A contagonist is a character who tempts the protagonist into doing the wrong thing, gets in their way, and generally causes conflict and tension. Famous contagonists include the Devil, the Joker, the Wizard from Wizard of Oz, and Faramir from Lord of the Rings. They don’t even have to be human or even a character as diseases, fear, and poverty can also count as contagonists. Yes, the protagonist can be their own contagonist.
It’s a term coined by Dramatica which is a program for writers. It uses a system where characters are paired. So antagonist and protagonist, friend and enemy, and contagonist and guardian. The guardian character will be explained in a later post. Though the contagonist is often confused with the antagonist, the contagonist is not in fact an antagonist but rather a whole other type of character.
While the antagonist wants the protagonist to stop their journey all together, the contagonist just wants to delay them. The contagonist isn’t against the protagonists goals. This is why characters such as Darth Vader and Snape are contagonists.
They are also not antiheroes who are central characters who lack the attributes of a hero.
Contagonists can be used to keep the tensions high when the antagonist cannot be in a lot of the story due to the epic battle planned for the end of the story, to introduce the reader and the protagonist to a different viewpoint, or to give the antagonist a presence in scenes where they cannot be.