Protagonist vs Antagonist: Creating a Compelling Narrative

Protagonist vs Antagonist


Storytelling has different layers.

There is the theme, settings, underlying lessons & much more.

2 distinct features are the protagonist & the antagonist.


It’s easy to get caught up on a surface level understanding of storytelling.

The truth is that many of us are suffering from the “once upon a time mindset.”


‘Lol what’s that?

That’s when we think stories need to start with once upon a time.

That’s a limited understanding of storytelling.


By building nuance, we have a more dynamic understanding of how to create a protagonist & an antagonist.

These are 2 central figures in great stories.


Who is The Protagonist?


The protagonist is the main character with who the audience resonates with.

In order to get the resonation to happen, the audience needs to see themselves in the protagonist.


Now here’s where the tricky part comes…

Your protagonist will never be able to 100% resonate with everyone.


I know people who hate Simba from Lion King.

‘Really?? How can you possibly hate Simba?’

Because for them, they just didn’t resonate with the character.


Therefore, as the author, we should aim to build a specified mindset regarding the protagonist rather than a general mindset.

Rather than trying to appeal to everyone, just aim to appeal to that one person.


Now the question is, if you wanted your protagonist to appeal to ATLEAST one person, what is needed?

To answer this question, ask yourself which protagonists have resonated with you?

Which stories stuck…


Normally, the protagonists who resonated with us are the ones who took us on a journey.

The most simple way to take a human on a journey is to go thru the ups & downs.


If you just give the audience the ups, then the protagonist is difficult to relate with.

If you just give the audience the downs, then the story lacks a lesson.


Thru the blend of an up & down dynamic, a compelling protagonist is born.


Who is the Antagonist?


The antagonist is often defined as a nemesis who holds the protagonist back in some way.

I like this definition.

But I don’t love it.


‘Why don’t you love it?’

Because it feels like an antagonist always needs to be a person.

While in reality, that’s not always the case.


Some antagonists are born thru the protagonists, themselves.

Example: a protagonist who doesn’t have many enemies outside. They seem like a lovable figure. However, internally, the protagonist sees things. Envisions the worst. Hate’s life.


In this case, the antagonist is the protagonist’s mind.

Simply understanding that the antagonist can be a human, a mental condition, a terrifying storm, etc…

Allows us to open our PARADIGM of what an antagonist really is.


One of the best ways to build a compelling antagonist for a story is to analyze tension from your own life.

Any time tension is there, where you feel inhibited in terms of making a move, there is an antagonist.


It can be the loudmouth co-worker who you know talks shit behind your back, the limiting beliefs of choking a free throw when the game is on the line, the intense fear of dogs… who knows.


Those are all antagonists.

It can be a person or something much more.


How a Protagonist Relates to the Antagonist


Having a rough understanding of the protagonist & a rough understanding of the antagonist allows the story to naturally present itself.


Most stories come down to:

  • Character
  • Conflict
  • Lesson


When breaking down this formula, we see that we have the 2 variables already.

Character is the protagonist & maybe an antagonist who is presented in character form.

The conflict is the setback created by the antagonist.


When we break it down into such elementary terms, the whole game starts to make more sense.

Stories are able to unlock deeper truths of life.

How is the interaction of the protagonist & antagonist leading to a lesson?


All stories don’t need a happy ending.

But all stories do need a lesson.


Common Conflicts Presented


If you are thinking about a few ways to make the protagonist & antagonist interact, here are a few examples.

There is no right or wrong answer.

It just comes down to the dynamic of the story.


Human against Human


This is the traditional approach to storytelling that we often hear.

One protagonist is trying to make a name for themselves.

However, the standard nemesis keeps getting in their way.


-It can be a boy who keeps getting turned down by a girl.

-It can be the younger brother who is constantly overshadowed by the older brother.

-Or who knows, it can be a betrayal of a friendship.

These are a few examples.


Human against Humans


This can be when an army is trying to destroy someone.

The army is an analogy for a large group of people.


Rambo comes to mind.

Rambo was a beast because of his deadly training in war.

And Rambo had to go thru A LOT to overcome the antagonists.


Humans against Humans


This format is the standard for a lot of sports movies.

One team is the underdog & aims to rise.

There is a new coach that comes & aims to turn the underdog team around so they are competitive against other teams.


Each member of the underdog team has their own problems.

So when multiple humans are involved, there are often conflicts within conflicts.

Example: team members turning against one another. Team members turning against a coach.


Human against Self


You remember that one movie where Tom Hanks was stuck on an island?

‘Uh…Cast Away?’

Yea, that one!


That one was a mental game.

A movie where the protagonist had to deal with the conditions of the mind to survive.

And the antagonist was the new way of living on an island, isolation, survival, loneliness etc.


Human against Nature


2 movies come to mind.

2012 & Twister.


Any movie that has those ‘end of the world’ scenarios has the human against nature format.

The protagonist is doing their best to survive against the antagonist who happens to be mother nature.


These are often a thriller & the audience wonders what will happen once the conflict is activated.


Finding your Balance


As you can tell, the antagonist & protagonist have a relationship throughout the story.

The 2 go well together.


And hopefully, in this article, you were able to develop a deeper understanding of storytelling.

Hopefully, we were able to shed the ‘once upon a time’ mentality.


Storytelling doesn’t just stop once the creation portion ends.

For every story we tell, we change ourselves.


The storyteller views life from a different angle.

An angle where they view their own life as one big story.


The best way to build a compelling protagonist & antagonist?

Start viewing yourself as the protagonist of your life.

And see all the antagonists that you overcame, are in the process of overcoming & will one day overcome.


This mindset flip will present ideas for days.

That’s when we realize we are all inborn storytellers no matter how much we run.


For more practical communication insights, subscribe to my free daily newsletter.


– ArmaniTalks 🎙️🔥


Share This On:


Level up your communication skills with a new email everyday at 7pm EST


Armani Talks: Level Up Mentality : A Guide to Re-engineer your Mindset for Confidence - Book By Armani Talks


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Join the
ArmaniTalks 🎙️🔥

Stay updated with all latest tips , tricks & strategies to build communcications skills.



Get the Free eBook by signing up below.​
You can unsubscribe anytime
Build communication skills with daily tips
Join 10K subscribers


Level up your communication skills with a new email everyday at 7pm EST