Protagonist vs. Antagonist: Who Are They and Why Are They Important?

Hello lil’ ones! My name is Ms. Junisa, an English teacher at Lil’ but Mighty!

Creating characters for your story is very important, but do you know that there are two types of characters that are essential in a story?

One starts with the letter ‘P’ and the other starts with the letter ‘A’.

YES! You guessed it! It is the protagonist and the antagonist. The protagonist and the antagonist are the two main characters in your story. The story revolves mostly around their adventures, and their actions affect the flow of the story.

Conflict is Good!

In the story, the protagonist and the antagonist have different aims or goals. The protagonist often strives to do good throughout the story and acts like a hero or a good Samaritan. The antagonist, on the other hand, works against the goal by breaking the rules or behaving disruptively. As such, the protagonist and antagonist often go head-to-head to create conflict in the story.

Let’s imagine that in your story, the protagonist is a policeman who does his daily patrol around the neighbourhood. He ensures that the citizens are safe and happy. The antagonist is someone who will work against him to try to create trouble like shoplifting or stealing! It would be exciting for the reader to see how the antagonist tries to outsmart the policeman in order to carry out his misdeeds and what the policeman attempts to do to stop him. You can see how having a conflict not only makes your story more interesting for the reader but it also helps to move the plot forward.

Similar but Different

Both the protagonist and antagonist are the central focus of your story, but they each possess unique character traits that set themselves apart from each other. This definitely helps to make your story more engaging for the reader. Imagine how boring it would be if all your characters in the story behave or act in a similar manner!

To illustrate what I mean, let’s read an excerpt of a story between the school prefect and the school bully:

Describe the Characters Vividly!

From the excerpt, the writer has given the protagonist and antagonist their own unique character traits. The prefect is a responsible person who tries to right a wrong while the bully terrorises his poor victim by pinning him against the wall. The characters come across as being more vivid and real, making your story more compelling to the reader.

To describe the protagonist, you can use adjectives like obedient, confident, and studious while the antagonist can be described as being mischievous, rowdy or intimidating. In using contrasting adjectives, you will help your reader differentiate between the two characters. Other than using adjectives, you can also focus on describing the differences in the way the protagonist and antagonist behave or react to others. For instance, in the extract you read earlier, the way the bully mistreats his victim highlights his unlikeable character, convincing the readers that this character will not cooperate or behave.

So, the next time you create a story, don’t forget to come up with two main characters that stand out – the protagonist and the antagonist. They are essential components in creating a successful story.

Fun Reads!

There are many stories you can read that have memorable protagonists and antagonists. Below are my top two favourites! I implore you to check them out this school holidays and add them to your reading list.

1. “Wonder” by R. J. Palacio

‘Wonder’ features a boy named Auggie, the protagonist, who was born with a facial deformity that sets him apart from his peers. As Auggie sets out to enrol in school, he struggles to find friends who will accept him for who he is instead of how he looks. His friend, Jack, even makes fun of him behind his back, and his peers become the bane of his school experience as he is often being made fun of for his differences in appearance. All is not lost for Auggie, because the story has a beautiful ending about real and meaningful friendships.

If you think Auggie’s story might tug at your heartstrings, do check out the book here.

2. The “Harry Potter” Series by J. K. Rowling

Delve into a world of wonder and magic with Hary Potter as he battles all evil before he finally vanquishes his ultimate enemy, Lord Voldemort. The Harry Potter series will unleash your imagination about the impossible while recognising meaningful lessons about friendships and the importance of family.

Check out Harry’s adventures (spanning across 7 books) here!

Interested in other books that our teachers would recommend? Check out the rest of Lil’ but Mighty’s specially curated list over here!

In the comments section below, share your favourite protagonists or antagonists from books you have read and let us know why they are so unforgettable!

Ms. Genevieve

Writing is Ms Junisa’s favourite way to express how she feels. She loves it so much that she went to NTU to complete her bachelor’s degree in English Literature. It was there that she truly appreciated how authors use language and their skills to make stories come alive for everyone! And that’s exactly what we’re doing at Lil’ but Mighty – creating stories beyond our imagination.

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