How do you create a main character who is an antagonist?

A writer just asked, “Can I make my main character an Antagonist instead of the Protagonist?”

My reply:

The main character is the one through whose eyes the reader or audience experiences the story. It is the one around whom the personal issue or problem of the story seems to revolve. The main character is, essentially, the “first person” point of view in the story. It is through them we most passionately experience the story first hand by identifying with them.

Protagonist and antagonist are not point of view characters but are character functions. The protagonist is the one who is the prime mover of the effort to achieve the goal. The antagonist is all about preventing the protagonist from achieving the goal. In our own minds, protagonist represents our initiative – the motivation to affect change. Antagonist is our reticence – the motivation to maintain the status quo, or at least to return to it.

So, any character in a story can be the main character, not just protagonist or antagonist. it could be a by stander, simply providing a passionate point of view on the plot, just as if the story were a football game, the main character doesn’t have to be the quarterback (protagonist) or opposing quarterback (antagonist) but could be the half back or any of the linesmen, or ever then water boy. But, whomever is your main character, it is they who grapple with the underlying moral issue of the story, it is they who are brought to a point where they must either stick by their guns or change their ways in regard to some philosophical or moral point of view or manner. It is the main character who must make a leap of faith. And, their connection to the story at large is that as a result of their decision on the central message issue, either the protagonist or antagonist will succeed.

When you select one of your players as a protagonist and also as the main character you get the stereotypical hero – a character who grapples with the moral issue, represents the reader/audience point of view, and is also leading the charge in the logistics of the plot. But, the main character can be anyone. For example, in most James Bond movies, Bond is a main character antagonist – not a protagonist – because it is the villain who is affecting change due due their evil scheme, making them the protagonist, and it is Bond who seeks to prevent that change or return things to the status quo, even though we see things through Bond’s eyes, making him the main character with whom the reader/audience identifies. And what of Bond doing the other main character job of grappling with a moral issue? In a few movies he does, but the moral issue is actually a personal battle over what is proper between the main character and the influence character who represents the opposing moral viewpoint. They thrash out the message of the story between them, independent of whether either of them is a protagonist or antagonist. So, in bond films, he almost always remains steadfast on that issue, while it is the influence character who is changed in their moral point of view by Bond’s intransigence.

In the Dramatica software, you can assign the main character view and Influence character view to any of your characters in the Build Characters window.

Hope this helps.