The Villain is Not Always a Person

This question came up on Facebook the other day, when someone was looking for examples of books without definite antagonists. Many folks said that in stories like The Martian (and another recent book you might have heard about), the antagonist — the villain, if you will — is Nature. Man against the elements, as it were.

This morning, in the latest in his Writing Wednesdays series, Steven Pressfield wrote:

Sometimes the villain is entirely inside the characters’ (almost always the protagonist’s) head.

The villain can be a fear, an obsession, a desire, a dream, a conception of reality, an idea of what “the truth” really is.

That’s an interesting thought.

What this means is that the ultimate antagonist is not a man-eating shark or a monster from space. It is an idea carried in our own heads (we’re the heroes, remember, of our own lives) [and the] turning point for us … comes when we see through the Wizard’s curtain and reject this idea once and for all.

Food for thought!

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