A Short Guide to Creating Riveting Opponents

Science fiction is one of the most popular and enduring genres in literature. It encompasses everything from one-of-a-kind space exploration to near-future cyber earth. Probably one of the reasons why it’s the biggest genre is that it’s the most creative, reality-bending, yet realistic among other literature. One cannot blame many for their obsession with sci-fi novels. From the depiction of brainy inventors, love interests, to Electric Indy Cars of Madhouse Projects, readers can’t seem to get enough. However, what draws readers more to science fiction are the riveting opponents. 

Yes, the plot and storytelling can still grasp attention, but there’s something about antagonists that readers can’t help but love; even authors love them. Not only do the antagonists create the central conflict, they too are primary drivers of the storyline. Moreover, antagonists portray the negative effects of scientific and technological advances which sci-fi authors want to convey to the public. No one can ignore the big role a compelling villain plays in science fiction. Hence, this post will help you create the perfect and riveting opponent of all time. 

Human vs. Technology vs. Aliens

In their most basic form, an antagonist is the villain of your book. This person is out to ruin the protagonist. But the greatest antagonists in science fiction are more than mere evil-doers. They’re morally conflicted characters, often a result of human neglect, misuse, and abuse. So flesh out your antagonist, making them believable, terrifying, and much more interesting. 

The beauty of science fiction villains is that they can be anyone or anything. First, they can be humans. Humans are capable of immense greatness and largeness of spirit—but humans can also be total horrible monsters. Science fiction is filled with human villains who terrorize and mistreat innocent creatures or politicians desiring to build a capitalistic society. Second, the latest advances in technology brings a lot of perks, especially in daily living. But, boy, does technology also have the potential to make terrifying antagonists who are out to erase humankind. Third, much is undiscovered in space, including what creature lives in a faraway galaxy or planet. When you imagine the great beyond, it’s not the benign creatures that get the blood flowing but the monstrous, treacherous aliens that would enslave the galaxy. These are only a few of science fiction antagonists known in sci-fi. 

Make Them Human

The most compelling antagonists of all time aren’t 100 percent evil. For example, Roy Batty of Blade Runner, Borg Queen of Star Trek: First Contact, and Emperor Palpatine of Star Wars. All of them have emotions that lead them to act in evil ways. The more human you make the antagonist, the greater the stakes and the more drawn readers will experience. However, you don’t have to create the antagonist as a human per se; instead, develop a character with human emotions or relatable in a way.  

Character Arc

There is a norm in writing a story. The antagonist is supposed to be stronger than or as strong as the protagonist. But in science fiction, the story is different. The villain tends to be god-like and impossible to defeat. Other times, the villain can be a microscopic organism that can be squashed on foot yet can control most of the beings on earth. And another villain can be hitched on the wall yet can destroy the world. Additionally, the best opponents are those with character arcs. There are five villain arcs that authors commonly use: 

  • Backstory Arc – the main parts of the antagonist’s arc takes place before the story started. By the time the antagonist meets the hero, he’s already transformed from being ordinary into the story’s antagonist by means of a painful event that warped morality and view of the world.
  • The In-Story Arc – in this case, the story’s events collides with the villain’s belief system; therefore, prompting change. 
  • Origin Arc – this arc explores the antagonist’s origin story, often told from the future villain’s point of view. 
  • In-Story Justice Arc – in most extreme cases, the antagonist bullies or plays with the protagonist as a form of poetic justice. 
  • Redemption Arc – this arc happens when the antagonist realizes the evil deeds and distorted belief system. Thus, may end up switching sides by the story’s end/ 

A good antagonist arc can really elevate your story, so take the time to fully develop all sides of your antagonists. And then think about what makes them dynamic. 

A riveting opponent is fuel that keeps the story going for the rest of the characters. It is the antagonist who motivates the protagonist to act, comes in between the protagonist and his goals, and thus creates the conflict of the story. But many writers often mistake the antagonist to be a stereotyped monster. Hence more often than not, the opponent ends up becoming a cheesy minor character that has no temperament other than to be evil which is the reflection of a riveting opponent. 


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