Monday, 20 July 2009

#1 Writing Anti-Heroes

I'm pretty sure everyone can agree that almost every story needs a PROTAGONIST and an ANTAGONIST.

But when the Protagonist is an innocent goody-two shoes who shirks at the thought of killing anyone, and the Antagonist is some form of Pure Evil, things tend to fall a little flat.

Don't forget your shades of grey.

Every human beings has flaws and WILL make mistakes. They are also open to temptation by things that are wrong or evil. If you don't force your characters to ever face the darker side of themselves, they aren't real people.

There's a trend of anti-heroes showing up now, but alot of them are all the same. Badass, hot guys pretty much. Basically, they kill people or belong to some typically evil race (i.e Vampires), but it's cool because they've got a soft spot for the girl protagonist, or are 'misunderstood'.

How about a different sort of anti-hero? How about a babysitter that loses her cool and accidentally kills her friend's child? How about an orc that smashes people to pieces but would never abandon a fellow orc? Give me something new, something a more interesting shade of grey.


  1. It's funny, there was a post on the forums about this very subject. Why do villain characters have redeeming qualities or some such thing. I always looked at it as a matter of characterization. The lines between hero and villain are being blurred. This mirrors reality all too well.

    Of course there is also something to be said for the escapist relief one might feel dealing with a purely evil and unredeemable villain. In times when no one knows who the real monsters are, this can be very cathartic.

  2. There's a trend of anti-heroes? Can you name any other than Snape in Harry Potter? I'd love to read some new ones... :)

    ~ R

  3. In my current wip, the "bad guy" is killed in the first chapter and the rest of the book explores why he turned bad. He was the next-door neighbor who everyone loved, but he broke into his neighbor's house and tried to rape their teenaged daughter. My challenge is figuring out how to explain how the good guy turns bad.

  4. Sounds interesting, Mel =)

    Yeah, sputnitsa, there's more than just Snape. I'd class him as an antagonist, rather than an anti-hero, until the final book.

    Hm, off the top of my head:

    George.R.R.Martin books are good - the Song of Ice and Fire series - the characters in that are very interesting. A lot of them could be considered 'bad' or 'anti-heroes' or very flawed.

    I'd also recommend Geomancer by Ian Irvine. It's not much of a famous book, something I grabbed at an airport. But the characters all think they're trying to be good or do something Great, but really they are very selfish or misguided.

  5. Thanks for the recs! :)

  6. I created a MC who was more antagonist than protag. People don't like his voice. Though I have no idea what they mean when they say it. I guess he's too reflective and unsympathetic in his observations and reactions. An online friend read chapter one of my book and felt the MC was too violent, so she chose to side with the MC's brother and wife, instead (which is why I have other viewpoint characters).

    I've decided to tone down his violent nature and attribute most of his nasty deeds to an alternate character. This way, I still have a flawed character but with redeeming features that will now stand out more. Oh, and be more convincing.