5. Keep the tension strong when the antagonist is a friend, ally or loved one.

5. Keep the tension strong when the antagonist is a friend, ally or loved one.

If your protagonist’s dream is to return to college at 40 and her husband tells her she’s too old, he’s the antagonist, even though they love each other. This “beloved antagonist” scenario happens frequently in women’s fiction and mainstream literature. A husband might act, sometimes unconsciously, to keep the heroine from reinventing herself. Or, an adult child might be convinced that the aging protagonist would be happier in a nursing home. Think of any character who ever uttered the phrase, “It’s for your own good.” When writing this kind of antagonist, capitalize on the conflict inherent in the relationship and on the drama that arises when someone with our best interests at heart—someone we care about—stands between us and a goal. Our protagonists don’t want to destroy beloved antagonists or see them jailed or rendered impotent. They want to change their minds and maneuver around them. It can be challenging to keep the tension high in such a story, because you may not want to inflict pain on either the protagonist or the antagonist. Bite the bullet—make life hard for both of them.

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