Good Versus Good Makes an Interesting Read
When you’re getting ready to write a story, you might be wondering how to set up your protagonist against your antagonist. You might be thinking that your antagonist is purely evil and your main hero is purely good. Sometimes, though, good versus good can make just as interesting of a read.
Writing an antagonist doesn’t mean they have to be purely ‘bad’ to make a good villain. Sometimes writing a sympathetic villain can make your story far more interesting. What does that mean exactly, though? It means giving them a motivation for what they’re doing that goes beyond something as simple as ‘they want power’, or ‘they want to destroy the world’. It also means giving them a backstory. A lot of times, you can endear the reader to your villain by simply giving them a backstory that explains why they’re doing what they’re doing.
In this case, I’m thinking of Phineas and Ferb’s main villain — Doofenschmirtz. I know, it’s a kid story. However, you start to really begin rooting for him despite the fact that his main goal is taking over the Tri-State Area. This is because you find out that he had kind of a lousy childhood. His mother’s love was inexplicably linked to kickball, and he was terrible at it. His father, on the other hand, made him live out his childhood as a lawn gnome.
Making the Reader Question Your Hero
When you have good versus good, you’re going to have readers that start questioning your hero and their motives. This can be a great way to draw readers in and actively engage them. For example, there’s the show Fringe. In this particular case, one of the main heroes is Walter Bishop. He designed and created a portal to an alternate universe to rescue the alternate version of his son. However, his actions irrevocably damaged the alternate universe. So the antagonists, from the other side, might be the ‘bad guys’, but you start to feel for them because they’re only doing what they believe they need to do protect their universe from more harm.
This can be a great way to make your readers really question morality, and the various shades of gray that come with both good and bad decisions. When you make your readers engage like this, it has the added benefit of making them come back for more. Plus, you can show scenes from the antagonist’s side that will interest readers far more than if they were simply evil.
When you have an antagonist that is morally gray instead of a complete black, you leave open room for a redemption arc at some point in your novel. This can be a great way to capitalize on your readers’ emotions. For example, in Handmaid’s Tale, Serena Joy is originally built out as a villain. Over the course of the story, you learn more of her story, and she becomes far more complex. You realize that she’s not all bad. This provides an opportunity for her to find redemption for the things that she’s done.
Redemption arcs can be really fun and interesting to write. It can also be a great way to introduce more villains if you’re planning to write a series. After all, you don’t necessarily want to follow one villain over the course of several books. You want variety. Sometimes if one antagonist can find redemption, it will give you the chance to introduce someone else that can ‘take their place’, so to speak.
But Remember Who Your Good Guy Is
When you’re writing a story of good versus good, you want to remember who your actual hero is. It can be easy to become distracted while telling the tale of your villain. You might get so swept up with their backstory and redemption arc that you start to forget about your hero. So make sure you can keep an even balance! Tell your hero’s story at the same time as your antagonists. This will allow you to remember who your good guy is. It’s important for you to remember, especially if you want your readers to!
I would always recommend that you come up with a complete dossier for each character. This will allow you to go back and remind yourself of who your character is and what their motivations are. Good versus good can be a difficult task to manage, but it can also make for an interesting read. So good luck and have fun making your villain!