Story Building – Using Antagonists to Drive Your Plot


Scrinener-full-size-683x1024I love K. M. Weiland. She has an amazing generosity of spirit that shows up as free stuff on her website and free bonuses when you buy her products.

While browsing her site one day, I found a free Scrivener template with so much information that I kind of feel guilty I didn’t pay for it. As if the template itself wasn’t enough, I got this awesome graphic. I just found it today as I was going through the template!

As a newbie, one of my stumbling blocks is structure. The infographic explains the different levels of story stakes in a way that totally makes sense to me. I struggle sometimes with reading instructional articles and books, so I love this kind of graphic that lays it out for me to see. (See my older post about heroes vs. villains for another cool graphic.)


Free stuff everywhere! She’s the gift that keeps on giving.

And not only is it free stuff, it’s GOOD stuff.

I’m using all my creative muscles on my current work-in-progress, a novel about a girl who can manipulate matter and energy and uses her strength to help others around her.

Katie’s site is like free weights. You still have to do the work, but she provides the tools you need to build those creative muscles and meet your goals.

Love it!!!

Visit her site,, and experience her generosity for yourself.

Here is the text from the template:

Start plotting with your antagonist.

As I talk about in this post, this approach was a groundbreaking change in my approach to storytelling. Like most authors, I’ve started every single outline I’ve ever written with the protagonist. Why not, right? Your protagonist is a completely obvious entry point to your story.

But when you start with your protagonist and his goals, the antagonistic force too often becomes an afterthought. As a result, the conflict between the protagonist and antagonist becomes fragmented and does not drive the plot in a cohesive, integral way.

Instead, start by exploring the antagonistic forces in your story. What do they want? Once you know that, you can see more clearly how, where, and why your protagonist will run afoul of them.

Specifically, consider five different levels of antagonistic forces (not all of which need to appear in every story) and the various levels of stakes they might create:

1. Global Stakes.

2. International Stakes.

3. National Stakes.

4. Public Stakes.

5. Personal Stakes.

Once you’ve identified/created unique antagonists for each category, take a closer look at each of them. Specifically, you want to ask yourself:

1. What does each of your antagonists want (goal)?

2. Why does your antagonist want this (motive)?

3. How will he go about obtaining his goal (plan)?

Take your time exploring your antagonists. You may be eager to get to the good stuff (aka your protagonist) right away. But your antagonists will provide the foundation for your entire story. The stronger your understanding of the antagonistic forces that oppose your protagonist, the more adeptly you will be able to craft a conflict that creates the most meaningful, realistic, and symbolically rich journey for your protagonist.