Have you considered how important the antagonist is to a story? A good story needs a bad guy, or girl, as developed as the protagonist. It takes continual conflict between the two throughout the story. The villain must have at least as much chutzpah and skill as the hero, maybe more so. Certainly, they cannot have any less.
The evildoer may, or may not, be present at the beginning of the story , but their effects have to be felt early on. The significance of the mischief-maker becomes more and more pronounced as the story builds, especially so in a thriller or suspense.
The rising action oftentimes lasts the greatest part of the story. It is during this time that the tension ratchets up. I’ve seen this part of stories and novels described with ladders, stair steps, an inclined plane, all sorts of visual aids. The bottom line is this, there has to be an increase of stress or tension to pull the story to a more intense place. Most commonly we refer to it as building action, thus the visualization of the ladders, stairs, et cetera.
This is where your inner stress and conflict begin to eat you up, where it’s not unheard of for a moviegoer to scream, “Watch out!” in the middle of the theater, much to their embarrassment.
This rising action is the reason that novels and movies don’t fit in the three-act structure of the theatre. The first act houses the: action before the story, the exposition, the introduction of characters, and the catastrophe that begins the actual story. The second act houses the rising action and the continual complications of the catastrophe. In a poker game, we would call it upping of the ante. The gambit of increased tension. The third act is where the climax resides. After that is the denouement – the final resolution. Look at it like the unraveling of a skein of yarn that is magically made neat again.
The novel and/or movie doesn’t fit neatly in the three-act form. The rising action continues to build to, and in some cases on, the last page, or the last scene. That way the tension can continue until it is almost unbearable.
A very good friend of mine, a college roommate, once attended the movie Wait Until Dark, an excellent thriller made in 1967. He was on a date and later told me he didn’t want to be embarrassed. While standing in the lobby, waiting for the previous showing to end, he heard a lot of screams near the end of the movie. He made a mental note not to scream because he knew it was coming, and he wanted to look studly, macho.
There was indeed a scary part near the end and when he saw it he was prepared and ready. What he did not know was there were two scary parts, and of course, the second event was much more terror-filled. After he was successful the first time, he relaxed. Then came the final horrifying instant for which he was not prepared. He screamed, “Oh shit!” like a sissy, stood up and ran from the theater. Embarrassing.
Well damn, once again I got sidetracked. I’ll dive back in.
The rapscallion’s effects need to be felt throughout the story, or at least until the climax. This doesn’t mean that the villain has to be alive throughout. Hell, the damned blackguard might have died in the beginning during the catastrophe that started the whole thing, but the effects certainly never end there.
Now here’s the crux. By the end of the rising action, the anti-hero’s effect on the story needs to appear much greater than the hero’s ability to counteract those effects. Then, with a sudden twist, preferably as yet unseen, or perhaps seen before but with insignificant effect, the hero gains the upper-hand and corrects everything, bringing things back in line with the proper world.
The villain needs as much attention to developing infamy as does the hero to altruism. In The Sigma Factor, there are several villains in varying degrees, but two antagonists produce more evil than any of the others. Between them, the world crashes around Ol’ Stan.
I hope many of you took advantage of the sale at Smashwords. $1.50 was not a bad price for an e-book. If you bought, thanks. Now for those of you who only like to read page-turning paper books. I’ve finally succeeded in getting The Sigma Factor into paperback. It has taken this long for me to accomplish this since Rebel ePublishing closed their door. It should be ready by this Friday.