Life is great with friends, but it’s always more…interesting…with enemies. To that end, when you’re crafting a narrative, the person who’s creating trouble for your plucky hero or heroine is at LEAST as important as the heroine or hero themselves. After all, your antagonist (from the Latin for “James Moriarty”) is responsible for generating all that white-knuckle-inducing, edge-of-your-seat-positioning conflict that turns a little wheel I like to call NARRATIVE PROGRESSION.
So, keeping that in mind:
1) It’s not the guy with the ominous mustache/turban/facial scar. Nope. Don’t do it.
EXCEPTIONS: Old-timey adventure where the hero has a name like “Brock Strongfist” OR you are time-travelin’ H. Rider Haggard.
NOTA BENE: This is also allowable if you subvert the trope with the ole…SWITCHEROO (i.e., the obvious villain conceals their malicious machinations by framing a non-obvious friend, coworker, or theme park employee who was, in the end, our Hero’s Only Friend All Along). Red herring much?
2) Jungian conflict is always good. But don’t go all “Fight Club” unless you’re 1,000% certain you’re going to add something new to the fundamental conflict between our heroine and her shadow self. Also, leave the long-lost Evil Identical Twins in the Land of Dexter and Telenovelas where they belong.
EXCEPTIONS: Intentionally pulpy stuff with tongue firmly planted in its cheek OR you are Neil Gaiman.
NOTA BENE: “Think of it as Tyler Durden, but a CHICK. Who is also a…” No. Shut your face. You are now banned from writing.
3) Oh, yeah. It’s always a good time when lovers become rivals and/or enemies. Hate is just love gone wrong. Hell hath no fury like woman scorned. I feel as though our relationship has come to a bittersweet, but ultimately productive end, and our lives have been enriched by the time we shared.
OK, not that last one.
EXCEPTIONS: None. Well, unless the cover is going to feature bodices being ripped. Haven’t the bodices suffered enough? Also, you can employ the SWITCHEROO where love becomes hate becomes love, but ONLY if Angelina Jolie is somehow involved in the film version of the book.
NOTA BENE: Don’t try to score points in the gender debate. The passion that’s curdled into mutual loathing should be shared by two fully-developed people, not one person and a cardboard cutout from the Andrea Dworkin and Frank Miller School for Making Humanity Look Bad.
Next week in HOW TO WRITE: Talking Animals—Boon Companions, or a Sign of Serious Mental Illness?