It is important to know all of the antagonists in your stories so that you can develop them fully and not have plot holes. In the sci-fi and fantasy genres, there is usually a bad guy or an evil empire. Unfortunately, this villain you create might not be your only antagonist.
An antagonist is anything that opposes your protagonist. There can be several of them.
There can be minor antagonists that hinder your protagonist’s progress but aren’t your main baddie, such as evil minions or bad weather. These kinds of antagonists can be easy to conquered as a writer. Internal antagonists however, can be (and become) a whole different story.
Internal conflicts such as guilt, fear, personal flaws, and hatred might end up being significant antagonists in your story. For the novel that I am currently editing, I call these types of antagonists my ‘secret antagonists.’ If you don’t adequately wrap up these secret antagonists by the end of your story, you’ll end up with plot holes.
To quote somebody who said it better: internal antagonists “offer the richest area for development,” and “have the potential to create scenes that resonate with conflict, tension, suspense, or curiosity.”
After I initially finished the novel that I’m currently editing, I came up with this great backstory for my main character. I went back and inserted bits of it throughout the story. Now, as I look at the piece as a whole, I realize that I might have accidentally created an entirely new major antagonist for that character. Whoops. Now I have the awesome task of either diminishing the role of fear and grief in my protagonist’s life or intensifying it, making it THE antagonist of her story.
My advice? Be on the lookout for secret antagonists in your stories that want to play a major role.