Antagonists are Protagonists Too

Since I released Dark Rising to beta-readers back in September, I’ve gotten bits and pieces of feedback from those of you who picked up a copy. The one thing I keep hearing is how surprised everyone is that so much of the book is dedicated to Psi (the villain).

Most of the Young Adult books I’ve read focus on the hero and the challenges that he or she faces, but that didn’t seem like the right approach for me. I knew that it was really important to showcase the villain and give him just as much room in the story as my hero, Alexander, was given. I would go as far as to say that the first book of The Dark Matter Chronicles is more so about Psi than Alexander.

Why did I set up the book this way?

I believe that it is crucial to treat antagonists and all secondary characters as having just as much value as the protagonist. They are no less important and they’re certainly not meant to be plot devices or accessories for the main character.

The world doesn’t revolve around any one person, but each and every one of us is the protagonist in our own story. We don’t think of ourselves as existing only for someone else’s benefit. And that truth should be kept in mind when it comes to stories as well because if those characters were real people, then they would never consider themselves to be secondary characters–or even antagonists–in other peoples’ lives. No villain (real or fictional) thinks of him or herself as a villain.  Good versus evil isn’t that straightforward. I think the upcoming Wreck-it-Ralph does a good job of showing that, but in a much cuter and fluffier way than Dark Rising does.

From Psi’s perspective, he is the protagonist. He’s the hero. The Dark Matter Chronicles wouldn’t be a truthful story if I didn’t acknowledge that. And though you’ll get to know Alexander more in the second book, (I’m working on it, I swear), you’ll also get to see Psi’s evolution, along with that of Ezilie’s, Charon’s, and James’s, too.

So the next time you find yourself thinking of about how much you hate the bad guys in books, remember that just like Wreck-it-Ralph and Psi, bad guys are people too.

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3 comments on “Antagonists are Protagonists Too

  1. I love this post and I especially loved learning more about Psi in your novel. That was definitely something that stood out to me when I read Dark Rising – so much time is given to Psi and I just loved it. I think the point you make in this post is so key – everyone has a story (and usually one that will break your heart). I think that this idea can be taken beyond writing/literature. It is so easy to be judgemental and that is definitely not a quality that I am particularly fond of (in myself or others). What has helped me kick that “habit” is to think about the other person’s story. If someone driving in front of me is going to slow, rather than immediately freaking out and honking my horn, declaring that this person is stupid and does not know how to drive, I think to myself, perhaps this person has experienced a devastating loss and does not normally drive this way – we all have our days. Thank you for this post – I don’t LIKE Psi, but at least I understand him 🙂

    • Thanks for such a great comment, Helen! I’m glad you pointed out that thinking of others as antagonist also applies to small, everyday gestures as well as great acts of evil.

  2. Pingback: Character Conflict Helps Engage Readers In Your Published Works

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