Sometimes if we spend long enough on a manuscript, the characters become like family to us. And in every good family, there has to be that one black sheep, right? I'm not talking about the villain (he's more of a creepy uncle, maybe)...I'm talking about the ANTI-HERO.
Mmm. Pardon my drool, but I LOVE anti-heroes. The Malcolm Reynolds, the Han Solos, the scruffy-looking, selfish, money-grubbing nerfherders who end up reluctantly saving the day because it's just what they gotta do. Who doesn't love a good anti-hero?
In his book CHARACTERS AND VIEWPOINT (part of the ELEMENTS OF FICTION WRITING series...amazingly indispensable craft books, guys) Orson Scott Card purports that most anti-heroes that we see in fiction are really just characters with prominent unsympathetic character traits that distract us from the fact that "the author is using three dozen OTHER techniques to create sympathy for the 'unsympathetic' hero." In addition, the TRUE anti-hero, the guy who is COMPLETELY unlikable and unsympathetic but still saves the day is
"rare in fiction" and most anti-heroes that we see are "heroes who need, metaphorically speaking, a bath." (76)
But these dirty heroes have their place, too! Gone are the days where we put our female characters by a well and have them sing "Someday My Prince Will Come" ad nauseum. We love Mal, the captain of Serenity with a itchy trigger finger, a sharp tongue and a heart of gold (episode 13!) perhaps because he ISN'T the perfect, bird/plane/bespectacled reporter type hero. We like our characters (male and female alike) to be rough and tumbly, active and prone to a mistake or two. We like them like that because that's who WE as readers are. Even though we often read to escape the world, we also read to draw strength and hope from fiction's world into ours.
But that said, there's so much more to be said about anti-heroes. Please share! What's your take on the hero that needs a bath? Like 'em, hate 'em? Or would you just rather have your heroes tall dark and evil? OH MY GOSH ARE YOU SIDING WITH THE VILLAIN? Bow before your dark lord, little ones.
And check out Card's book HERE. Totally worth the...wait, $2.34? DUDE! Friday score!