Most good stories have a villain, or as writers call it – the antagonist. The word Antagonist is derived from the Greek ἀνταγωνιστής – antagonistēs which refers to a rival, an opponent and/or an enemy.
For me the introduction of the antagonist in a story is very important. He is after all the person, creature or entity the audience grow to hate or at the very least hope will ultimately be defeated.
Personally I love an antagonist who is not all evil, but is speckled with a variety of personality traits including some good, or perhaps the notion of goodness.
In my new novel, Yesterday is too late (work in progress), I agonised for days over the antagonist’s introduction scene. I needed it to convey his deep depravity without saying too much. For now I’ve settled on the paragraphs below.
Russell Saunders smiled with satisfaction. There was nothing quite like the feel of a knife plunging into flesh. The way the steel separated the skin as it slid so comfortably through the layers—as if it was crafted for that exact purpose. When he was younger he tried hard to hide his skills, even from himself. As he grew older he came to learn that he had a gift. A gift that needed to be fostered and perfected. The gift was his uncanny ability to see the true purpose for which everyday objects were created. A rope—for most a handy tool—for him an object which in the right hands, could bring untold torture and pain. He smirked at the common criminal’s use of guns. How utterly unimaginative. How crude and boring. He had killed in many different ways and was proud that not one of those included the use of a gun. His eyes caught a glimpse of his blood soaked gloves. He stared at them in amazement. What a magnificent sight, he thought.
Shifting his gaze to the scene in front of him, his forehead creased in a frown. The pure enjoyment of killing was always dulled by the clean up afterwards. It was like creating a piece of art, and then once finished, the menial task of tidying the studio had to commence. His mind kicked into automatic—he wiped every surface in the room, paranoid about leaving any prints. He didn’t allow his mind to loiter on the silliness of the act—he always wore gloves after all. But, you can never be too careful. From his backpack he retrieved a large container filled with gasoline and doused the body from head to toe before turning the corpse over and drenching it again.
After one last lingering gaze back at the burning body, he let himself out through the back door, making sure his face was covered by an oversized hoodie. It was two o’clock in the morning, and the streets in the quiet suburb were empty, the only movement coming from the car that glided in next to him.
What I hope to achieve with this introduction scene is a sense of the character’s personality, his thinking patterns and a glimpse into his history. As the story progresses, character traits are developed through behaviour and dialogue to eventually form a well rounded, well developed antagonist.
Working with this character has been very exciting. It gave me a chance to make use of my experience in Forensic Mental Health – to finally utilise the knowledge gained from reading hundreds of Police Reports and Forensic Mental Health Court Reports.
At this stage I’m not entirely sure if the scene above introducing my antagonist to the reader will remain as is. The character has already taken on a life of its own, so I can only wait and see where he takes me. 🙂