Vermin and Volcanoes, Viruses and Vices
or Non-Villain Antagonists
by Linda Robertson
Last week I mentioned Jaws, Twister, and Zombies, but this week the topic is the non-villain antagonist so I'll add to what I started--but wait, there's more! I'll even throw in a bonus...
As you read this, consider the heroes/protagonists in these stories. What was it about them that made their journey through the plot interesting? What was it about them that made the story more important?
Creatures have to eat. A shark eating things that swim in the water does not make that shark a villain, it makes it a predator in its natural environment. This is any wild animal in our world. From scorpions in the desert, to snakes in the rain forest, or dinosaurs in Jurassic Park.
They're not evil, they're just hungry.
Throw a character in an environment where they collide with these creatures and you have a story of exploration and survival.
Natural disasters make great stories. The Poseidon Adventure. Titanic. Armageddon. Ice Age. 2012. The Perfect Storm. Deep Impact. The Day After Tomorrow. Flood. Magma.
They're not evil, they're just destructive.
The key here is going to be character development vs. the escalation of the danger--from the disaster getting worse or from other characters also trying to survive. What line is this character not willing or able to cross, and how can you force him/her to find a way to cross that line in order to overcome this obstacle to survival?
Here we have the un-natural. A virus, a spore, a non-human organism. Yes, I mean Zombies. The Thing. Alien. Godzilla. The Borg. I, Robot. Invasion of the Body Snatchers. The Blob.
This can certainly tip over into full on villain in the form of the "Big Bad" but it does not have to. This is what we find when we explore beyond our world, or when aliens invade our world, or when we create something that will be our own undoing.
They're not evil, they're just programmed/engineered/born that way.
Throw a character in an environment where they encounter these things and you have a story of discovery and exploration and survival.
A character battling his own inner demons such as his struggle to overcome an addiction is certainly a plot without a villain, and often is a compelling story.
He's not evil, he's just fallen down...but he wants to get back up.
The questions are: Can he? Will he? and How? Make us care. Make us worry. And in the end, make us cheer when he triumphs.