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All Things Writing & Publishing > Heroes, anti-heroes or semi-heroes?

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message 1: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15759 comments Probably it's just me, but I put supermen, batmen and other impeccable heroes with or without superpowers to a fairy-tale category. Don't get me wrong, I like fairy-tales and sometimes it's fun to watch pure good fighting pure evil.
I personally tend towards casting anti-heroes in hope there is a readership that fancies them more and semi-heroes, in a sense that they have both virtues and vices, like most real people.
Is Michael Corleone a hero or an anti-hero? Not something that he wanted, but he becomes a killer and a gangster, yet often he's driven by a motivation that many of us can associate with.
What about you? Whom do you cast in your stories?


message 2: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments I don't set out to cast heroes. Rather, I set out characters trying to achieve something, and they may end up doing something heroic. As far as I am concerned, heroism or bravery has nothing to do with super powers, nor for position. Rather, it is putting oneself in a position with which you are extremely uncomfortable, and doing it at considerable risk to yourself, but doing it for a good purpose.
My most recent hero in my novels would be a young unacknowledged one (the lowest class in a theocracy) who publicly challenges a Cardinal and accuses him of heresy. If she fails, she will be torn to pieces (they are a civilisation of raptors), while if she succeeds, she will save another civilisation (ours). Her only weapon is a piece of religious text. That, to me, is heroic.


message 3: by M.L. (new)

M.L. The anti-heroes can also be myth-like. Michael Corleone, cold-blooded killer, he is almost Lord of the Underworld.

The most mythical anti-heroes I've read are by James Elroy, his rogue cops in both L. A. Confidential and The Big Nowhere. They reach mythical proportions, especially Buzz Meeks in The Big Nowhere. That got pretty gritty (gross) in some parts, but the end, terrific. The best rogue cop I've read!


message 4: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15759 comments Ian wrote: "I don't set out to cast heroes. Rather, I set out characters trying to achieve something, and they may end up doing something heroic. As far as I am concerned, heroism or bravery has nothing to do ..."

It can be an interesting distinction, whether, for example, one heroic act makes villain a hero? What if a serial killer saves the world, because unwittingly s/he kills the one that endangered it, does the deed or rather its result makes him/her a hero?
I thought charecteristics, motivation mattered no less than the deeds and behavior, but I guess it's an arguable point


message 5: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15759 comments M.L. wrote: "The best rogue cop I've read!..."

Sounds like I need to meet/read this Buzz Meeks someday -:)


message 6: by Al (new)

Al Philipson (printersdevil) | 32 comments My last book featured a "hero" as the main character. A college football star, special ops Marine, scientist, and finally a very rich industrialist at the time the story starts. He had a smart, blonde-bombshell wife and was capable of just about anything.

The POV character was his side-kick who was a capable business manager, but not much else. He had the normal human failings but some unusual challenges.

The book was supposed to be about the "hero", but the sidekick took over, since it was written first-person by a character who had a "life" of his own. I think the story was better for that, so I didn't "fix" it.


message 7: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15759 comments Hi Al and welcome to the group!
The way you describe it, I'm definitely with a sidekick, as Mr Perfect, the original main hero, is too good all around for my taste to pique interest...


message 8: by Al (new)

Al Philipson (printersdevil) | 32 comments Nik wrote: "Hi Al and welcome to the group!
The way you describe it, I'm definitely with a sidekick, as Mr Perfect, the original main hero, is too good all around for my taste to pique interest..."


I gave the boss a doozy of a problem, but he was able to deal with it by doing something expensively heroic. And later on, by risking his life to save the good guys. But the POV character was more or less sucked along in his wake and had to deal with some pretty nasty personal losses and challenges. The whole thing is a setup for a series which will have no more super-heroes (unless you count highly-trained, kick-ass Marines). Just people performing "above and beyond" to overcome tough situations. Eric was my only super-hero. The rest have to get up and soldier every day like the rest of us "normal heroes".


message 9: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments In the book I am writing now, I have a very corrupt society, in fact one that is dying. The people are revolting, but like in Dallas, it is anarchic revolt, coupled with much crime, and spurred on by Middle East terrorists. The heroes are the guys who are actually doing their job, and resisting the corruption, and trying to fight and save society.


message 10: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15759 comments Ian wrote: "The heroes are the guys who are actually doing their job, and resisting the corruption, and trying to fight and save society. ..."

Yep, there are circumstances when just remaining a decent person is already heroic


message 11: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15759 comments Heroes, heroines, villains - anyone?


message 12: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin - Hero: Any medal recipient of the U.S. Medal of Honor or of the U.K. Victoria Cross; John Glenn; Chuck Yeager; Yuri Gagarin.
- Heroine: Joan of Arc; Lilya Litvak (WW2 Soviet female fighter pilot).
- Villain: Tons of them in history (Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pinochet, etc).
- Anti-Hero: Jack Bauer ('24'); John Wick.


message 13: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments Nik, you can't write a good story without having at least one from your selection. Usually a villain. Someone misbehaving is the easiest way to generate some tension and get story going.


message 14: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15759 comments Michel wrote: "- Hero: Any medal recipient of the U.S. Medal of Honor or of the U.K. Victoria Cross; John Glenn; Chuck Yeager; Yuri Gagarin.
- Heroine: Joan of Arc; Lilya Litvak (WW2 Soviet female fighter pilot)...."


Good examples covering all the rubrics -:)


message 15: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15759 comments Ian wrote: "Nik, you can't write a good story without having at least one from your selection. Usually a villain. Someone misbehaving is the easiest way to generate some tension and get story going."

True, although rarely there are 'pure' heroes or anti-heroes and even the sun has sunspots -:)


message 16: by Al "Tank" (new)

Al "Tank" (alkalar) | 54 comments Nik wrote: "Ian wrote: "Nik, you can't write a good story without having at least one from your selection. Usually a villain. Someone misbehaving is the easiest way to generate some tension and get story going..."

Remember. The villain is rarely "bad" in his own eyes.


message 17: by Philip (new)

Philip (phenweb) | 1 comments Did the hero/lead/villain is actually bad then redeemed then bad in my spy trilogy. His bad motivation is that actually he believes he is doing good by his bad acts.

I like lead characters that are mixed e.g. a super hero like Hitch if we must have super heroes. In those stories the bad guys are far more interesting - how did they become bad - are they bad to everyone in which case who cleans their bathrooms? Does their laundry? Serves them food?


message 18: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15759 comments Philip wrote: "in which case who cleans their bathrooms? Does their laundry? Serves them food? ..."

Those who say "money has no smell/does not stink" -:)


message 19: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan My number 1 villain has a noble, utopian vision for the future.

My number 1 hero has trust issues, is reckless and is driven by revenge.

Both have tremendous commitment to their purposes.


message 20: by Groovy (new)

Groovy Lee Anyone who would risk their life for others, and go beyond to right a wrong is a hero to me. You don't always get medals for that.

My female protagonists are always strong heroines because they are called upon to face danger and save others' lives at their own expense, as are my male heroes. And I do have one semi-hero--a serial killer with a heart...


message 21: by Alexander (new)

Alexander Engel-Hodgkinson (nexus_engel) | 52 comments I mostly write anti-heroes with skewed morals and severely damaged mental states, but sometimes I'll cast flawed protagonists who are nevertheless far more good (and striving for the greater good) than my anti-heroes, who could honestly stray either way at any moment.

Damian Warkowski, the main protagonist in my Cobalt Rogue series, is most definitely an antagonistic anti-hero. He's violent, vulgar, psychotic, narcissistic, and appears to be working for every side in a secret war to manipulate the coming end of days while simultaneously working against them. Somehow, he's got a bleeding heart in there--a very skewed bleeding heart. And a very broken moral system that may as well not even exist due to its many, MANY inconsistencies. For example: He won't kill a child directly, and not just because he technically IS a child (a sixteen-year-old), but he has no problems with blowing up an entire city within which, of course, thousands of children would probably be residing. If he was to take over the world, he would defend it from any potential threats not because he cares about the innocent lives at stake or because it's the right thing to do, but because he sees the world as his own property and thus it must be protected at all costs.

I'm also a fan of strong heroines. Ellen Ripley (while not originally a literary character) is one of my favourite heroines of all time, and she's inspired all of my heroines in some way or another; including a few in Cobalt Rogue, where virtually everyone (with a small handful of exceptions) stand on different levels of bad, nasty, evil, and downright sinister.

In I Keep My True Love in the Basement/REMIX, I cast the classic protagonists; first, two noir-style detectives looking for justice, and then a resourceful and persistent reporter seeking out the truth despite how dangerous the truth obviously is.

But most of the time, I prefer the loud, violent, brash anti-heroic types. They're more fun to write.


message 22: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15759 comments I think I like your characters, Alexander -:)


message 23: by Groovy (new)

Groovy Lee Oh my goodness, Ellen Ripley is my all time favorite strong heroine. I miss her:)


message 24: by Graeme (new)

Graeme Rodaughan Ripley is a fav of mine too.


message 25: by Matthew (new)

Matthew Williams (houseofwilliams) Oh, she was awesome! And I tend to like anti-heroes too. People find characters with flaws far more relatable. And it makes it especially meaningful when they find themselves in a terrible situation and need to step up.


message 26: by Alexander (new)

Alexander Engel-Hodgkinson (nexus_engel) | 52 comments Nik wrote: "I think I like your characters, Alexander -:)"

Why thank you, Nik. >:)


message 27: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments Most of my villains are merely that way because they wanted something, and were prepared to go to extremes to get it, then, like a tar baby, they get deeper into the mire. But my more interesting villain was in Ranh, the villain being a raptor who was a cardinal in a theocracy, and he believed he was doing the right thing - because he had heard the word of God. The problem was, it wasn't God - it was something of a mistake.


message 28: by Nik (new)

Nik Krasno | 15759 comments We have mostly authors' angle on this thread, but it's equally interesting to find out what kind of characters readers prefer?


message 29: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments Interesting thought. As a reader I don't usually consider the nature of the characters before reading, although if I suspect there are certain suspects, like superheroes, I won't bother. I generally go for the genre, and look at the characters as they develop.


message 30: by Vince (new)

Vince Loggia | 52 comments .I like clearly defined "heroes" with flaws that they overcome. The flaws make them accessible to us, I believe and the fact that they overcome them makes them an attractive hero. The flaw can be so significant that they might properly be called an anti hero such as Burke in the Andrew Vacchs novels or Parker my favorite character in the noir novels from Richard Stark.
As a youth Spiderman was my favorite Marvel comic superhero since he was so flawed in the same ways we, his readers, were at the time....high school angst, chasing girls, trying to earn a living at a part time job, etc.


message 31: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments Vince, high school angst, chasing girls, trying to earn a living at a part time job are hardly character flaws. Parts of growing up, surely?


message 32: by Holly (new)

Holly (goldikova) I love ambiguous characters; especially semi-heroes.

Michael Corleone is a good example, Jules from Pulp Fiction is even better.


message 33: by Michel (new)

Michel Poulin A good villain, a so-called 'likeable rascal', can make a book, TV show or film even more enjoyable. One example is Jamie Lannister in Game of Thrones. Another is the Nazi colonel played by Christof Waltz (I hope I got his name right) in 'Inglorious Basterds'.


message 34: by Vince (new)

Vince Loggia | 52 comments OK call them weaknesses, call them whatever you want...but as Holly says they make characters more interesting when they are not Superman or James Bond but have true human nuance to them. Perhaps I was unclear but yes even though we all have gone through high school angst that doesn't mean it is not a weakness. It means we are not perfect and imperfect characters are more interesting than perfect ones.


message 35: by Ian (new)

Ian Miller | 11519 comments Vince, I agree that you need to make characters human. They must have weaknesses, and moral ambiguity is great. Taking Michel's Jamie Lannister, I would regard his character not so much as flawed but one that has very believable weaknesses. But maybe I am just arguing definitions. And I agree - I can't stand superhero types.


message 36: by Holly (last edited Apr 19, 2018 04:40AM) (new)

Holly (goldikova) it is interesting to me how reader's opinions of Jamie Lannister change once they read the chapters from his POV in later books of the series. Both he and Sandor Clegane have interesting redemption arcs and I am eager to see how they are resolved.


message 37: by Scout (new)

Scout (goodreadscomscout) | 6035 comments I agree that those are two very interesting characters and that they seem to be working toward redemption. As the next season will be the last, I hope to see some resolution with these characters.


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