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Does the reader need to know the Antagonist? : Conversation question • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Does the reader need to know the Antagonist?

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
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DrG2
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Does the reader need to know the Antagonist?

Postby DrG2 » Thu Oct 24, 2013 9:09 pm

The answer is no, but I wonder if you don't have scenes with the antagonist present, what do you need to do? We never really meet Sauron in LotRs (though we get a bit of his backstory).

Is it sufficient for the protag. to suffer the consequences of the antagonist's actions?

I'm wondering because it would be easy for me to visit the antagonist for a chapter here and there in the novel I'm writing. He will show up in the ultimate scene, but my main characters are wondering how a low level drug dealer has the resources he is using (it is eventually discovered).

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MookyMcD
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Re: Does the reader need to know the Antagonist?

Postby MookyMcD » Thu Oct 24, 2013 11:40 pm

This is entirely opinion, but I think a great, fleshed antagonist adds a lot to the experience. That's my opinion as a reader. I'm on an R&R on my current book and a lot of what I'm having to do derives from not having that. Even before I was put to work on the old one, I was already plotting out a WIP where the antagonist is almost vying for MC status. Although, knowing myself, I'll probably overdo it and end up having to dial him back.

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louiseh87
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Re: Does the reader need to know the Antagonist?

Postby louiseh87 » Fri Oct 25, 2013 5:52 am

On the other hand, an antagonist which the reader doesn't see, but hears about through the reactions of others can be very effective - see for example the way J.K. Rowling (as much as I'm loathe to cite this) uses the "He Who Must Not Be Named" device to show how scared people are without detailing at length what the villain actually did. It really depends on who your antagonist is and why he's a threat.
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LMGilbert
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Re: Does the reader need to know the Antagonist?

Postby LMGilbert » Fri Oct 25, 2013 8:38 am

What about "antagonists" that are not so solid and flesh-ly? For instance, the protagonist's adversary could be their own addiction, or the mental health system, or a really bad idea they once had, or an illness. In these cases too, I think the reader needs to "know" them or "meet" them through the protagonist's and other characters' responses to them.

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MookyMcD
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Re: Does the reader need to know the Antagonist?

Postby MookyMcD » Fri Oct 25, 2013 9:54 am



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