10.6 C
New York
Saturday, November 18, 2023

What Are Antagonistic Proxies? And How Can They Assist Your Story?

Understanding how story works means stripping it all the way down to the fundamental mechanics that undergird storyform itself. At its easiest, story is protagonist versus antagonist. Nevertheless, it’s necessary to grasp the definitions. Though we mostly (and usefully) consider protagonist and antagonist as vibrant, three-dimensional personalities, the purposeful actuality is a bit less complicated. Protagonist is the a part of the story that drives the plot through a forward-moving aim. Antagonist is the corresponding a part of the story that creates battle by obstructing that ahead momentum. So what are antagonistic proxies, and the way do they match into this combine?

It’s true that on a mechanical stage, the antagonist is solely whoever or no matter stands between the protagonist and the last word aim. However after we begin layering on all of the attractive nuances and particulars that take story from a fundamental equation right into a full-blown facsimile of actual life, we begin discovering a pair extra guidelines of thumb.

One is that the antagonistic drive must be constant by the story. Simply because the protagonist’s ahead drive ought to create a cohesive throughline all over the story, from Inciting Occasion to Climactic Second, so too ought to the antagonistic drive current a united entrance that persistently opposes the protagonist for thematically resonant causes.

However this will get tough. As you deepen the complexity of your story in pursuit of that “facsimile of actual life,” it may usually turn into tough to create logical story occasions and to maintain the protagonist and the antagonist correctly aligned all through.

As an example:

  • Your story may not characteristic a particular human antagonist, however relatively a collection of people who oppose the protagonist at completely different ranges and moments.
  • Your story may not characteristic a human antagonist in any respect.
  • Your story would possibly play out on a big scale by which it merely doesn’t make sense for protagonist and primary antagonist to satisfy till late within the story or possibly by no means.
  • Your story is advanced, as is life, and focuses on a system because the antagonist relatively than a particular individual or entity.
  • Your story focuses on relational objectives relatively than motion objectives, by which case the antagonist would possibly, in truth, be the protagonist’s best lover, buddy, or supporter (extra on that in a future submit).

These variations, and lots of extra, present how antagonistic proxies can come in useful. And what are antagonistic proxies? Antagonistic proxies are precisely what they seem like: much less necessary characters who stand in for the primary antagonist. Actually, the usage of antagonistic proxies is sort of intuitive. There’s a motive the henchman is a common trope!

Structuring Your Novel IPPY Award 165

Structuring Your Novel (Amazon affiliate hyperlink)

Nevertheless, utilizing antagonistic proxies comes with some pitfalls. An important pitfall is that if you begin including in sub-antagonists with out understanding the underlying operate of the antagonist’s function in storyform, you possibly can find yourself scuffling with a chaotic story construction or a plot and/or theme that feels prefer it’s being pulled in many various instructions. The excellent news is that as lengthy you perceive the operate of antagonist, you possibly can add as many antagonistic proxies as you want with out derailing your story.

>>Click on right here to learn “The Position of the Antagonist in Story Construction

Antagonist vs. Antagonistic Pressure vs. Antagonistic Proxies

To start with, let’s take a fast have a look at the variations between antagonist, antagonistic drive, and antagonistic proxies.

What Is the Antagonist?

The antagonist is the drive throughout the story that opposes the protagonist’s ahead momentum. Though this time period can be utilized interchangeably with antagonistic drive, under, it normally specifies a sentient antagonist. That is the one that is an equal and reverse entity to that of the protagonist, such because the Evil Stepmother in opposition to Cinderella.

Craft Dynamic Antagonists Your Readers Will Love —in Just 3 Steps!

Cinderella (2015), Walt Disney Footage.

Usually, we understand this time period as synonymous with “villain.” Nevertheless, the antagonist’s function inside storyform requires no ethical alignment. It’s a impartial time period referring solely to the opposition encountered by the protagonist. Equally, “protagonist” can be morally impartial and never synonymous with “hero.” From the attitude of story mechanics, it’s fully doable the protagonist could possibly be probably the most morally corrupt individual within the story whereas the antagonist is probably the most morally upright.

For instance, in Catch Me if You Can, Leonardo DiCaprio’s protagonist is an unrepentant conman whereas Tom Hanks’s antagonist is a dutiful FBI agent.

Catch Me if You Can (2002), DreamWorks Footage.

Simply because the protagonist ought to be the first actor in each main structural beat all through the story, the antagonist ought to be the first opposition in each beat. Collectively, they create a unified structural throughline. If you happen to’re unsure who or what’s your major antagonist, look at your Climactic Second. No matter individual or drive is decisively confronted right here is your primary antagonist. That is the antagonist that should present opposition to your protagonist all through.

What Is the Antagonistic Pressure?

In all sensible methods, “antagonistic drive” is synonymous with “antagonist.” It capabilities inside storyform in precisely the identical manner: because the opposition to the protagonist’s aim. Nevertheless, I favor “antagonistic drive” when talking extra typically about this opposition, since this time period is extra inclusive and can be utilized to point opponents to the protagonist that aren’t simply represented by one other individual.

As an example, an antagonistic drive could possibly be the climate or different circumstances that threaten fundamental survival, as in Cormac McCarthy’s The Highway.

The Road Viggo Mortensen

The Highway (2009), 2929 Productions.

It could possibly be sick well being or outdated age, as in David Guterson’s East of the Mountains.

East of the Mountains (2021), produced by Jane Charles, Mischa Jakupcak.

Or it could possibly be a typically obscure system of oppression such because the Republic of Gilead in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Story.

The Handmaid’s Story (2017-), Hulu.

It may be one thing as refined because the difficulties of finishing a particular activity, akin to renovating a brand new home within the basic screwball comedy Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream Home.

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream Home (1948), RKO Radio Footage.

If you happen to’re using a extra common antagonistic drive, relatively than one particular human antagonist, you should have extra alternative to make use of antagonistic proxies. In all these tales, it’s particularly necessary to acknowledge that the antagonistic drive should current a unified opposition to the protagonist even when the actors who signify that drive are diversified.

>>Click on right here to learn “How you can Select the Proper Antagonist for Any Sort of Story

What Are Antagonistic Proxies?

And that brings us to the primary occasion. What are antagonistic proxies? They’re characters (or conditions or techniques) that operate as representatives of the first antagonistic drive. It’s possible you’ll select to make use of an antagonistic proxy for a lot of causes.

Maybe your antagonist isn’t logistically accessible to indicate up in a scene together with your protagonist, as with President Snow in The Starvation Video games, whose proxies embody the opposite tributes within the video games.

Hunger Games Mockingjay President Snow Donald Sutherland

The Starvation Video games (2012), Lionsgate.

Maybe your antagonist is not a single individual, as in Saving Non-public Ryan, which focuses on a generalized Nazi Military because the antagonistic drive.

Saving Private Ryan Tom Hanks Matt Damon

Saving Non-public Ryan (1998), DreamWorks Footage.

Maybe your antagonist is highly effective sufficient to trigger and/or want others to behave of their stead (as would the case with any antagonist in a management place), as in Lord of the Rings, by which Saruman acts as Sauron’s proxy for many of the story.

Maybe you’re bringing complexity to your story through characters who act as your primary antagonist’s allies, as with characters akin to Grigor in The Nice.

The Nice (2020-23), Hulu.

Regardless of the case, antagonistic proxies ought to obtain all of your consideration and talent in bringing them to life. Besides in sure instances the place walk-on characters take advantage of sense, you don’t need your viewers ever pondering of those characters as antagonistic proxies. They need to come to life with simply as a lot care and a focus as the most important gamers—as a result of insofar as they signify the antagonist, they are main gamers.

A Word on Redshirts vs. Contagonists

Antagonist proxies can present up in your story in many various guises. Some might be walk-ons who categorical opposition on the primary antagonist’s behalf, then go away to by no means be seen once more. Others will play way more nuanced roles, by which their very own private views and motives within the story will distinction the antagonist even whereas functioning structurally on the antagonist’s behalf.

Two primary varieties to think about for antagonistic proxies are redshirts and contagonists.

Named after throwaway solid members in Star Trek, a redshirt is a inventory character whose loss of life is commonly used for handy plot gadgets.

Star Trek: The Unique Sequence (1966-69), NBC.

Whether or not aligned with the protagonist or the antagonist, the redshirt is deliberately a cardboard character, even perhaps unnamed. These characters are helpful in tales that require cannon fodder. For instance, in case your antagonist is a common, then each soldier in his military will signify his opposition to the protagonist and subsequently be an antagonistic proxy. Nevertheless, most of them will exist solely to create nice odds in opposition to which the protagonist should battle.

On the different finish of the spectrum, we’ve got contagonists. This time period originated with the Dramatica principle by Chris Huntley and Melanie Anne Phillips. They formally outline the contagonist as:

…the character that balances the Guardian. If Protagonist and Antagonist can archetypically be regarded as “Good” versus “Evil,” the Contagonist is “Temptation” to the Guardian’s “Conscience.” As a result of the Contagonist has a damaging impact upon the Protagonist’s quest, it’s usually mistakenly considered the Antagonist. In reality, the Contagonist solely serves to hinder the Protagonist in his quest, throwing obstacles in entrance of him as an excuse to lure him away from the street he should take with a view to obtain success. The Antagonist is a very completely different character, diametrically against the Protagonist’s profitable achievement of the aim.

Throughout the easy equation of story as two opposing forces, the contagonist’s function of “hindering” and “throwing obstacles” clearly aligns with that of the antagonistic drive and will structurally operate as an antagonistic proxy. Nevertheless, the contagonist is a personality who affords way more room for thematic exploration.

The contagonist exists inside shades of grey. The contagonist could also be an ally of the antagonist, a lone operator, and even an ally of the protagonist. The contagonist is commonly the “satan on the protagonist’s shoulder”—not a lot a personality who threatens to cease the protagonist by direct opposition, however relatively one who tries to persuade the protagonist to surrender.

Writing Your Story’s Theme (Amazon affiliate hyperlink)

Contagonists provide the chance to take your story out of a easy two-point opposition and right into a dimensional battle with nuanced thematic arguments. Each Robert McKee’s thematic sq. and John Truby’s four-cornered opposition provide useful fashions for implementing a contagonist.

Nevertheless, as all the time, what’s most necessary is making certain that no matter distinction the contagonist affords to the story continues to be finally in help of the primary antagonistic throughline at each necessary structural beat.

4 Methods Antagonistic Proxies Can Assist You Plot Your Story

As we shut out, listed here are 4 fast ideas for the way to use antagonistic proxies to your benefit relying in your story’s wants.

1. Logistics

One of many primary causes to make use of antagonistic proxies is practicality. If it isn’t logistically doable or smart in your primary antagonist to go to your protagonist at sure essential moments, you possibly can usually make use of an antagonistic proxy. As an example, everytime you see a protagonist  in a narrative being served a subpoena, the character doing the serving is probably going a walk-on appearing within the antagonist’s stead.

2. Manpower

The extra highly effective the antagonist, the upper the stakes. This implies it may be useful to present your antagonist allies. These could possibly be staff, troopers, supporters, household, or associates. Relying on the scope of your story and the implications you need your protagonist to face for pursuing the plot aim, you might want to usher in giant swathes of antagonistic proxies to spice up your antagonist’s energy stage throughout the story. These supporting characters can all be redshirts, or they are often fleshed-out personalities in their very own proper. Both manner, their actions mirror your antagonist’s opposition.

3. Realism

In some situations, it simply received’t make sense in your antagonist to carry out sure duties (akin to that subpoena). In case your antagonist is highly effective inside your story world, then she might have to make use of ambassadors and liaisons (or, ya know, assassins) in her stead. Even in lower-key tales, it could nonetheless make sense in your antagonist to ask a buddy to intercede with the protagonist. (We see this usually in romance tales, by which the 2 romantic leads operate as one another’s antagonists.)

4. Pressure

Using antagonistic proxies will not be solely reasonable in lots of situations, however it additionally ramps stress for when the protagonist lastly meets the true antagonist for a sit-down. In some tales, this won’t be essential, for the reason that protagonist and antagonist will confront one another in nearly each scene. However in different tales, you possibly can make the most of more and more highly effective antagonistic proxies to construct as much as the ultimate confrontation between protagonist and antagonist within the Climactic Second.


Antagonistic proxies are more likely to present up in all however the easiest and most simple tales. They’re useful belongings for enhancing the curiosity and complexity of your story. So long as you perceive the underlying operate of the antagonist’s function in story construction, you should use your antagonistic proxies to strengthen the whole story.

Wordplayers, inform me your opinions! What are antagonistic proxies you’ve utilized in your tales? Inform me within the feedback!

Click on the “Play” button to Take heed to Audio Model (or subscribe to the Serving to Writers Change into Authors podcast in Apple Podcast or Amazon Music).


Love Serving to Writers Change into Authors? Now you can turn into a patron. (Large because of these of you who’re already a part of my Patreon household!)

Supply hyperlink

Related Articles


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest Articles