Worldbuilding for Preptober… Working out an Antagonist

First, a link – How To Vividly Describe a Setting That You’ve Never Visited:

Okay, I have my character dressed (or I will as soon as I figure it out); I know where she starts out the story (with her mother, fathers, siblings, aunts, uncles, grandmother, nieces, and nephews), what sort of schooling (loosely) she’s had, and what sort of technology the world has. I know it’s a totalitarian govern without the technological control to be as invasive as it could be. I know it’s a poor nation, with far too much of its resources going towards war.

…Crap, I need a bad guy.

My preferred sort of antagonist, as many of you have noticed over the years, is the Setting Is the Problem: Tír na Cali, Addergoole, Unicorn/Factory, probably Things Unspoken. I mean, in The Tod’cxeckz’ri Paper, the main antagonist, technically, is a collar.

I should probably branch out a bit.

And yet, because I decided I was using some parody twitter accounts as the launching point for this series/world, I have a dystopian world. I have an oppressive government, in part because I wanted to play with some elements from some of the best-known dystopian worlds. Also, the idea of having the protagonist be “Chosen” reminded me of some real-world totalitarian governments, so…

The world itself is creating problems for my protagonist. She doesn’t want to be Disappeared. She doesn’t want to live the life the government has picked out for her. Yes, I’m running on tropes for that part; that’s the whole idea of the series. 🙂

But the world doesn’t actually act on its own.

For instance, in Addergoole, there’s a lot of elements that are setting-creating-problems, but some of those were caused by the gods – they could make some awesome antagonists for something a bit more high-powered… – right, back on track. There are elements which relate to the school, but those are caused by students (Ardell, for instance, Baram, Rozen) or by the staff – especially Regine, who created this little corner of hell intentionally and caused it to be as bad as it is through a combination of mindful goals and failure to understand certain parts of human nature. In Tír na Cali, slavery is part of the world, but the abuses of such are caused by specific people and institutions.

Bear with me; I’m talking through this as I go.

Cal got me thinking the other day about antagonists being people – okay, yeah, it’s a little late for that – but with mutually exclusive goals to the protagonist. So I’m going to think about that for a bit.
If your protagonist wants to overthrow the government, why does their antagonist want to keep the government intact?

If your protagonist doesn’t want to be Disappeared, why does the antagonist want to Disappear her?

My protagonist wants to make her own choices about her life. She wants to find a niche that makes her happy.

The government wants to make her choices for her, based on her skillset. This is supposed to also make her happy; indeed, a lot is put into propaganda about how being properly chosen for your ideal job should make you thrilled. “A well-placed nation is a happy nation.”

The agents of the government going against her plans will be working within the government’s goals (stability of the nation, success and victory in war, the power remaining in the hands of the powerful). (Note that these are the goals of people, too; government does not have its own thoughts or plans…)
(That would be a good idea for a novel, although Person of Interest might have covered some of that…)


Government doesn’t have its own thoughts or plans. That’s all people.

There’s a person in charge of the military/government. Are they good? Evil? Neutral? Okay, that’s not very nuanced. What are their goals?

There’s a person who acts out the will of the military on my protag. What about them? Do they enjoy being mean, or are they pressed by orders? By the will of the greater good?

And then there’s the antagonist for the book: someone in the government, acting out the government’s will while also having their own agenda.

I keep picturing him as President Snow. I’ve really got to work on that. I mean, I don’t even know he’s a he.

The theme of the novel is recruited. It’s even the title. Thus, it would help if the antagonist had something to do with recruiting.

So: Avo had skills that will allow the Governor to achieve their goals. They have been relegated to the back-office job of teaching/monitoring upstarts, abnormals, and rebels because they were themselves an upstart of some kind. They might have a bit of a superiority complex, and they definitely want to get out of running the School for Misfits and climb to what they think is their true position.

If Avo (protagonist) is cautious of the propaganda and learning how many layers deep it has gone, Governor both believes in it whole-heartedly and uses it to their own means.

How does the Governor want to use Avo’s skills to achieve their own means? How will that go against Avo’s goals and wishes?

I still have a lot of work to do on this!

What about you? What do you know about your antagonists? What are their goals, and how to those goals put them at odds with the protagonist(s)?

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