Ramblings of a Young Aussie Writer

A writer lost in her own imagination

Writing A Great Antagonist – Nature Vs Nurture — June 13, 2014

Writing A Great Antagonist – Nature Vs Nurture

When I read a book, see a movie, watch a TV series I’m very picky when it comes to the characters. Yes I love fiction but if a main character seems to have personality inconsistencies it can be very off-putting and ruins the illusion throwing you back into your life and not the fictional world you were lost in. I’m not a published author nor have I any fantastic writing achievements to my name (yet haha) but that doesn’t mean I don’t know what I like as a reader/audience.

My family always makes jokes about me watching the crime channel on pay tv and until I really sat down and thought about it, I didn’t really understand why I liked to. And here it is –

I’m going to relate this to books and writing rather than anything else as this applies to me. Most of the time the protagonists in a book are relatable and their motives are something we can relate to or even just understand. I feel that this is because most people we associate with are, for lack of a better word, good. Their intentions usually lack any kind of malice. Everyone does something bad in their life, the severity varies but it’s usually not bad enough to be classified as evil. There are some who have a sick, evil streak through them which I believe puts them on the border of evil.

I talk about evil as a high percentage of antagonists can be described as evil. This leads the reader to question the reasoning for this evil. It comes down to the simple statement – Nature verses Nurture. The age old saying is what every author needs to ask themselves when creating their antagonists. Because in our social circle there usually isn’t a person who is evil. This is where shows that are on the Crime Channel become an invaluable learning tool. I watch them to try and get a better understand of these people’s motives but sometimes there aren’t any. I’ve found that although there may be events in their past that could help trigger their violence, most seem to almost be at peace with what they have done, want to do and the urges that drive them. There was one many who killed over 25 women and his story got me thinking. He was raised on a meat farm and grew up slaughtering animals, his mother was violent and he lost both parents close together when he was an adult but he lived with and cared for them. I won’t go into detail but I was left wondering – in a different situation, with a different family and a different upbringing but the same DNA would this man have become a killer? This man had two siblings but both moved out of home early and never looked back. I keep wondering do these two (male and female) have any violent tendencies? Do they have a suppressed urge to inflict pain? Do they have pets, a family and how do they treat them? They aren’t killers (as far as anyone knows) but is it because they ‘got out early’ of a horrible situation overwhelmed by death albeit it be animals? Was this killer born or raised to be what he became?

I feel that to create that perfect antagonist, a writer should know without a doubt whether that character’s actions come down to Nature or Nurture.