How active does an antagonist have to be?

Does the antagonist have to be actively sabotaging the protagonist or can it just resist the other characters’ efforts to impress him?

My characters need to win over (what I assume is) the antagonist to get their Goal but the antagonist doesn’t want them to get the goal because it would be bad for himself. However, my antagonist doesn’t stop the characters from trying to impress him so much as resists being impressed and giving in to what they want. Does that count?

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This sounds like Oppose to me, but I wouldn’t let that be the deciding factor.

Pixar likes to say that it never has an Antagonist. (I can’t source this.) And who is the Antagonist in Good Will Hunting?

Another way to think about it could be this: Have them avoid/prevent something that is not the main thing. Maybe she just tries to avoid having the conversation?

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I’m glad that isn’t actually the case, otherwise every Pixar movie would have a broken storyform like Ralph Breaks the Internet, which has no Antagonist. On another note, if that statement was true, then what are Sid, Stinky Pete, Randal/Mr Waternoose, Syndrome, Chick Hicks, Skinner/Anton Ego, Lotso, and Ernesto de la Cruz?

One of the most important parts of illustrating the OS character Elements is tying them to the Story Goal. As @jhull said in this article: “Pursuing the Goal. Having Faith in the Goal. Reconsidering the Goal and Expecting the Goal. Aligning these forces of motivation with a common enemy ensures the narrative stays focused and purposeful.”

If the Antagonist resisting to be impressed or giving in to what they want is tied with the Goal, and illustrates Reconsidering and Avoiding the Goal, then those illustrations will work wonderfully. In order to better answer your question, what is the Goal in your story?

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Is Anton Ego really an antagonist though? I recall Jim saying the OS was “Anyone can cook” so I guess he is since his job is to prove otherwise, but then what’s the role of Skinner keeping the restaurant from the rightful heir?

That’s a whole other problem of mine. I can’t figure it out whether I approach it from message then story or story then message. The MC was divided into two characters-- one who went on to cure his anxiety (the possible antagonist), and one who didn’t but wants to (MC). I don’t know if the goal is MC wants to get his other half back (in order to combine personalities and get rid of anxiety while avoiding the hard work of learning to face his fears), or if the goal is everyone wanting a better life (the message being something like “learning to face fears leads to a better life”).

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Speaking of Pixar, supposedly an employee of theirs put out this little tip:
#3: Trying for theme is important, but you won’t see what the story is actually about til you’re at the end of it. Now rewrite.”
Which seems like really weird advice. And a good way to accidentally advocate some terrible things like, you know, allowing rats to handle your food before you eat it. And it also seems like the exact opposite advice you’d get from Dramatica.

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Genius Doesn’t Know Genius


The Good Will Hunting question was really more to point out that the Antagonist doesn’t have to be overt.

I don’t think this is weird advice at all. Most people need to get a first draft out before they can really start thinking (accurately) about theme. I totally agree that the sooner you know what you want to say, the better. But in my experience, the process of discovery requires writing.


Well, it’s common advice for sure. And I guess there’s a difference between knowing what your story is about in general and knowing what it’s about thematically, but I still have to wonder how many drafts ended with the rat sneaking the poison meant to kill it into someone else’s food before Brad Bird read through all the scripts and said “wait, you guys, is this movie about…yeah, I think it is. I think this is a story about a rat that can cook!”

Though I guess by saying “now rewrite” the tip is essentially saying that once you know what the story is about you can commence writing the actual story as opposed to saying you should just blindly write about rats and chefs and see what happens.


Yeah, I mean, I think what it’s getting at is that by writing the end of a draft you have to make a choice about what everyone went through, and now that you know, you can align your rewrite to do a better job of it.


It’s interesting you mention that. The reason I mentioned both of them is because Jim Hull mentioned in this article that Ratatouille has two different stories, one that has a Timelock and centers around the ownership of the restaurant, and one that has an Optionlock that centers around getting the idea that “Anyone can cook.” Skinner is the Antagonist for the first, and Anton is probably the Antagonist in the second story, though Jim didn’t blatantly state that was the case.

That was also why I mentioned both Randall and Mr Waternoose, since I’m not sure how the Antagonist Elements are split between them in Monsters Inc. Some of the other ones are just what I am fairly sure are the Antagonists in their respective stories, but haven’t been discussed, like Lotso in Toy Story 3.

Does the first one (the MC getting his other half back) concern all of the characters in the story, or just the MC? If it’s the latter, that may be contained wholly in the MC throughline, and wouldn’t be associated with the Story Goal.

The important thing to have tension is for some force to be against the MC. We’ve seen how the MC can be the antagonist himself, so without calling names, consider this age-old idea.

Man against Nature
Man against Self
Man against Man
Man against Technology
Man against Supernature/fate/time/etc
Man against Society

We recognize the list is not complete. But my point is that the antagonist may be an individual, or an idea. You can have a pass-off of the antagonistic forces, a single mind represented by a plurality of individuals.

A person himself can be his own antagonist. This is common in Mind/Manipulation plots.

What you can’t be without is a visible Goal. Like in football, a series of people representing the otherside are trying to keep you from the ball. But your single-focused-goal is to get the ball across the goal. You can spin one manager or other player as someone trying to stop you. A face to the enemy is easier than no face.

Think about Gollum’s story. Could something be written absolutely from his POV? If so, we’d see all sorts of people keeping him from the Ring. But ultimately HE HIMSELF is his worst enemy. Would his story make a good movie or novel? I think it could be. Everyone tackling him, preventing him from the goal, but he keeps pressing forward, trying to get there. Only to arrive and find–he’s at the wrong goalpost.

To summarize, I believe “The” antagonist can be plural, can be a force, can be an idea. Readers/viewers like to have a face, depending on the Genre. But they will be satisfied if there is conflict, pursuit, hinderance, and a solution met or not.

Probably more important than a single antagonist is a clear GOAL and a clear OUTCOME/JUDGMENT.

Can a Rock Be An Antagonist?

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MC has an IC who is helping, and the antagonist(?) resists their efforts to try and convince him to agree to this. I mean, I like it, but it doesn’t exactly lead to a climactic climax or back and forth between them. I’d say MC’s personal problem is raging anxiety.

Isn’t it impossible for a character to be their own antagonist in Dramatica, since wouldn’t you have to put Pursuit and Avoid in the same Player, which is against the rules? I mean, I could see it work if you personified one as, say, an angel on the shoulder, the other as the devil on the shoulder, so you put a different face to each element. Maybe it’d work with something more subtle than that, like an Inner Critic as a character.

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I think the way it “technically” plays out, is that the IC holds the characteristic for the MC. Remember, the IC storyform is how it affects the MC, not how it affects the IC.

Lego 2 had this.

Here is what I see.
The IC holds the alternate view of the MC, trying to push him to stop/reconsider/etc. It’s going to look different for Start/Stop character, and Success/Failure plot. But the IC can represent his alter-ego. Or the RS character can be the alter-ego.

But, when the MC gives in to what is not good for the story goal or for his personal goal, he is his own antagonist. His DESIRE for the thing the OTHER is holding out is where he’s chewing his own foot off, so to speak.

The OTHER can be neutral as far as the story goal. The IC is not necessarily involved in the actual OS. But the antagonist is. So the antagonist can be the MC.

As I’ve worked through the Dramatica options for this, I found this…

  • When the MC and the RS share the same problem, the outcome is failure.
  • When the IC and the OS share the same problem, the MC is steadfast.
  • When the IC and RS share the same problem, the OS is the same problem, the MC is steadfast, and the outcome is failure
  • When the OS, MC, and RS share the same problem, MC is change and outcome is failure

In any of these combinations, you could have his self as his antagonist. In one case you have the RS with an alter-ego (didn’t they do this in a way with the IC in Split?) or a future self (as in Lego 2). In another case you can have the real desire he’s fighting against personified by the IC.

If the MC is his own worst enemy, the RS can be with himself, or with a devil’s advocate of himself, like in Lego 2. (I feel like I’m walking on thin ice here, please correct me if I’m misunderstanding RS, @jhull, I did not go through all the RS lessons covered last year).

Who is the antagonist in A Christmas Carol?

Just my take. Besides, if we can imagine it, it can be done with Dramatica.

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That’s a good question. Anyone got an answer?


What about complex characters? (Scrooge - Consider/Avoid; the Ghosts - Reconsider/Pursuit?)

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I was in a production of A Christmas Carol in high school and that was my last experience with it. Sad to say I’ve only seen various adaptations and never read the original Dickens.

So, as to the antagonist, what was the goal? If it was for the Cratchet family to have a merry Christmas, then Scrooge could be antagonist.

I remember @jhull saying somewhere the ghosts’ signposts are actually an illegal progression according to Dramatica and he was going to try rewriting it in the correct order. Maybe he has an idea about a storyform?

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A Christmas Carol is not a complete story, so it may not be representative.

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Fair enough. Out of curiosity, do you know if there’s been any previous attempt at analysis or articles anywhere about why it’s incomplete?

Any searching I’ve done just mentions Scrooge as an example of a change MC and the Ghosts as examples of a handoff IC.

I did find this cool pitch example for A Christmas Carol by, I’m guessing, @chuntley. It seems to suggest old Ebenezer as antagonist to the goal of helping Tiny Tim.

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