Help kids understand what an antagonist is with this definition in simpler terms.
What is an antagonist?
An antagonist is the character in a story who keeps the main character (the protagonist) from getting what he wants. An antagonist is often a “bad guy”, but it doesn’t have to be. When a story has a character who wants something different than the main character and keeps trying to stop the main character, that is the antagonist. An antagonist can also be a thing or force that is getting in the main character’s way.
You may be wondering why the antagonist definition says an antagonist “could be" a "bad guy", but doesn’t have to be. Antagonist has the prefix "anti-" in it, which means "against". The antagonist is whoever is against the protagonist (main character) of a story. Read on to see how an antagonist can even be the "good guy".
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The antagonist can be a "bad guy"-- In the movie “Superman”, the movie is about Superman's life and challenges so Superman is the protagonist. He happens to be a good guy. The antagonist is the character who keeps trying to stop Superman. So the antagonist in Superman I is Lex Luther, who is a "bad guy".
An antagonist can be a "good guy"-- In the movie, “MegaMind”, the movie is primarily about MegaMind's life and challenges, even though MegaMind is a super villain. Since the story is told from the super villain’s perspective, the super villain is the protagonist. The guy trying to stop Megamind is the antagonist. So MetroMan, a “good guy”, is the antagonist because he is trying to stop MegaMind.
An antagonist can also be a force or thing that is preventing the main character from getting what it wants-- In the movie “Ice Age Continental Drift”, the mammoth and his family keep being separated by earthquakes and shifting land. The Continental Drift is a force that keeps the family from what it wants, which is to be together again. In this case, the land continually shifting is an antagonist.
How the antagonist fits in our simple writing formula
A story is made up of a WHO (the main character) + a WHAT (what the character wants) and a +WHY NOT (Why the character can’t get what he wants). The WHO (main character) is the protagonist. The WHY NOT is the antagonist. (See our simple guide to creative writing for kids.)
Trying to think of an antagonist for your story? See our mix and match antagonist / protagonist prompts.