Ever sat back and thought to yourself, “I would make a way smarter villain than that.”? Or maybe you watch their Rube Goldberg style manners of handling the protagonist and laugh at how foolish they are. Why are those idiots sending weaklings out against an obviously stronger foe? Just send someone more powerful! Ugh.
Then again, you are still reading the book to the end aren’t you? Hmm. Say, aren’t they just shy of the 300th or so Bond film? Exaggeration of course, but still. Here is the thing, it has to go in phases. They have to build up. If they are way smarter, they just take out the protagonist right away and there isn’t much of a book is there?
When you do it right, it makes for an amazingly compelling book and powerful scenes. Sure, done wrong makes things silly, but you should be doing your best to do it right. Minor antagonists make for interesting fodder and can even end up being helpful to the protagonist side of things. They are pawns of the main antagonist and may not even be working for him. Our villainous foe is pulling strings and if we do it right, showing a cunning genius that makes the reader genuinely worry for how the protagonist will succeed.
Often enough, these careful machinations are also their undoing. The more complicated a plan is, the more chances there are for something to go wrong. Maybe they thwart the protagonist over and over, but our hero only has to beat them once to pop a gear out of the machine of their plans. If your villain has a plan to throw a rock, there is only really an option for the hero to dodge or not. If instead the villain has a grand scheme to destroy the hero by manipulating three towns and building a device from the combined aspects found only in 13 kingdoms, there are more ways for the hero of the story to undo those plans.
Just something to think about. Give your antagonists a chance to show just how cunning they can be and make that overabundance of pride to be their undoing. It can be a flaw as much as a boon. Don’t be afraid to pull off a complicated antagonist plan, just remember not to get too ridiculous about it and it can be a seriously useful card in your deck of tricks.