getting into fistfights (and winning them) she has no friends because people are scared of her.

What she doesn’t know is her eyes are not freakish, they are gray and blue because she can control and create lightning. She figures this out eventually.

What would some traits(physical or personality wise) be of an antagonist who is magical, terrifying, and someone this girl would be willing to stop(even at the price of her life) who can fit into the real world.

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    Heterochromia iridium is found in more then 0.5% of the population, don't you think it's weird her parents abandon her because of it?
    – A.bakker
    Oct 22, 2020 at 19:40
  • I normally use the writing stack. Last time I asked a question about an antagonist they told me to put it here, so these kinds of questions are in the middle.
    – Leila
    Oct 22, 2020 at 19:47
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    @Leila Worldbuilding is more for rules/laws/logic set in a universe. Writing is more for character creation. Can be a bit hard to differentiate sometimes I admit.
    – A.bakker
    Oct 22, 2020 at 19:53
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    @Leila If someone as terrifying as this antagonist to this girl exists, then surely, it must be /outside/ of what would "fit" in the real world. Whether its ideals, powers, or personality, The Antagonist should not fit in the real world. Essentially, because this character is a hazard to the real world and to The Protagonists status quo she needs stopping. If you ask whether a pre-established set of powers (from both sides) could be plausibly used for things that is more on-topic here.
    – IT Alex
    Oct 22, 2020 at 20:16
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    BTW I'm not sure there are any real orphanages in New York today. There are temporary facilities, though, which are working on transferring children to foster care.
    – Alexander
    Oct 22, 2020 at 20:31

8 Answers 8

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Opposites Oppose:

I think this will likely get migrated to writing, so I'll answer it like a question there.

Avoid judgement on physical traits, even horrifying ones, since your MC was rejected due to her appearance. It would make her appear two-faced. If you want to go physical route, make him perfect. Aryan is a little stereotypical, but a physically perfect enemy would emphasize the difference.

Beyond that, just select someone who is the opposite of everything she believes in. Her brother, for example, raised by parents who adored perfection (and likely also magic). If some kinds of magic are more socially acceptable than others, give him those abilities. Let him have wealth, numerous friends, success, and all the trappings of power. Ruthless and uncaring if others live and die.

To be willing to oppose someone onto death, an enemy usually needs to be doing something DEEPLY and OBVIOUSLY wrong. Like murdering folks to drain their magical potential, for example. Otherwise, the MC again looks petty. The alternative is if the enemy has done something personally reprehensible to the MC or someone she cares about deeply. With the brother example, he tracks her down and humiliates her, tries to kill her, and succeeds in killing a close friend (or maybe kills the crazy but loving aunt who could never quite get it together enough to adopt the MC but always showed affection and sent gifts).

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Another answer says to make them opposites, but I have another idea:

Make them similar

You describe your character as constantly getting into trouble, beating people up in fights, and scaring people away from her. That absolutely smacks as a good villain backstory to me. However, I'm assuming that you're planning on having her grow towards being a 'good' character (hence 'protagonist'), but this leaves the door open to one thought: what if she didn't?

The goal of this villain archetype is that the hero can see themselves in the villain. They can relate, and they can see how they have walked similar paths. However, the main difference is that the villain has accepted certain evils that the protagonist finds repulsive. The terrifying part is that the protagonist can see a clear path how they could end up as a very similar villain if they continue down their self-destructive path, and it can be a great way to spur change.

Here are some examples of what that might look like paired with your character:

  • A loner who has disassociated from others so much that she sociopathically uses and manipulates people for her own selfish ends.
  • A powerful individual who has been rejected so much that she uses her power to bully, intimidate, and coerce people to get what she wants. This is a big theme in X Men villains.
  • A jealous individual who sees the protagonist's growth and ability to rise above her and attempts to drag her down to her own level by any means at her disposal. This kind of villain gets personal. This is like what The Joker is to Batman.
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These aren't 'set in stone', but think about some of these:

1. Someone who is the complete opposite of the protagonist

Making a character in a more realistic setting who is, at first glance, completely different from your protagonist can really set interesting scenes. Having opposite characters, while people tend to say 'opposites attract', I'd rather say 'opposites oppose'. For example, for me, I would always despise people who talked too much in my classroom and thought they were funny for goofing around. I was the typical quiet type who was too busy writing and drawing in her notebook than the one who was more vocal in her classroom. Therefore, as you can tell, I sort of had a mental grudge with those sorts of people.

Obviously, my story actually sets up a more conflict-creator, or someone who isn't really a "bad guy", but rather someone who's goals (goofing around and playing in the classroom) definitely contradicts my own (sitting and being quiet).

Now, think about your protagonist. It seems that your character is the trouble-maker type. Always cutting up fights and not listening to authority. Now, if you want to make an antagonist who is really just the total opposite of your character, you could have them be seemingly perfect. Think of them as... Dolores Umbridge. At least in the movies, she seems to think of herself as the kindest, sweetest woman at first glance. But there's always something off about her. Perhaps your antagonist could have similar elements; a perfect person, perhaps too perfect, that makes your character feel as if there's something off. Whether that 'something off' is a conflicting ability, working for an organization, or just plain annoying is up to you.

2. Make them have more power

Maybe your character isn't the one to hate those with an opposite personality than theirs. That's fine! Considering she had the ability to manipulate lightning due to her gray eye, then I would say make this character have an ability similar to hers. Perhaps it could be a force that stops lightning, or maybe just a more powerful force altogether.

3. Make the protagonist the "good guy" in this situation

I say this one because your character isn't necessarily the best child I've heard of. Perhaps she thinks that what she's doing is actually right, even if it's morally wrong, and the antagonist is the one that's doing what's morally right. There's something about this trope that makes me appreciate it. It allows you to see a moral gray area, and this may work best for your character.

However, these are subjective. There are plenty of other ways, these are just some I thought of. Perhaps you can combine them, or not use them at all. This is your story, after all. Hopefully, I offered some insight that can help you out.

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If you're a writer, you're probably aware that there are generally two ways you can create a hero/villain conflict:

Active Hero, Passive Villain: The hero is trying to get X, and the villain is trying to stop them. Maybe the villain also wants X, maybe the villain just doesn't want X gotten. Think Tony Stark vs Obadiah Stane in Iron Man or Frodo vs Sauron in The Lord of the Rings*. Is your MC trying to reach something? A good villain might be someone who wants the same thing.

Active Villain, Passive Hero: The villain is trying to get X, usually something bad, and the hero has to stop them. Think Aang vs the Firelord in Avatar: The Last Airbender, or the Avengers vs Thanos in Avengers: Infinity War. This also covers heroes who are just trying to exist, and the villain wants them to not do that; think Snow White vs the Evil Queen in Snow White, or most horror movie protagonists. Does your MC live in a world at large that is hostile to people like her? A good villain might be someone who notices her powers.


* I realize Sauron's overall plan was to take over Middle-Earth, and the heroes were trying to stop him, but in Frodo's arc Sauron was more of an obstacle.

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  • Is there an active hero/active villain? I’ve read books where both the protagonist and antagonist are trying to achieve separate goals that directly oppose each other. Dec 14, 2020 at 17:37
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So you've got a solo Zeus girl living in a New York orphanage, but you don't have a solo Zeus girl enemy. That can make for a rather dull story, so I'll try to help you out.

The easiest way to do this is to decide what Zeus girl's personality and morals are, and make someone against those who happens to also be in New York, really open about their morals, and evilly inclined. If Zeus girl is the selfless defender-from-all-evil type(or something around there), all you need is the evilly inclined part and they'll eventually start fighting each other.

If you want to go through personality/morals/belief changing and stuff like that, have Zeus girl work with/near evil man, and once she gets fed up with all the evilness he's doing, she'll change from letting it happen to doing something about it.

Also sounds like a good setting for an unfortunate accident, so if you need deep rooted hatred and/or revenge, have Zeus girl's best friend be killed by evil man. Maybe this caused her to become the lone wolf type she is, and she finds a piece of information that says 'Hey I killed your friend hahaha signed evil man'. Well, maybe not exactly like that but it would have to be something that the police couldn't launch an investigation on (unless you want them involved) but enough for Zeus girl to know that evil man killed her friend.

Side note, but if you need beta-readers, this new chat could use some activity before I go crazy from the silence.

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From a challenge perspective, the villain should have some set of abilities or powers that make defeating them a real challenge for the protagonist. For example, The villian in "Iron Man 3" is hard for Iron Man to defeat because he is really good at destroying Iron Man's suits. Scarlemagne presented a real challenge to Kipo in "Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts" because he could mind control humans, and Kipo was a human. Ant-Man has trouble beating ghost in "Ant-Man and the Wasp" because he can't attack something that doesn't have solid form.

Making the villain simply a more powerful version of the protagonist also works. You can see this in "Shazam!", "Iron Man", "Star Wars" (Luke and Darth Vader), "Ant-Man", and "The Incredible Hulk".

From a character standpoint, great villains often act as the foil to the main character. That means that the main villain is like the protagonist in several ways, except in one key way, which makes the protagonist worth rooting for and the antagonist worth rooting against. This happens in "My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic" a lot: King Sombra wants order but not harmony, Queen Chrysalis wants to take love but not give it, Discord wants laughter but at the cost of order. Indiana Jones seeks treasure, but unlike his enemies, he wants to put them in a museum. In "Iron Man", Both Tony Stark and his business partner want to make money, but Tony decides to stop manufacturing weapons.

In order to be more compelling, the villain also needs to see what they're doing as right. The King Pin in "Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse" nearly destroyed the city, but was doing it to bring back someone he loved. Zaheer tried to kill Korra because he thought it would benefit the world as a whole in "Avatar: Legend of Korra". "Steven Universe"'s Diamonds blasted the Earth with a beam that corrupted the gems there because they were trying to squash a rebellion. Villains that think of themselves as evil are less compelling.

Additionally, the villain should win at least some of the time. It's not as intense if the protagonist wins every battle. I'm not saying the villain should win in the end "Avengers: Infinity War" style, but they should win at least a few battles, potentially all of them except for the final fight. This keeps the reader guessing as to what's going to happen next, and makes the stakes of each scene have more weight.

In summary: a villain should have powers that counter the hero's, or has the same powers but at a higher level. The villain is often the foil for the hero. The villain needs to see themselves as "the good guy". The villain should win some of the time.

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Making your antagonist memorable

Some memorable villains in beloved series, like Voldemort, often does things to prove just how evil and powerful he is. He tortures people. He kills muggles. He makes everybody so afraid of him that they are even terrified to speak his name! Consider adding scenes in your story that show just how evil the antagonist is.

Give your antagonist a unique physical appearance

Taking Voldemort again as the example, Voldemort looks quite freakish. He has this interesting pale skin. He has a nose like a snake. He has weird eyes. Make your antagonist look unique and somebody that looks feared.

Giving your antagonists a backstory, but make it believable too

I'm just going to take Voldemort again. Most of the time, antagonists are not born evil. They develop it over time, just like Tom Riddle. Give your antagonist some backstory that is believable and interesting.

Give your antagonist opposite powers of your main character, something that can overpower lightning

Give your antagonist the opposite powers of your main character. Something that is more powerful than lightning and have it as a shield the antagonist use to protect him/herself. To make the MC even more terrified of the antagonist, consider making your antagonist already targeting the MC. And have the MC know that. Then, she could be even more terrified of the antagonist when they meet. Have the MC know what the antagonist is capable of.

Here is a additional checklist of things that you should check off when you are creating villains:

  • He’s convinced he’s the good guy
  • He has many likeable qualities
  • He’s a worthy enough opponent to make your hero look good
  • You (and your reader) like when he’s on stage
  • He’s clever and accomplished enough that people must lend him begrudging respect
  • He can’t be a fool or a bumbler
  • He has many of the same characteristics of the hero, but they’re misdirected
  • He should occasionally be kind, and not just for show
  • He can be merciless, even to the innocent
  • He’s persuasive
  • He’ll stop at nothing to get what he wants
  • He’s proud
  • He’s deceitful
  • He’s jealous, especially of the hero
  • He’s vengeful

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Keep in mind that "Antagonist" and "Villain" are not the same thing. Antagonist elements are those that the hero must fight in order to achieve his/her goals in the plot and must directly oppose the hero. A villain is an evil character who's actions motivate the plot of the story. I like to use this example, because it demonstrates so well the difference, but in Disney's animated film "Mulan" the villain is clearly the Hun leader Shan Yu. His actions motivate the plot. However, he is not Mulan's antagonist. Rather, the thing that keeps her from goal of defeating Shan Yu, isn't Shan Yu himself (he's unaware of her existance and takes only one action in the climax directly targeting her). Rather, Mulan's antagonists is her own society's gender norms and customs, which stop Mulan from being who she is (Her "I want Song" is "Reflections" where she wants the person in the mirror to reflect who she feels she is in her heart. Contrast with the closest we get to a "villain song" which was the opening number of "Please Bring Honor to Us All" which explains the rules society imposes on Mulan that are opposing her goals voiced in Reflection. She wants to bring honor to her family, symbolized by serving the Emperor in exchange for protection from the Huns, but the only way society will accept her service is if she starts a family and has a son, who can bear arms). Shan Yu expects no such conformity from Mulan and when he finally learns of her and what she's done to stop him, his first response is telling: "The Soldier from the Mountain". In effect, he turns to attack her because she dropped a mountain on his men. He's not upset for being beaten by a woman... he's recognizing the real threat right in front of him. While Shan Yu is probably notable for how forgettable he is for a 90s era Disney Villain and following on the heels of Hades and Frollo who were both big show stealers in their respective movies. But Mulan is still an amazing film because Shan Yu is not the Antagonist.

For me, a good Villain Antagonist (and yes, you can have Heroic Antagonists. Walter White's most enduring Antagonist is Hank Schrader, who, despite his flaws, is still a heroic figure to Walt's villiany) is someone who acts and behaves in such a way that he believes himself to be the Hero. Consider Frollo (Disney), who believes he is following the path of a rightous and holy God-fearing man, and sees corruption everywhere, compared with Quasimodo, who was raised by Frollo and yet is able to see Beauty and Joy in almost all things. It's also why the resolution of his relationship with Esmerelda is important. It's not that she chose to go with the traditionally handsome man... it's that Quasimodo was man enough to let her choose someone else compared to Frollo handling her romantic rejections of him.

A good antagonist, when personofied, will always justify his actions for a greater good. They may even admit that they know what they are doing is wrong, but it's more wrong to not do it. This is why I loved Thanos in Infinity War... here's a man who sees a problem with overpopulation and realizes that the only solution... mass depopulation... is never taken because it is so horredous. Yet he watched his people go extinct because they couldn't stomach killing 1/2 of themselves randomly and equally... so he vows that so no one will ever have to suffer that choice, he'll suffer it for everyone... no matter the costs and they are high (he is one of two survivors of his adopted family through the direct actions in achieving this goal). He will bear this pain so no one esle will have to ever again. It counters Tony Stark who has always struggled with Liberty vs. Security as it's the ultimate form of that question and Captain America, who could have solved the film's issue, but for the fact that "we do not trade lives." The resolution also shows Cap that what he says was not entirely true... He does trade in lives... but only when it is his own life to give, something he thinks Stark would never do... but does to finally stop Thanos. A good antagonist will philosophically challenge your heroes resolve to commit to the actions that will make them a hero. Often they will give the Hero a last temptation: Abandon what you believe in... and you will be safe. Ultimately the hero has to see the one way out that will defeat the villain and refuse his principles. In Star Wars, Luke defeats the Emperor not by killing him, but by refusing to continue the cycle of hate by killing his own father (and in turn showing Vader that all his conflict was for the safety of his family, turning him against the Emperor). In Mulan, she could have stopped when she was discovered to be a woman... but she would know she never truly served the Emperor. And in Infinity War, they could have killed Vision to stop Thanos... but they would be no better than he was.

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