Good antagonists contribute almost as much as good protagonists to the success and quality of a novel. In my books, the antagonists are rarely evil. That's because I don't like to dwell in evil minds and I have to be able to get inside my characters in order to write about them convincingly. Instead of evil antagonists, I seek to create characters that could just as easily be protagonists if only one chose to see the world through their eyes. In short, they are complex characters with their own strengths and weaknesses, but for one reason or another they are in conflict or competition with the protagonist of this particular novel.
In Moral Fibre there are two antagonists, one for the hero and one for the heroine. The hero Kit Moran's antagonist is Red Forrester.
Red is an Australian pilot who arrives at the same Operational Training Unit as Kit Moran at the same time. They share a room, and they soon become, well, bitter rivals. Forrester is ambitious. He wants his crew to be the best in everything -- flying, bombing, gunnery, navigation. He selects a crew of like-minded individuals, who are as aggressively competitive as he is. And when they do well at anything, they brag about it.
In the course of the novel, this sets up several situations where Moran is forced to make choices and take actions that would not otherwise have been necessary. Forrester acts as a foil to Moran. He forces Moran to re-evaluate who he is and what he wants. He is the shadow that sets Moran into greater light.
The heroine Georgina Redding's antagonist is Fiona Barker.
Fiona is a fellow trainee at the teacher's college, but she is more of a rebel. She resents the restrictions placed on women. She wants to have a career. She hates men who are more focused on her looks than her brain. She is, well, the way I was when I was in college. So, you see, I identify strongly with Fiona. Yet she is Georgina's antagonist because she tries to impose her worldview on Georgina.
Fiona thinks Georgina should not get involved with Kit. She thinks she should "stand on her own two feet." She calls Georgina "dependent" and deplores her "need for a ring to make her feel whole." She fails to understand the depth of Georgina's feelings much less Georgina's great emotional strength. By highlighting Georgina's alternatives, like a good antagonist, she makes Georgina define herself more precisely and consciously choose a different course.
Next week I will explore the critical role of secondary characters.
Riding the icy, moonlit sky— They took the war to Hitler.
Their chances of survival were less than fifty percent. Their average age was 21.
This is the story of just one Lancaster skipper, his crew,and the woman he loved.
It is intended as a tribute to them all.
Flying Officer Kit Moran has earned his pilot’s wings, but the greatest challenges still lie ahead: crewing up and returning to operations. Things aren’t made easier by the fact that while still a flight engineer, he was posted LMF (Lacking in Moral Fibre) for refusing to fly after a raid on Berlin that killed his best friend and skipper. Nor does it help that he is in love with his dead friend’s fiancé, who is not yet ready to become romantically involved again.