One of the tricky things about writing romance is the antagonist. I’ve found two approaches, which I have discussed in more detail than anybody wanted elsewhere: the lover as antagonist (Moonstruck) and the outside antagonist that brings the lovers together as they fight (Charade). Nita’s book was supposed to a mostly outside-antagonist book, but as I wrote it, the lover-as-antagonist aspect became stronger. And now that I’m on the final pass throughs, I really have to get my antagonist approach together.
The first thing I did was list all the people thwarting my heroine besides the love interest. All but one of them are minions of the real antagonist, but I still needed the basics to make them real people on the page: goal, motivation, action designed specifically to achieve that goal. No “I got up this morning and decided to be evil” stuff. Good, strong human motivations, even if they’re demons.
A lot of them started with “greed,” but the problem with that is that I then have to go deeper and figure out why they’re greedy. “Money is good” is really not enough of a deeper reason. “I need something (respect, love, power) and money will get it for me” can be a reason; “I lost something I need and money can help me get it back” is a good one. But it’s really that “need” bit that’s key. Lots of people want more money, but for a lot of us it’s “want” not “need.”
And for four of them, the motivation is power: they all want to be the next Devil. The key there is not assuming that of course everybody wants power, that it’s a generic goal. The key is why do they want it. One has a clear political purpose. Another wants to regain something essential that he lost and that’s the only way to do it. The other two, well, right now they just want to be Devil, so part of my day today is figuring they’re specific need instead of just their want. I’m thinking aging might be one of the reasons; running out of time to achieve the highest honor in Hell’s government. The other guy right now is just evil, but I’m thinking he’s a retro guy: women are getting too much power, humans are being treated as equals, it’s time to Make Hell Great Again. Not that I’d use that slogan.
I think that the strength of any conflict is in the strength and complexity of the antagonist, and that rests entirely on the depth of his or her goal and motivation. So while I’m thinking that this may be a lover-as-antagonist book (in which case I’m good because I know Nick’s goal and motivation), I’m still going back to get the antagonist and minion antagonist needs, too. After all, Nita can’t defeat them until she understands why they’re trying to defeat her. And I can’t finish the book until Nita defeats them.