Three Dirty Birds and the Antagonist


The Three Dirty Birds are back and plotting! (Not that we ever aren’t plotting but this time, even Kitty is plotting. As in, has an outline. Prepare for Armageddon.)

Zoe: I’ll be right back, guys. I’ve never seen pigs fly before, and I don’t want to miss the view out the window.

Ana: Flying bacon!

Kate: I have a flying toy pig at work. We call him Kevin.

Zoe: Breakfast is on Kate! (But we won’t eat Kevin.)

Ana: Did you name your MC in your story after a flying toy pig?

Kate: No, his name is Thilo. Random name generator, clicked through until I found something that I liked. (I never thought about that with respect to Kev, though. Hmmmm)

Zoe: I love the random name generators. My favorite gives me a first and last name, saving me so much headache.

Kate: They are such a great jumping off point. I used to use a baby name book, but I found myself in the same letter all the time.

Zoe: Yes! I go to the same ones all the time. The generators save me from myself, and keep my world from being populated with D- and R-names.)

Ana: And here I thought I was the only one with favorite letters. There’s something about Ds, though… isn’t there?

Kate: I have an ANT problem. A, N, and T. Oh, and I. (Why I?)

Zoe: Speaking of ANT…we’re up to the Antagonist section in Take Off Your Pants now, aren’t we?

Ana: Right, I’ve always had trouble identifying clear antagonists in some of my books. When I try the ‘what your character wants most’ angle (meaning, the antagonist is the one who’s after the same thing), I almost can’t help but make my Love Interest the antagonist.

Zoe: And I can see that working in a lot of cases. They both do want the same thing, and what gets in their way is the other person.

Ana: Maybe this is why so many romances build on miscommunication. When the protagonist and the antagonist realize their goals aren’t in opposition, it’s all over.

Kate: That’s how this story that I have most of an outline for is working–not the miscommunication, but one MC wants to change the part of the other MC that he’s embarrassed about, without seeing all the good things about it. I think miscommunication is often cheaply handled. There’s so many stories out there where if one of the MC’s didn’t just have a childish tantrum and actually spoke to the other person like the adult they’re supposed to be, the story wouldn’t exist. And then, there’s the misunderstanding after misunderstanding type of plot. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be done, but it needs a lot more thought put into it than seems to happen, and it’s a lot harder story to write well.

Zoe: I think it winds up being the crux of the conflict because the author didn’t give the characters arc-relevant flaws. They’re bratty or have abuse in their past or whatever, but it’s not really tied to the character growth (or character destruction, though you wouldn’t have that arc in a romance), so they wind up falling back on miscommunication and misunderstandings for lack of anything else, rather than through intention.

Kate: Drama for the sake of having an exciting emotional moment, rather than something that actually contributes to plot or character development.

Zoe: Yeah or, there’s nothing really to keep these two apart, so something has to be manufactured.

Kate: I really want to read that Truby book she mentions.


Kate: Epub? I like being able to blow up my text on my Kobo (which seems to be on the point of breaking again. Next time, I’m getting an H2O so I can read in the bath).

Zoe: Ebook is probably the way to go.

Ana: Yeah, I just found it on kindle for about €10. But I think my next read will be Super Structure by James Scott Bell.

Kate: And, to Google I go…

Zoe: What do you think of Libbie’s assertion that the antagonist is a mirror of the hero, that he’s a “there but for the grace of God” version?

Ana: That’s the part I really can’t work into my story.

Kate: I think for most stories that works. I’m trying to figure out how that can work in a romance, especially my little ‘trapped together during a storm’ story, where there’s only two characters. Maybe it doesn’t work for romance? (although it does kind of work for Knight, if I change some of my emphasis. But that’s because I have crazy Michael in it.)

Ana: The problem with using this for a romance novel where you cast the LI as the antagonist is that this take on the antagonist paints him as a bad person, not necessarily someone you should strive to have a relationship with? Although of course you do have the MC1 saves broken MC2 romances.

Kate: I’m not sure even that fits into it. I really feel that her antagonist, if you always define him or her as being the photonegative version, doesn’t work for Romance. The definitions of ‘someone who wants the same goal as the MC, but not in the same way” works very well for romance where the characters themselves are a big part of the problem.

Zoe: This is a good example of how the spirit of Libbie’s book is valuable, and she’s got a great way of explaining things…but when you get to the nuts and bolts of your own story, you may not actually use everything in Pants. Even taking Charlotte’s Web as an example: we can agree that Wilbur and the farmer want the same thing—Wilbur’s life. But the farmer’s not a photo negative of Wilbur; he doesn’t really represent what Wilbur will become if Wilbur fails. Unless the farmer is made of bacon.

Ana: Good point.

Kate: Now I want bacon.

Zoe: It is the case in other stories, of course. I can think of a number of action thrillers where the hero and the antagonist are very much alike; they’ve just chosen different sides.

Ana: Those are usually the characters I slash in my head.

Zoe: [Yes. Those guys are so doing it.]

Kate: Yes, that’s pretty common, and it adds a nice tension to the story. (Not the slashing, but the mirror image stuff.) (Although, slashing adds a nice bit of tension too, just not the same kind. 🙂 )

Zoe: Where I run into problems is with the Ally (because I keep going, “Wait…wasn’t he the antagonist?”), which we’ll be discussing shortly….

Kate: I found the Ally tough, until I made myself sit down and really think about it. Maybe we should talk about that…

About the author: Kate Lowell

5 comments to “Three Dirty Birds and the Antagonist”

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  1. Evaine - March 30, 2015 Reply

    Well…. *g*

    I just read the No Pants book up until the pacing chapter. Seriously – yesterday. And today I have a workable (?) outline. Thank you Zoe for the recc!! And I think you know how totally out of character it is for me to have an actual outline.

    Anyway, in my outline, it occurred to me that my antagonist is really my MC, simply because he’s the one who can’t get out of his own way. I debated about the love interest being the antagonist, but that didn’t seem to ring true for me, and I refuse to concoct some villainous “I’m here to keep the two lovebirds apart.” slick dude. But if you boil it down to “who keeps the MC from growing and achieving his “END”, then it would be himself.

    The only real problem I have with this book? I want it in paper form so I can mark it up and write on it and hilight things.

  2. Kate Lowell - March 30, 2015 Reply

    Haha, Evaine! We had the same complaint. I think both Zoe and I printed it out at home and stuck it in duotang folders.

    As a dyed-in-the-wool pantser, I still somehow have an outline for a story. We’ll see how it goes as I work through the outline. One thing I’m figuring out is that a one or two line entry for each section isn’t enough for me–I need to be more detailed and not just write down the big picture.

    • Evaine - March 30, 2015 Reply

      I think I’ll be printing it out too – but I need ink for the printer – or I could take it to Bureau en Gros/Staples… *ponders* I’ll need to do some futzing with Calibre etc.. first. 🙂

      I honestly think that this is the first time I actually have an outline that has a beginning, middle and end. It’s nebulous of course, but I think I like it that way? For now anyway. *LOL* The first thing it’s shown me though is that I need to change my love interest’s name.

  3. Libbie Hawker - March 30, 2015 Reply

    I hope you guys don’t feel like I’m creeping on you. I’m totally fascinated by your process of dissecting my book!

    I’ve found that it’s often true that in romances the two MCs are antagonists to one another. Which is totally fine. Only one of them can win the external goal (though they usually end up compromising), but they BOTH win the REAL goal, which is LOOOOOOOVE!!!!! <3<3<3<3<3

    Romances are so much fun to read and write in that regard. It's always entertaining to pit two antagonists against each other and see how they'll end up not-antagonists (and probably doin' it) by the end of the story.

    Anyway, if people are really this keen on a print version, I will definitely consider it. Thanks for all the rad discussion!

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