Monday, June 3, 2013

CREATING THE ANTAGONISTIC SETTING


Award-winning author, DiAnn Mills, launched her career in 1998 with the publication of her first book. Currently she has over forty books in print and has sold a million and a half copies.

DiAnn is a founding board member for American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Inspirational Writers Alive, Romance Writers of America’s Faith, Hope and Love, and Advanced Writers and Speakers Association. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is also a mentor for Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writer’s Guild. 

She lives in sunny Houston, Texas. DiAnn and her husband have four adult sons and are active members of Metropolitan Baptist Church.

Website:  www.diannmills.com

CREATING THE ANTAGONISTIC SETTING

A trait of a bestselling writer is the ability to raise the stakes for the protagonist. A writer often turns to the obvious means of adding tension, stress, and conflict to a scene: characterization, dialogue, plot twists, and emotive conflict. But an antagonistic setting means shaky ground for the point of view character. Survival extends beyond fighting a villain, either physical, mental, spiritual, or natural. By using an antagonistic setting, every breath is met with potential disaster.

How does a writer accomplish an antagonistic setting? Begin by concentrating on a few traits of a villain: determined, powerful, an outward appearance of beauty or charm, and the ability to deceive. The adversity of setting can be obvious or hidden, but include it in ways that force your character to make tough decisions and then accept responsibility for those actions. A setting becomes even more antagonistic when the setting is unfamiliar to the character.  

The following are examples of an antagonistic setting in a few popular genres. 

Contemporary: What looks like a beautiful afternoon in a park for a family reunion becomes the site of an untimely death when lightning strikes a beloved character.
 
 
Fantasy: In a land faraway, a kindly king is replaced by a tyrant who levies heavy taxes on his subjects.

Historical: A wagon train pulls into a peaceful valley where the weary travelers can rest before heading across a vast prairie. The green surroundings are shaded by tall trees, and a clear stream is filled with fish. A scout points out there is only one way in and out of the valley, but the travelers insist upon staying. Early the next morning, the travelers discover they are surrounded by hostile Indians.

Romance: A couple honeymoons on a deserted island, surrounded by white sandy beaches, exotic plants, and colorful birds. Their cell phones have no service, but they don’t care. An unexpected storm rises, bringing high winds and twenty-foot waves. The island paradise has now become a prison.

Sci-Fi: An isolated, peaceful planet is invaded by aliens who require the inhabitant’s water supply for their own survival. 

 
Suspense: A heroine refers to her backyard as a haven. A tall, stone wall frames nature’s display of green and flowering plants. But when a killer chases her into her haven, she is trapped by what she thought was her respite.

Thriller: An aid to a popular politician is invited to a mountain retreat with other staff members. An expected snowstorm traps all of them inside the lodge. While there, the aide discovers the politician is accepting bribes that affect the safety of the entire country. The aid realizes he must escape before thousands of people are killed.

What about your story? Have you set your characters in an idyllic environment that makes solving the goal easy and pain free? Why not muddy the waters and cause the protagonist to squirm, fight, and ultimately overcome every obstacle place in his way?

I believe you’ll be pleased with the results—and so will the reader.

3 comments:

  1. Thie was very interesting DiAnn. Still waiting for you to have a book signing here in the Houston area. Maxie Anderson mac262(at)me(dot)com

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