Antagonist vs. Villain

And the big day is finally here. My new novel, The Copper Witch, has hit the shelves (or at least e-shelves, print comes out soon). You should totally go buy a copy. You know you want to.

See how pretty it is?

See how pretty it is?

With reviews trickling in (which I’m happy to say are generally positive) a common theme I have found is readers either loving or hating the main character. And honestly, I can’t say I’m too surprised. Adela Tilden, the protagonist of The Copper Witch, is a very strong personality–and honestly an anti-heroine. She was never meant to be particularly “likable” as much as she was meant to be interesting (whether that is a good or a bad interesting seems to be entirely up to the reader).

Antiheroes have been a trend for a while now. While there are still certainly stories with true “heroes” as their protagonists (Good vs. Evil as a literary staple has been around since Gilgamesh–I have to say I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon) protagonists who lack the standard “heroic” traits (antiheroes) are no stranger to fiction these days either. They are written for any number of reason, but they do end up changing the traditional names that might be used when describing characters.

Yay, Antiheroes (who seem to be predominately men, looking at TV Tropes)

Yay, Antiheroes (who seem to be predominately men, looking at TV Tropes)

You see, while performing an author interview for another blog, I was asked a relatively simple question, “How important do you believe villains are in stories?”

This lead me to the answer that antagonists (someone your protagonist struggles against) are very important–or at least conflicts are. Without conflicts, there generally isn’t much of a plot. There has to be something that your character wants and something stopping them from getting that want, or what would your plot really be? That doesn’t, however, mean there has to be a “villain”. You see, thinking about who the villain in The Copper Witch (the character who tends to have a negative effect on other characters) would most likely also be our protagonist. That’s a bit what being an antihero seems to be–the name for a protagonist who would likely be the villain were situations different.

And that is why “villain” and “antagonist” can’t really be synonymous. Often time villains double as the antagonists of stories, but they don’t always. Even in stories with more traditional “heroes” (i.e. no antiheroes) there doesn’t always have to be a “villain” there simply has to be something that causes a struggle/obstacle. Not necessarily someone evil (e.g. if your story is about a student who wants to get the lead in a school play, the antagonist could be another student also up for the role…even if the other student is perfectly nice).

So, The Copper Witch doesn’t really have a villain, but it does have things for the protagonist to struggle against. And so, antagonist is truly the word to use for what is important in stories. Not villain.

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The Copper Witch, now available electronically on:
Amazon         Smashwords         Barnes and Noble         All Romance

Print available soon

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One thought on “Antagonist vs. Villain

  1. deshipley says:

    Yeah, it seems anti-heroines can have a hard time making friends among readers. One of the main characters in my latest novella rubs a lot of people the wrong way, and I can hardly blame them, given her temperament. Calling her a straight-up heroine wouldn’t be any more accurate than calling her the story’s villain, so I’m glad there’s an available term that can convey what she is in fairness, if not always in a perfectly flattering light. (:

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