Friday, April 29, 2011

It's a bird! It's a plane! It's anti-hero to the money-driven rescue!

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!


Peggy said...


There's seriously something in each of your posts that makes me snort in an unladylike fashion.

Ahhh, anti-heroes. Sigh. I love me a good anti-hero. They're my very, very favorite. Not the easiest to write, though. Maybe I should plunk down $2.34 and get that book...

Long story short ('cuz I'm getting good at that after the query/synopsis writing of late), good ole Captain Mal played a sizable part in my deciding to become a writer. 'Cuz he's a big dang hero.

K. Marie Criddle said...

Duuuuude. Spill! No synopsis! I want to hear the whole story on how Mal made you a writer! Maybe a guest post?? Hmmm?? :D

Adam Heine said...

LOVE anti-heroes. LOVE LOVE LOVE. Need to figure out how to write a good one someday.

And Orson's book, there, is one of the primary forming elements in my own craft. TOTALLY worth $2.34!

K. Marie Criddle said...

Adam, I totally hear you. Writing a good anti-hero is just as easy as...well, convincing FOX to pick Firefly up for a second season. (Oh my gosh, thinking of more brilliant shows Fox canceled, I thought of Wonderfalls. Jaye Tyler! A perfect anti-heroine! Maybe Fox just hates three dimensional characters. SIGH.)

Keriann Greaney Martin said...

Oh, me too! Perfect heroes are just too PERFECT. Blech. I like rooting for the bad guy sometimes. Can't think of a good example, though. Hmm.

dolorah said...

I like anti-heros. And reluctant heros. Thomas Covenant being my favorite.

That video was so cute.


Unknown said...

I can give an example of an anti-anti hero? Superman. Never could make myself care what happens to him. Though somehow Sir Galahad gets away with being perfect . . . hmmm. Maybe its just the sword.

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

Darth, I am your daughter.



Anti-heroes? Yes, please. Can I write one, I'm not sure - I might have done that once, but I wasn't thinking of him that way. But I think that's what he was.

Now I'm going to have to write one for real.

K. Marie Criddle said...

Keri - Me too! Rooting for the bad guy is a guilty pleasure of mine. I guess it's a sign of having written a really awesome villain or really awful hero.

Donna - I had to look up Thomas Covenant but after reading a bit about him, I agree! He sounds like a really interesting anti-heroish guy. Thanks!

Taryn - SERIOUS. Superman was always a little too apple pie for me. I just learned in fact that kryptonite wasn't even in the comic books first, it was introduced later in the radio serial to make him a more interesting, fallible hero. Bring on the kryptonite, I say. (Plus: sword? hee hee.)

Susan - Ha! Sounds like you were doing it right before you knew what you were doing. Go you! (And yay silly Sith kids! Darth Sarah FTW.)