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Anti-Hero: Can We Relate?


Image by Furryscaly via Flickr

Good morning.

I find myself up at the butt crack of dawn.  My original plan was to send my boyfriend out the door with some hot coffee then crawl back into bed.  Then there was a small light above my laptop, beckoning me to come over.  As if in a trance (sleep deprivation), I came over and found myself checking my email.  This was followed by a need to write.  Oh what a good feeling.

You see, one of my blogs I subscribe to is with Amazon called Omnivoracious.  It is basically a collection of “News, reviews, interviews and guest author blogs” most of which are quite interesting and insightful plus multiple tips about publishing.  The latest post was about The Anti-Hero type character by Susan J Morris.  She interviwed author Paul S Kemp in this particular blog but you will have to read it for yourself.

Anyway, that got me to thinking about this ‘anti-hero’ type because Everyone’s a Hero in Their Own Way.  The anti-hero is full of inner turmoil about doing the fun evil thing and the innocent hero pretty much bumbles along doing the morally right action while being manipulated.  The villain wants to rule the world and perhaps he would do us a service by taking over.  But what are good examples of these roles?

The fun one.  The obvious bad guy.  The devil on your shoulder.

Innocent Hero
Every Disney role.  No need to elaborate.  Also Taylor Swift.

Reluctant Hero
Recently I was reading The Southern Vampire Diaries (excellent series) and I feel the main character is better described as a the reluctant hero.  Sookie Stackhouse is an innocent in all ways kind of gal when we first meet her and she wants to break out of that role and be normal but her pesky telepathy gets in the way.  Meeting vampires creates a happy middle ground between innocent and corrupted.  However when she is dragged in with the Vampires she has to use her power for their needs and she is left to decide if she is doing the right thing.  Some of those right things include: Killing in self defense, lying to friends and stealing.  Sookie does what is needed to simply survive being around her new friends; in the process she becomes a sort of reluctant hero.

The morally conflicted hero comes in all shades of grey.  From innocent Harry Potter who is literally tainted with evil to Elphaba in Wicked they hog the screen time with the moral issues.  “Oh no, is this the right thing?  One more step and I am EVIL! Oh poor me I walk the edge.  Hey I am going to hell, might as well take all the bad guys down with me.”  Yes this drives the story to new levels and keeps the viewer/reader interested.  As Susan Morris wrote:

“The antihero is the answer to today’s complicated world. When good and evil are not so easy to separate, and every protagonist has their share of damning secrets, the golden hero of yesterday–in his innocence and good will–is unrelatable. The modern audience demands moral complexity–heroes who face the same challenges, temptations, and questions we do.”

People want someone they could be if that situation came up.  We tell ourselves that while being evil seems kind of interesting we still will do the right thing.  But do we truly grasp the complexities of the anti-hero?  I really do not think so.  Most of us have not committed some deep dark sin or are trying to avenge a loved one.  The majority of society falls under reluctant hero where we end up doing the right thing without that previous intention to do good.  We don’t go out of our way to save people but when the situation comes along we do our best in the moment.  I do not know about you but I have not killed anyone in my past.  Maybe stolen some gum at age 5 but I returned it.

Harry Potter is the anti-hero.  He has Voldemort inside of him and at the end of the books he will have to die to save the world.  He is conflicted by emotions due to the deaths of his parents and the role thrust on his shoulders.  More than once HP is labeled a bad guy because no one really gets him except for Dumbledore (also an Anti-Hero).  Elphaba is absolutely an anti-hero in that she defies the Wizard as a morally corrupt politician who is overrunning the population as well as causing mass genocide of the Animals.  She gets turned into the bad guy and her lover murdered.

So here lies my question to you.  Can you really relate to your main character?  If you are writing an anti-hero role can you relate to him/her on a personal level or in a hypothetical situation?  Are you writing based on some deep dark secret that can only manifest in the form of your anti-hero?

Thank you everyone.

Happy writing!

  1. September 26, 2011 at 6:14 PM

    Innocent Hero: Also Taylor Swift.

    HILARIOUS!! Great post. I never thought of it in those terms before.

  2. Jennifer J Randolph
    September 26, 2011 at 6:22 PM

    I saw the link I had before does not work so I updated it to the article with Taylor Swift and why she looks so shocked. Try again it is hilarious =)

  3. September 26, 2011 at 6:38 PM

    Haha! That is hilarious!

  4. September 27, 2011 at 4:34 AM

    I think I can relate to my MC on some levels. No, I do not have deep hidden magic powers that I don’t know about, and I am not being manipulated by a goddess (wait… maybe it’s subconcious and I don’t know about it either… **GACK**) I think we are all deep inside a frightened child, not really knowing what we might become, feeling stuck in a world that is beating us down. Hasn’t everyone felt that way once in a while?

  5. Jennifer J Randolph
    September 27, 2011 at 4:40 AM

    Without a doubt. I also know that I am living vicariously through my books and a good portion is therapy. I just find it interesting to see how people use their MC and what the relation is. Tomorrow’s post is going to go over character personalities a bit more.

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