Protagonist, Antagonist and the Goal of the Story


Rapunzel looks out of her window, yawning. She’s not interested in doing anything but looking at the sky. 

Suddenly, a charming prince yells from below, beckoning her to come down. He wants her to let down her hair so he can save her. The princess looks down at the height, unbothered. She’s good. 

The prince is confused. “Don’t you want to be free? Don’t you want to change?” 

The princess shrugs. “Not really.” Well... this is awkward, that was his one job - to save the princess. To be the hero. Save the day. But if he can’t do that, then what happens? Is the movie over? 

Hello, and welcome to the Art of Screenwriting. Here at ‘The Art of Screenwriting’, we like to show you the bad before the good... and that was pretty bad. You see, the Prince was confused because the Princess, also known as the protagonist, didn't want to be saved. And if there’s no protagonist, there’s no antagonist either, which makes for a really bad movie. Today we’re going to talk about three things: Protagonist, antagonist and the goal of the story. So, without further ado, let’s get started! 

What is a protagonist, you may ask? Well, a protagonist is essentially the person who changes over the course of the story. They are the main character! The good guy... most of the time. 

Now, in the case of our example, our protagonist was extremely passive and boring, which made her a weak character. If your audience loses interest, that’s not a good sign you created an awesome protagonist. Your protagonist should be the hero! They should want to jump down from the tower and defeat the enemy while also looking extremely cool doing it. Bottom line, this person is your main focus of your story, so please... give your protagonist something to do! 

Now, I think it’s time for another example. Let’s talk about the movie, Coach Carter.  In the movie, Coach Carter, we follow our protagonist, Ken Carter returning to his old high school in Richmond, California, to get the basketball team into winning shape. As he instills intense discipline, his team starts a winning streak until their grades suffer. Coach Carter locks the gym until further notice but receives intense push-back from the community, as well as his players who want to play basketball.  After the school board defies the Coach’s wishes, he’s left at a crossroads: stick to his guns or allow his students to play while risking the possibilities of college and success later on. 

In this scene, we will break down the defining moment when his team finally understands that the meaning of success is not necessarily sports but the beauty and freedom of education. This is when Ken Carter’s character arch goes from hopeless... to hero. 

If you’re still here, you’re just in time for our next point... The antagonist! Okay, so this is pretty straightforward, right? If our protagonist is Peter Pan then certainly Tinker Bell is our villain? Right? No? Well then, what is an antagonist? 

So, by definition the antagonist is a person who actively opposes or is hostile to someone or something; an adversary if you may. However, the antagonist doesn’t always have to be an actual character. It can be a magical force, an internal flaw of the protagonist, a destructive weather event or anything that stops the central character from moving forward.  Basically, if the protagonist doesn’t do their job, neither can the antagonist. Imagine a triangle.. 

There’s a power struggle in every movie when it comes to the antagonist and protagonist. They’re both fighting for something and they both want to win. When you have this conflict, it gives your story power... and that’s what you want. 

They meet in the middle which is the goal of the story. 

Now, the stronger the needs and wants of your antagonist, the better your story will be. Take the story “Little Red Riding Hood” for example.  The wolf in this case wants to eat Red Riding Hood. The wolf’s desire is just as strong if not stronger than little red riding hood’s desire to visit her grandmother because the wolf was greedy and selfish and was in a state of desperation. Even though most of the time, the audience doesn’t want the antagonist to win, that doesn’t mean they don’t want to see them try. 

Here’s an example... 

In the movie, “Training Day”, Alonzo Harris is the main antagonist of the crime thriller. Although he’s a cop, he’s too far gone in his dealings with the criminal underworld which has destroyed  himself in the process. In this scene, we will see his role deteriorate as he has a final standoff with the community, trying to get their respect. 

Now, our third and final point: Goal of the story. Looking back at our triangle, we see that the two lines collide at a single point... that’s our goal! Now, this is the most important aspect of our video. Without understanding the goal of the story, everyone is confused, like our clueless prince from earlier. For the protagonist and antagonist to know exactly what to do, they need to have a mission. Here’s an example. 

Now, first thing to remember: your goal should be specific and concrete. If the audience has to guess what your goal is, you’re going to lose some viewers. What’s the goal of the princess? To escape the torturous tower and be with her beloved prince without someone catching her. What’s the goal of the evil witch in snow white? Well, her goal is to kill her by luring Snow White to eat a poisonous apple. Get it? 

Now, tip two? How easy is your goal? Does the antagonist have three hours to carry out their evil plan? Will it be easy for the antagonist to save the world from ultimate destruction? These questions must be answered before you get to step three: Realism. How realistic is it for the geeky math instructor to become a star football player in a week? Would your audience believe an antagonist was really bad if all they did was sit at home, playing video games? Make sure your characters make sense in the way they live, act and feel. Create the world to suit their desires and if you do it right... you should be fine.  

Today we learned about the protagonist, antagonist and the goal of the story. I hope you learned something today. If you want to help us, please leave a comment on what videos you’d like to see next and make sure to like, share and subscribe for more videos like these! And remember, knowledge is power… the more you know, the better you’ll be. Peace.