Wednesday, November 7, 2018

When the antagonist is a family member

As I was working through plot points on my latest work in progress, I was trying to decide my antagonist's character arc -- and struggling somewhat since the antagonist is a family member. Coincidentally, I was concurrently reading a book by another author in which the antagonist was also a family member. Brilliant! I figured I could see how she handled the situation, even in a different genre, to see if I might be able to apply similar tactics.


Having a family member as an antagonist opens a whole new can of worms. In the leisure reading I was doing, the author actually killed the guy off! Family member and all! The hero was conflicted on several levels about what to do with him and actually told his law enforcement friends not to kill the only family he had left. Granted, the villain was beyond redemption and in a tough spot, but there were so many other ways the author might have dispatched him. Let's just say I was horrified at the route she took. The guy had assassins after him, for heaven's sake, and she let the hero mortally wound him and one of the law enforcement guys (who'd been asked not to kill him) shoot him dead, all while the assassins had a gun trained on the him. ARGH! My sense of honor was offended. My sense of "this is fiction! You get to decide how this man dies" was offended. Of all the options... and then "the hero is now free to live happily ever after." WAIT! WHAT? This is his last remaining family! Despite the antagonist being beyond redemption, there were other ways to dispatch him that might be less traumatic to the hero and the heroine he was trying to protect. Needless to say, I will not be applying any of these options to my antagonist. Which takes me back to how best to deal with dispatching MY antagonist.

In my work in progress, the antagonist is evil, but she's in over her head. I'm thinking she might get jail time, but I don't think its serious enough for her to be killed over (contrary to the book I just finished - that guy definitely deserved what he got, but as a reader, I would have preferred by other hands). So I'm back to muddling around inside my own head meting out justice to the bad guy to the satisfaction of our protagonists.

Sometimes this author stuff is heady!


  1. The author was probably using her "power" to kill off someone in her real life she didn't like!
    But yes, things have to make sense in the story world.

    1. The killing off part had to happen, and that was good, but when she had the family member kill him off and then decide now life could go on as usual, after building so much angst over the decision... No, if you want us to feel bad about it, so will the character. Life will not go on as usual. There will be angst over what happened and happily ever after will be affected. Delayed, perhaps, but affected.