Guest post: “Giving the Antagonist a POV,” by Chris Karlsen

GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment below for a chance to win an eset of Heroes Live Forever and Journey in Time along with a swag bag! The swag bag will be a small tote with the book covers screened on, a “medieval style” bracelet and a package of soap leaves shaped like rose petals.

I read across the board genres, especially romances, thrillers, and historical fiction. I write paranormal romances and romantic thrillers. With my first two paranormal novels, Heroes Live Forever and Journey in Time, Point of View was limited to either the hero or heroine. The antagonist(s) in those stories were mainly
the situations the hero and heroine found themselves in and had to overcome. On occasion, the situations generated villainous characters for them to encounter, but those characters did not have running roles throughout the stories.

In Knight Blindness, book three of my paranormal romance series, I took a somewhat different direction with the antagonist. Although he’s the hero’s nemesis, he is not a villain. Like the hero, he is a man who believes in his king’s cause, a man who goes into battle to fight for his country. During the course of the story, he goes from battlefield enemy to dogged pursuer of the hero. I knew as the plot progressed that I wanted him to be as three-dimensional and fleshed out as the hero. That meant giving him a POV, a personal history. Like the hero, he too generated a lot of reader comments. He evoked some strong feelings, some really disliked him and others felt a connection, a certain empathy for him.

I didn’t realize when I started the book that building a world, a backstory for him to create a credible POV, would open the door to a potential story where he is the hero.

Golden Chariot and Byzantine Gold, the romantic thrillers, had definite antagonists. They were cunning and dangerous people who placed the protagonists in perilous circumstances. These are not characters out of a Criminal Minds episode driven by blood lust. They’re men with an agenda. They have a goal and what they consider a logical purpose for their actions. Whether it’s for revenge, financial gain, or for a cause they believe in, they feel justified in everything they do.

Golden Chariot has three antagonists. Two are the masterminds behind the artifact smuggling operation. The third is a contract killer hired by the other two. When one of the conspirators orders an government agent murdered without the other’s knowledge, the co-conspirator is incensed. Their entire scheme nearly falls apart, a situation the man who ordered the murder can’t afford to have happen. I needed to give him an extraordinary reason for taking this risk. To justify his actions, he required a POV. Taking a path less traveled by handing the antagonist this power can be surprising fun, it can be enlightening for both the author and the reader. What resulted was suddenly seeing both the man behind the murder and the victim in a different light. That didn’t change the fact the killing was wrong, but it helped to understand why the man ordered the murder.

I also gave the contract killer a POV. The reader sees him exactly for what he is: a man who kills for profit. He doesn’t moralize about his business or try to justify his actions. He is what he is, most of the time. In addition to POV, I gave him moments of surprise for the reader. There is one scene where he performs a random act of kindness, totally unexpected for the amoral and generally cruel man.

In another scene we see him at home. Through the eyes of the heroine, we see his taste in furniture, in music, in something as simple as fine crystal. It is easy to forget the antagonist has a mother, possibly siblings, food he/she likes, a certain style of décor or clothing. Those reveals can pull a reader closer to the story. The enemy isn’t an indistinct, vacuous man or woman who is just evil. They have personality and that personality can go many directions.

This same killer returns in Byzantine Gold, the sequel to Golden Chariot. For that story, I took him a step further and gave him a love interest. This is by no means a man who desires love or even has the capacity to give it in any deep way. As mentioned, he is amoral and without the warmth of character. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a woman who finds a way to love him. In this book, he finds himself attracted to a young woman and he chooses to let her travel with him. They share moments where he is true to his nature and brutal to her. There are other moments where he has the opportunity to show an unexpected kinder side of himself.
Byzantine Gold also has a political terrorist who shares the role of antagonist. As horrifying as terrorism is to us, to him, his cause is righteous and he will do anything he must to achieve his goal.

Giving the antagonist(s) in these last two books POVs has also generated commentary from readers and reviewers. They were by no means sympathetic to the characters (I hadn’t intended them to be) but were intrigued seeing the character fleshed out in a way where their motivation was not excused but understood. They became three dimensional for the reader. The antagonist’s POV is not often shown and as a result these men stood out. One reviewer emailed me privately and said: the relationship between the killer and the young woman in Byzantine Gold had him wondering at times what the killer might’ve been like had he met someone like her sooner. Knowing the killer as well as I do, I’d have to say I doubt he’d be any different. What was important, in my opinion, was the fact the question was raised and that he created interest beyond the norm.

To me one of the great antagonist/villains of recent years was Tony Soprano. He was the villain you hated to love. Week after week, we’d see him kill people, order people killed, engage in all sorts of illegal activity, and take every possible opportunity to cheat on his loving wife. On the face of it, one would think it unimaginable to like this man. Yet...what else did the writer’s show? The audience saw a man who loved the ducks who landed in his pool. They saw a man who suffered anxiety attacks and sought the services of a psychiatrist. They saw a man who adored and protected his daughter, felt disappointment in the son he had high hopes for, who looked after his unpleasant mother and annoying sister. And deep down, at times, we embraced him. When Dr. Melfi was raped and beaten, and Tony came to his appointment while she was still injured, didn’t most of us say aloud, “tell him, tell Tony who did this to you. He’ll take care of the brute.” I, for one, was very disappointed she didn’t.

Antagonists can be humorous, intelligent, surprising, and have all sorts of quirks. All of which can make a story much richer, if we give them a voice and POV.



Author Bio:
I was born and raised in Chicago. My father was a history professor and my mother was, and is, a voracious reader. I grew up with a love of history and books.
My parents also love traveling, a passion they passed onto me. I wanted to see the places I read about, see the land and monuments from the time periods that fascinated me. I’ve had the good fortune to travel extensively throughout Europe, the Near East, and North Africa.
I am a retired police detective. I spent twenty-five years in law enforcement with two different agencies. My desire to write came in my early teens. After I retired, I decided to pursue that dream. I write two different series. My paranormal romance series is called, Knights in Time. My romantic thriller series is, Dangerous Waters.
I currently live in the Pacific Northwest with my husband, four rescue dogs and a rescue horse.
Connect with Chris Karslen on the web:

Powered by Blogger.