Other books introduce the antagonist upfront, but we know, somehow, this isn't the ultimate baddie of the story. Like Graceling. Katsa's uncle, the king, forces her to use her gifts to fight and kill for him. Yes, he's her opposing force, but with Kristen Cashore's delicate touch, we feel there's something bigger out there - a creature so vile, so evil it has no face. So when Katsa confronts her uncle within the first few chapters, we're ready... we know a higher level antagonist is waiting in the wings, and now she has some skills to take him/her on.
As a writer, I used to loosey-goosey over my antagonists. They were some undefined force, like society's structures, or a poorly sketched baddie. I'm not sure why I never developed my antagonists to the level they deserved. Certainly writing in the first person didn't help.
Now I'm taking my time, filling notebooks on antagonists, writing pages and pages of the baddie's backstory, their dreams, their motivations, and as I world-build and plot, I know I'm honoring my readers by giving them the best well-developed MC's with clear motivations, and antagonists with their own agendas.
So what about you? Got a favorite antagonist? Care to share?
I wish you happy writing!