In Raiders of the Lost Ark, there’s a scene where villainous, Nazi collaborating French archaeologist Belloq tells Indiana Jones that “I am a shadowy reflection of you. It would take only a nudge to make you like me. To push you out of the light.”
Both men are equally obsessed with finding the Ark of the Covenant, and that’s what makes Indiana Jones such a fascinating character in that film. He isn’t a hero so much as a grave robber. Twice he abandons Marion in the pursuit of his goal, and ultimately it takes a terrifying, Old Testament style act of God to get him out of that mindset.
Antagonists with the same or similar goals to the protagonist can provide superb fodder for dramatic storytelling. In my own writing, I’ve done this on a number of occasions. For example, in Uncle Flynn, there are criminal treasure hunters on the same trail as Max and his uncle.
However, this technique isn’t limited to treasure hunt adventures. I’ve also deployed it in some of my other works, including the upcoming supernatural mystery The Irresistible Summons. A ghostly tale concerning a haunting in a London office block, this novel gradually reveals how the deepest desire of the protagonist is mirrored in the deepest desire of the antagonist. At the core of the story lies the simple desire shared by all who have experienced bereavement: namely that they long to see their departed loved ones again.
Where the antagonist and protagonist differ are the techniques they use to achieve their goals, and the lengths they are prepared to go to. In The Irresistible Summons, my protagonist, Naomi Levinson, is a television producer who makes documentaries to debunk the supernatural. When she discovers what might be a genuine haunting, tragedy from her past draws her inexorably towards the discovery of a terrifying secret that could redefine life and death as we know it. Upon discovery of this secret, Naomi’s moral compass will be tested in ways she could not possibly have anticipated. In the meantime, the antagonist also has tragedy in his past, but the lengths he is prepared to go to, in order to ease his pain, are deeply alarming to say the least.
I won’t say anymore, for fear of spoilers. You can find out more when The Irresistible Summons is released this summer.