How Much Is Too Much?
It's tempting at times to write a story where the antagonist is unbelievably cruel, vindictive, wicked and just a natural piece of work. It's tempting to get lost in creating a villain who executes fear and injustice whenever they appear on the page.
But did you ever stop to think that most people are reading your book to learn what you or your protagonist thinks? They want to know how you or your protagonist handles the weight and the burdens of life. How do they balance that pressure? How do they overcome a problem that could wreak havoc on their finances, family and self-worth? How do you outwit and bring justice to a situation that may stand to kill you or defame you?
These are the questions that readers want to know. Very few people pick up a book to read the drama. So, how much is too much when creating your antagonist's march through your protagonist's life?
Make sure that you have a response for every negative reaction that points your protagonist in a positive direction. Without your protagonist taking control of the story what you have is a poorly written carnival of bad behavior and a projection of your own vendettas. And that's just too much. Cut the antagonist shenanigans by the end of Act Two/Beginning of Act Three. Your protagonist is the hero and by the end of the book (and screenplay) we should know why we're rooting for the person we've been following the last two hours or 20 chapters.
The ending may not be wrapped in a nice pretty bow--and that's life. The reader will get it! But if they see that the protagonist rose above the antagonism to learn something new, redeem themselves, redeem another, or end a horrible chain of events the sharing of your talent will not be in vain.
And write well.