Our final antagonist is The Mastermind, and this one is pretty straightforward. This is the antagonist that uses plans, predictions, and knowledge to get under the protagonist's skin.

 

These are the Mad Scientists, the Mindreaders, and the villains you can rely on to predict your hero's every move without any visible effort. Sometimes this is through personal intelligence, but in other situations this is a result of forethought and resources, such as having an extensive spy network or a very good security program.

Examples of this character type might include James Moriarty from Sherlock Holmes in his many incarnations, Lex Luthor from the Superman universe, and Fontaine from the video game BioShock.

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There's something especially interesting about the antagonist that's as smart as or even smarter than the protag. Without the certainty of being able to defeat him, the protagonist has to deal with the stress of the Risk of Failure, which we will discuss in a future article. That risk can be the source of a lot of character development on the protagonist's part, bringing to light some of the less heroic personality traits he might have inherited or developed.

 

Most character types are excellent sources of contrast, highlighting the protagonist's qualities through some perversion or absence of the same in another character. In this case, it's not so much a contrast as it is a gap. The difference between the protagonist's strength and the antagonist's greater strength is a source of conflict, but one in which the protagonist has to confront the idea that he's not the best at what he does, but he has to do it anyway.

 

That relationship is a good tool for a bit of self-doubt in an everyman character, or for a shock to a character who's accustomed to being the smartest. (Can anyone say "This is the Pride episode." for me?) Or, if you're really in the contrast groove, the Mastermind can be the one that opposes a protag whose strength is more physical than mental. A brain vs. brawn situation. That, I think, isn't the best use of a character like this, but it is an option, and shouldn't be rules out because of one person's opinion.

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©2018 by Eleanor Taylor.

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