An antagonist is not necessarily evil, he merely has opposing actions, thoughts, motives, etc. to (in a story) the protagonist. The term does not say anything at all about the actual personality of the character. It is simply a plot role.
The antagonist is the main character’s chief opponent and helps the protagonist grow. The antagonist propels the story forward for the protagonist. The antagonist does not have to be evil. Example: They oppose the protagonist not out of bad motives, they are just standing in the way of the protagonist because they have different goals.
- An adversary
- An opponent
- An enemy
- A competitor
The antagonist does not have to be human. It could be nature, society, the supernatual, technology, etc.
The villain usually is the antagonist (though can be the protagonist), the character who tends to have a negative effect on other characters. A female villain is sometimes called a villainess. Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines villain as “a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime; scoundrel; or a character in a play, novel, or the like, who constitutes an important evil agency in the plot.
“Villain” is a character type, not a plot role. The villain is a character with evil actions or motives and are important to the plot. Usually the bad guy who instigates the conflict.
Most villains are action-oriented:
- They steal, kill, betray, wound, and work against good.
- They repress, restrict, tyrannize, puts down, defy, and limits others.
Bottom line the villain’s function is to work against good.
Understanding the backstory of your villain will help you create a deeper more interesting character.
- What caused your villain to be evil?
- What drives your villain?
- Does your villain think he/she is someone pursuing good by using their evil actions?
Knowing the backstory of your villain will help you paint a story where the reader will understand the why the villain in conflict with the protagonist.
Remember most people who are villains do not see themselves as evil. Showing something decent quality could go a long way to developing a richer villain.