Monday, March 27, 2017

How a Character Becomes an Antagonist

How a Character Becomes an Antagonist (Featuring Wicked the Musical)
Part 1
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I LOVE the musical Wicked. This past year, I went to go see it, and I cannot wait until I have to opportunity to watch it again. It was beautiful, and amazing, and the character development is impressive.

While it is uncommon for a story to involve the protagonist becoming an antagonist, or an antagonist becoming a protagonist, it does happen. In Wicked, both leading characters begin as heroes and then at different points stumble and become villains in their own ways.

Even if you have no intent of creating a dynamic character such as this in your story, characters like Glinda and Elphaba can help writers learn how to write the villain. How did your antagonist end up being evil? What caused them to fall? Can they be redeemed? What if your villain actually has a good motive but a terrible way of going about it?
Today I'm going to be looking at the characters of Elphaba and Glinda and seeing what makes them end up how they do.

*There will probably be spoilers*

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How they grew up:
How a character grows up greatly affects her attitude and her worldview.

Galinda grew up spoiled by her parents. She's popular, loved by everyone, and has never done anything she doesn't want to do, or been forced to do anything difficult. She loves comfort and finds self assurance in the crowd. Because of this, she immediately rejects Elphaba, who looks weird, dresses weird, and has weird abilities unlike everyone else. After she is kicked out of magic class so the teacher can focus solely on Elphaba, the idea of Elphaba being the worst person possible is cemented in her mind.

Elphaba was basically ignored as she grew up. She was green. Her father despised her, and she spent all of her time caring for her invalid sister, Nessa, who her father loved. She is hardened, used to being made fun of, stared at, and treated badly. But she loves her sister and would do anything for her. Since she is not used to attention or finery, she can reject these things easier than Glinda can. Once she sees Glinda, she immediately dislikes her. Glinda strikes Elphaba as stupid and shallow and unpleasant.

How this applies to your writing:
What kind of situation did your antagonist/protagonist grow up in? Did they choose to rise above it and still remain good (like Elphaba), or did they get caught up in everything (like Galinda). Maybe something happened to them that made them decide to take a certain path. How your characters grow up can greatly influence their worldviews.
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Their Influence on Each Other:

As the story continues, we learn that Glinda is more clueless than mean, and at one point, she does a kind act for Elphaba's sister, Nessa. But then she turns around and gives Elphaba the famous pointed hat, knowing that she won't realize how ugly it is and think of it as a nice gift. However, Elphaba, who hears about Glinda's kindness to her sister, decides to repay her by convincing the magic teacher to allow Galinda to attend classes again and pursue her dream.
This action makes Galinda realize how terrible she's been, and she decides to save Elphaba from an embarrassing situation at the cost of her own image. From this moment onward, they become unlikely friends. Glinda learns wisdom and starts to think of others besides herself. She begins to care about issues that matter, such as the treatment of the talking animals in Oz, (Think Narnia) who are being locked in cages.

Elphaba has nothing nice to say about Glinda, but when she learns her sister Nessa is happy after a favor Glinda did, Elphaba swallows her pride and repays Glinda to show her appreciation. When Glinda goes out of her way to save Elphaba from an embarrassing situation, Elphaba realizes there may be more to her, and the girls become friends. She learns from Glinda to not judge everyone and hate everyone, as well as to have a brighter outlook on life that she did not have before.

How this applies to your writing:
How do other characters affect the one you are writing about? Is there a friend or family member that helps them become better, or maybe makes them stumble morally? Is there a pivotal relationship that changes the way your antagonist acts? People can influence the behavior of those around them, for better or for worse.
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The Decision:
There comes a moment where a character in a story makes vital decisions. Sometimes this is the inciting incident, and sometimes these moments can happen later in the story.

In Wicked, both girls make a choice that turns them into antagonists. When Glinda learns that talking animals are being treated terribly, she stumbles and chooses to follow the path of her dream, however twisted the path may have become. Without stopping to think, she accepts fame and power and wealth that comes at the cost of her beliefs.
Now, she's working with the Wizard of Oz, the most powerful man around, but in doing this, she has become a villain in her own way, especially in the eyes of the animals and those supporting them. She is also shown having constant internal conflict, especially in the song Thank Goodness, where she hears everyone talking terribly about Elphaba and says that she crossed a bridge she didn't even realize she'd crossed until then. You can tell that she's trying to reassure herself she's happy, since she's achieved her dream, but at the same time feels she has betrayed her closest friend and her own beliefs.
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At one point, she even causes the death of Nessa, though unintentionally, when an assistant to the wizard asks her how they could force Elphaba to leave hiding.

When she realizes that the wizard is asking for her to mistreat the animals (such as giving the flying monkeys wings without their consent), Elphaba flees. She becomes an outcast, and is labeled by the wizard as Wicked. Lies are spread about her in order to stop people from turning to her instead of the Wizard of Oz. At this point, she takes the path of the hero while Glinda falls onto the path of the villain. It is not until she learns that Glinda assisted in killing her sister, and that the man she loves is tortured and turned into a scarecrow by those who hate her, that she decides to give up and become as wicked as they've been making her out to be. She despairs, which causes her to lose her way, and she believes that every time she tries to help, another person she loves is punished.
In the song No Good Deed, she makes the decision to never strive to be the best she can again, since she has somehow determined that all it does is bring about disaster.
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How this applies to your writing:
What moments turns your villain into who he or she is? Do they give up hope, like Elphaba, do they sacrifice morals for comfort, like Glinda? Maybe they believe they're doing the right thing the entire time. The motivation of the antagonist of your story is vital, and giving purpose to this (unlike having the villain take over the world just because he wants to or something like that) can help make the antagonist feel realistic.
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That's it for part one of my Wicked post! Have you seen Wicked? What is your opinion on these characters? What made your antagonist become who he or she is? Let's talk!


  1. This is further reason why I need to see this play. XD Great post!

  2. Ooh, nice post! I hate Wicked (don't be surprised!), but this is a marvelous post. I considered doing something like this, but I'm glad you did it, Anna, because you did it far better than I could have, haha. ;) My current main project's antagonist became an antagonist because of his friend's death in war. First, he started off just exerting his forces to end the war, and then ended up using his forces even after the war to rob and imprison travelers from the country that killed his friend.

    1. *Gasp* How dare you! ;)
      Aw thank you. I'm sure you would've done a wonderful job discussing this!

  3. Loved reading this! I haven't had a chance to see Wicked yet, but I really hope to!