More Clarity Needed Regarding the Antagonist & Villain

Could someone please provide some more clarity on the nature of the antagonist and the villain?

Firstly, I’ve read in a lot of non-dramatica places that the antagonist doesn’t have to be a person. For example, this IMDB page lists 25 non-human antagonists.

However, this Dramatica page on antagonist and villain, and other places with Dramatica definitions, describe the Antagonist specifically as a character or person (eg Dramatica book p.229). The Dramatica book also says that the shark in Jaws is the antagonist (p.38). Must the antagonist be a character that is a conscious being? Or is the term “character” being used more loosely and can include unconscious agents like forces of nature? I also ask this because Dramatica characters also represent different facets of the human mind trying to solve a problem. So how can an unconscious force of nature like a tornado represent this? But if the antagonist must be intelligent or conscious to some degree, how then, do we code an “antagonist” in a story that is a force of nature or a killer disease on the loose etc? Is the antagonist a character that is a conscious agent that somehow aligns itself with the force of nature in a way that opposes the goal of the protagonist? To me it makes more sense of the antagonist is the actual force of nature, but if so, I don’t get how an impersonal, unconscious entity relates to the Storymind- ie a facet of the human mind trying to solve a problem.

Secondly, I’ve found an inconsistency with Aliens and the nature of the villain. This page on the villain says that the villain is a combination of the antagonist and the influence character (or possibly the protagonist and influence character). Ok. Fair enough. So in moving to the example of Aliens, this page dealing with the Antagonist says that in Aliens, the aliens/alien Queen are the villain. But this analysis of Aliens says that Ripley is the Main character and Newt is the influence character. The aliens/alien queen are neither main nor influence character. So what exactly is a villain if it can be someone other than the influence or main character? Dramatica theory uses very precisely defined terms. Yet there seems to be an inconsistency in the case of Aliens.

The antagonist is just “the thing that represents Avoid, Reconsider, etc. in the story.” It doesn’t have to be a human, or a sentient creature, or anything. It just has to represent the force of prevention in the story, somehow. For example, I’d argue “the constant buildup of hypothermia” is the antagonist of “To Build a Fire.”

This is theoretically possible for just about anything. For example, perhaps a character going on a Meaningful Journey™ wanders through a city where all of the buildings are shaped in unnatural, bismuth-esque rectangles and pyramids. This might represent Order, or Control, or something of that nature. A character trying to build a sandcastle, only to have the tide repeatedly swipe up and melt it, is fighting against the trait of Unending.


It seems like the articles you’re referencing are making a few different points and I think that “antagonist and villain” answer you linked to is confusing because it’s using a different definition of “villain” (synonymous with the common understanding of “bad guy”).

Part of the problem is that Dramatica borrows and re-uses common words that have more subjective meanings and gives them precise story-structure definitions. But it’s all fairly clear when you parse it out.

  1. In Dramatica, “Antagonist” is the person(s) or force that tries to prevent/oppose the Story Goal in the Overall Story. This is usually what we think of as the “bad guy”, but not always. Sometimes, the person pursuing the Goal (Protagonist) is the “bad guy” and the “good guy” is the (structural) Antagonist. (See Captain America: Civil War).

  2. Often what we think of as an “archetypal” villain (e.g. the Joker) is created by combining the Antagonist with the Influence Character in the same player (and the “Hero” is a combination of Main Character and Protagonist). This is where you get those scenes where the good guy and bad guy face off and the bad guy says “you and I are both alike!” and the good guy says “no we’re not!” (See the Lego Batman movie for a hilarious sendup of this).

However, there are plenty of stories where the person or thing you might think of as a “villain” in a non-Dramatica sense is technically just the Antagonist, and the Influence Character is played by someone else (e.g. in the Terminator, in spite of what that answer says).


Here is a link to the short “Piper”. The antagonist in this is the tide. Definitely not a sentient creature. But it is the force that make Piper avoid and reconsider how she’s going to get food. And when she overcomes her resistance to the tide by changing her approach the tide’s antagonism dissolves.


Dramatica theory states the entire story is a metaphor for the workings of a human mind. If you want to use something like ‘the weather’ as a character that tries to prevent the Goal from being reached, it works just fine. This is because the weather, just like a human character, is just another metaphor for the workings of a human mind. As such, the human in your story that is pursuing the safety of base camp is the same thing—well, a similar type of thing, at least—to the unrelenting blizzard that is stubbornly preventing the character from descending the thousand foot icy cliff. That is, they are both processes of the human mind at work solving a problem. They are just different processes.

Consider the following from Melanie Anne Phillips article Character Development Tricks!.

Suppose we wrote the sentence, “The rain danced on the sidewalk in celebration of being reunited with the earth.”

Now we are definitely assigning human qualities to the rain. Without doubt, the rain has become a character. Characters do not have to be people; they can also be places or things. In fact, anything that can be imbued with motivation can be a character.

Your characters don’t themselves have to be sentient because they are already standing in for a sentient being (the human mind). They just need to be able to express the process they are meant to express to the audience. The weather needs to somehow be imbued with the motivation to prevent the Goal from being achieved.

I assume that severe weather that is not imbued with the motivation to prevent the Goal would just be considered an obstacle to reaching the goal. And that humans within the story that aren’t given motivations, like guests at a park who are only there to be eaten by dinosaurs or who only show up to be terrorized by the ghosts that have been set free in the middle of NYC, aren’t so much characters as they are props.


Hi everyone. Thanks for all your quick and insightful answers. It’s all a lot clearer for me now.