For a complete change today, I’m throwing open the Makovesky gates to Cheryl Rees-Price as part of her blog tour celebrating the release of her book ‘Frozen Minds’, a DI Winter Meadows book. Welcome along, Cheryl, and thanks so much for such an entertaining article.
The antagonist is the character that we all love to hate. The love rival, the enemy, criminal or wicked stepmother. They are not always obvious and can have complex personalities.
When creating the cast for my books I like to start with the antagonist, for my genre this means a murderer, thief or abductor. My starting point is to think about what would cause an ordinary person to commit a crime such as murder. Is it something in their nature? An inherent evil?
There are plenty of examples in true crime. Serial killers who go on the rampage, killing random victims for some unfathomable reason. Among some of the most notorious and shocking British serial killers are Fred and Rose West, and Peter Sutcliffe. The Wests murdered at least 12 young women over a twenty year period including two of their own children. The motive appeared to be sexual. Peter Sutcliffe murdered 13 women over 5 years and attacked 7 others. Sutcliffe was described as a quiet man who was close to his mother. His first employment was as a mortuary worker where he showed no respect and was reported to use bodies as ventriloquist dummies. When arrested Sutcliffe claimed that while working at the mortuary he heard the voice of God commanding him to kill.
Using this premise a fictional serial killer would need to be complex, have a trigger, and a pattern which would enable the detective to track him/her down. For this type of antagonist the reader has no sympathy with the killer’s cause. Victims are random and time crucial. The tension propels the reader through the book, the goal is to catch the killer and place him/her behind bars.
If the motive for murder is not down to some inherent evil then it quite often involves, love, revenge, or money. Revenge is a powerful motive for murder and in fiction allows the reader, on some level, to sympathise and understand the antagonist. Avenging the loss of a loved one or punishing an abuser tugs on the heartstrings, that is, until it gets out of control and innocent characters get hurt to cover the truth.
These types of characters are still complex, they have to keep up a façade of normality while plotting their crime. The sweeter the character the more shocking to the readers. The vicar’s wife baking cakes for the old and infirm, the widower who always smiles and says good morning as he stands by his garden gate, or the school teacher, loved by the children. These characters have to blend in, be above suspicion and even throw suspicion on others. They have careers and families and have to be proficient at lies and deceit.
For my latest’s book I created an antagonist, who I hope, is likable. Their back story is complex and they are forced into an unthinkable choice. (All this while hopefully not arousing suspicion.)
Whether we love or hate our antagonists, like good and evil they are necessary. Without them we wouldn’t have our story.
When a man is found murdered at Bethesda House, a home for adults with learning difficulties, local people start to accuse the home’s residents of being behind the killing. The victim was a manager at the home, and seemingly a respectable and well-liked family man. DI Winter Meadows knows there’s more to the case than meets the eye. As he and his team investigate, Meadows discovers a culture of fear at the home – and some unscrupulous dealings going on between the staff. Does the answer to the case lie in the relationships between the staff and the residents – or is there something even more sinister afoot?