The Antagonist Point of View

When you’re reading a novel, you notice that the story is told from different points of view. Sometimes you know what characters think, sometimes only one, sometimes many, and sometimes none at all. Often, you get to see the story from both sides, the protagonist’s and the antagonist’s. Sometimes, you only follow the protagonist.

In many stories, knowing what the antagonist thinks is beneficial to the story. It gives you a better understanding of their motivations, and helps you sympathise or hate them.

If you only follow the protagonist, you only know what they think of the antagonist. Your opinion is based on theirs.

I’ve read both kinds of books. I find that depending on the story, they are both appropriate. But do you have a preference? Which do you like to read? Also, if you write, how do you decide whether to show the antagonist’s point of view or not? Let me know in the comments below.

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13 thoughts on “The Antagonist Point of View”

  1. I definitely think both approaches are appropriate depending on the story and what the author is trying to convey. My preference is for Protagonist-Only perspectives to be used in unreliable first-person narrations. It adds to the uncertainty of whether the reader can trust what the protagonist is saying or how they think about the people around them, but the reader has no choice but to keep with the prog’s PoV because nothing else is offered.

    Meanwhile, in 3rd person novels (especially sci-fi or fantasies), I believe it is important to have those few scenes that solely follow the antagonist around – whether in the antagonist’s perspective or in an omniscient PoV – and this can be played around with too. Some of my favorites are when the antagonist’s scenes are based around humor and offer a light-hearted nod to the work behind the scenes of evil. I try to follow this approach in my own novels whenever I have a classic villain involved.

    1. I’ve seen 3rd person fantasy and sci-fi work both ways. However, it seems that when the villain is like a demon or something, we’re never in their head. We see how they are through others. But when they’re just as human as everyone else, we see what they think and feel.

  2. It depends on the type of story, and the type of antagonist.
    Some antagonists are better off remaining mysterious and/or not humanized.

    But for what I’m writing, where the main antagonist is supposed to be a believable character but only actually directly interacts with the protagonist a few times, I think it’s very necessary to use his POV. It makes him a much more developed character.

    1. Agreed. If you want to keep some mystery, keep the antagonists motives to the antagonist. I did this once for the twist that the protag was actually in the wrong at the end.

    2. I agree. In my case, I’m using the antagonist’s point of view quite a lot, unless they are not human. For Ariadne, nearly everyone is human, and I want to help readers see both sides of the story.

  3. Like above, it depends on the story itself. And who – or what – the antagonist is. After all the purpose of the antagonist is to try and stop the main character.

    There have been many stories where I enjoyed the antagonist, and sometimes MORE than the protagonist. Make them intriguing enough and I won’t mind.

    1. I agree. In A Song of Ice and Fire, I’m really enjoying Jaime Lannister’s point of view. I really disliked him at first, but by the third book, I’m really liking his character. He may be an antagonist, but he’s seeming extremely human, and I can understand what he’s thinking.

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