Why Antagonists Are More Important To Your Screenplay Than Protagonists

In classical storytelling, protagonists are the first actors that enter the stage. They represent the point of view the audience should follow. This often holds true for the main character in your screenplay.

Who Is Your Antagonist?

Antagonists are depicted as negative, bad or outright evil. However, they do have a positive aspect to every story. Apart from being entertaining, storytelling has a moral sociological function. They give the protagonist a glimpse into a better world by making their current world increasingly undesirable.

It teaches us right from wrong and that we must strive to achieve. Pain and suffering will deliver dividends in the long run. Obstacles will always be presented to us in life. Some we will overcome. Some we will not. But we must try. When we overcome internal or external conflicts, we become better people. These obstacles are the natural extension of the role of antagonists.

Who Is Your Protagonist?

Protagonists come from a flawed world. They may not know it at the time, or only realize it during the inciting incident.

The flaw either lies with them. their environment, a situation or another threat. This activates our fight or flight response which teaches us how to deal with danger and other problems.

As part of their character arc, protagonists must evolve towards a perfect world. Or towards a less flawed world, at the very least.

In a fairy tale, the protagonist does end up living happy ever after in a perfect world.

Even in tragedies, where the protagonist often ends up in a worse state that they began, they end up in a less flawed world, because they struggled to cause change even if if they didn’t succeed.

Antagonists are an essential component of driving your protagonist because they elicit the protagonist’s change to the less flawed world. They disrupt the protagonist’s sense of normality and “flawlessness”. The antagonist must always be a worthy adversary.

If they are too weak, there is minimal growth for the protagonist. If they are too strong and always winning, the protagonist would fall into despair and never evolve. Protagonists would cower in fear and never try to better themselves if there is never a possibility of success.

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