An antagonist is a character in the story that opposes or is hostile to someone or something. The antagonist is usually the opponent who stands in the way or interferes with someone else’s goal.
Antagonists are usually the ones who cause friction and won’t allow the protagonists to reach their goals, due to the goals of their own.
Sometimes the antagonist isn’t particularly evil but slightly unlikeable for the audience. Antagonistic behavior presents itself through anger, aggressiveness, hostility or confrontation, whereas genuinely warm people are less likely to exhibit aggressive behavior. A protagonist can sometimes have traits of an antagonist when being immoral or indecisive.
The antagonist often comes off as robotic, evil, or Herculean, but the reality is that even the antagonist is human, except with deep emotional wounds. The antagonist’s wounds are often what drive their actions. Although big tragedies create good storylines, the smaller and more relatable emotional injuries are the ones that allow the audience to empathize even with an antagonist.
An antagonist doesn’t always have to come in human form. It could be an evil force sweeping the city in the form of a tsunami, a hurricane, or an earthquake. It could also be cultural and societal norms that are classified as poor conditions.
In writing it’s important to remember that as tempting as it is to make the antagonist appear in control, the flaws, painful wounds from the past and vulnerability are the ones that will make the audience root even for the antagonist.