If you happen to spend much time around me, you’ve likely experienced my turning to you with a smile and saying, “Guess what!” After a pause, in which you wait for me to continue, I say. “It’s Antagonist Wednesday!” And you may or may not have been confused at what random context I pulled that from and why the heck I feel the need to mention it every week.
Allow me to explain:
It began with a blog I follow on tumblr about writing and story/character development. They have themed days of the week, in which people can send in situation prompts for character scenarios. Wednesday is “Antagonist Wednesday,” in which the prompts center around character development for antagonists.
And I love antagonists. Always have.
The misunderstood, the misguided, the overzealous, or perhaps the little insane.
Many villains end up being INTJ’s, which is my personality type—so perhaps that’s another point of identification. We plan, we analyze, we devote our full energies and attentions to what we believe in…even if it might be wrong. As protagonists, this personality type is rather underrepresented. (But the protagonist of my first book is an INTJ! *muffled sounds of heralding paradigm shift* So if you’re curious about what a non-evil INTJ looks like in fiction…I’m doing it…)
The scientists, the strategists, those who ask “Why not?”—who can’t deal with social norms and adherence to tradition for its own sake, who analyze even emotional needs as a puzzle to be solved. (That’s me.)
Growing up, my sister (also an INTJ) and I played pretend most of the time. Usually, she, being older, claimed the villain of whatever movie or show we were obsessed with at the time, and I was most often either the accomplice or the best friend/relative of said villain. Sometimes I was the “good guy,” but we more often ended up having to work together than being pitted against each other.
Even when we were working against each other, such as in the spy/superhero games we played with our friends, I enjoyed being the villains as much as the organization trying to keep the peace.
I’ve grown up humanizing the antagonist. Thinking about what they would do in embarrassing situations, what they’re uncomfortable with, what they think is funny, and why they’re doing what they’re doing.
Of course, I’ve come into contact with some antagonists that I really didn’t like. They’re fascinating, yes, or have tragic stories and I can understand at least in part where they’re coming from, but when they utterly lose their humanity, that’s when I start to disconnect. Or the plain faceless army of evil that could all die and nobody cares because they’re the bad guy. The book I’m writing right now actually deals with this faceless aspect.
But really, I love seeking to identify with the one no one else is rooting for.
Which is why the antagonist of the book I’m editing is a twisted, misguided jerk who has a lot of baggage to work through, but he’s also my precious baby and I have enjoyed developing him about as much as my protagonist. I don’t have the time or energy to treat every Antagonist Wednesday like a holiday, but it does make me smile.
And by Wednesday, I often need more than an “almost there day.”
So on Antagonist Wednesday, I may draw a picture, or wear black eyeliner and something dark and brooding, or wear my glasses…which, admittedly, I got with my antagonist in mind because I’m just that cool.
And I mention the occasion. If my schedule doesn’t plow over me—or particularly if life is plowing over me—I can entertain myself in the knowledge that it’s Antagonist Wednesday.