To no surprise, you probably realize that we are going to do the same thing for the antagonists. We talk about the main character or the protagonist as the main character. The antagonist is usually the obstacle within the scene. Here’s what’s interesting. The antagonist doesn’t always have to be a character. The antagonist can be a role. When you’re thinking about what does the antagonist or force of antagonism want, what’s their external pursuits, this might be a somewhat vague or fuzzy answer. And that’s okay, because the force of antagonism could be, for example, Mother Nature. If you have a single-character scene, and it’s a woman who’s climbing a mountain, the mountain or gravity is the force of antagonism. If you ask yourself, what does gravity want on a superficial level, you could say, to keep us closer to the earth, and that would be true. But you can see how you’re not going to get into the same level of nuance that you would if the force of antagonism was a character or an antagonist. I think that’s an important distinction that you need to think about, especially when you’re looking at forces of antagonism versus characters who play the role of antagonists.
The approach to what an antagonist wants is the same that we did for the main character or the protagonist. It might be challenging to identify this in a single scene or a short story, because you simply have less real estate. So don’t worry too much if it’s not as specific as it was for the protagonist. If you have a lot of real estate and you have a novel, you can really get into and explore the wants and needs of the antagonist, sometimes at the same level that you do the main character or the protagonist. But in shorter pieces, especially in a scene, that can definitely be more challenging. But as a reminder, just like we did for the main character or the protagonist, you’re thinking about externalities, the obvious, the concrete, and it might be what the antagonists think they need, not necessarily what they really need. And therefore, the antagonist or force of antagonism—they have needs.