Tags:
  1. Marthix
    Offline

    Marthix Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2010
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    0

    Antiheroes: How far is too far?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Marthix, Aug 14, 2010.

    I'm considering making my main character an antihero (or antiheroine in her case). When the concept of this character was conceived, she was meant to be a villain but over the few months that I've known her...she's evolved a bit and perhaps more of an antihero. She's sort of antisocial and very independent...she changes a bit by the end of the story, but I must ask how far is too far in terms of the acts of 'villainy' (not villainy in her eyes, but in terms of some readers' perspectives perhaps) she could commit as the story's hero (in this case, antihero)? In order for her to stay a protagonist in the story, are there things she cannot do that a traditional 'villain' wouldn't do? Thanks!
     
  2. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    Have you read Perfume? Personally I can't read it but it has been popular enough to be turned into a movie. The main character n the book is just awful, the descriptions creepy. I find him completely unloveable/unlikeable on every level imaginable. Might be worth looking at to see just how much can still go and still produce a sellable piece of work.
     
  3. caimomile
    Offline

    caimomile Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2010
    Messages:
    42
    Likes Received:
    1
    Location:
    Philippines
    how evil can the antihero be?

    is that your question?

    besides the ever-popular Perfume, I can suggest the story of Arthas in Warcraft 3: TFT. You see, Arthas, in the original Warcraft 3 was the noble prince dude. But when he became corrupted in the expansion game, The Frozen Throne, he was still the main character despite his acts of... well mass slaughter. Arthas remains to be the "hero" of the tale despite him becoming pure evil.

    That is why I believe the antihero can be as evil as you want him/her to be. A character's alignment, in my opinion, doesn't matter with his/her being the protagonist/antagonist; what matters more is how the story views it.
     
  4. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,106
    Likes Received:
    5,316
    Location:
    California, US
    If you want to read a very good fantasy novel that illustrates this point, read Monument, by Ian Graham. There is no limit to how bad your protag can be. The only limit is the extent to which you can write the story well and maintain the reader's interest in an unlikeable protag.
     
  5. Marthix
    Offline

    Marthix Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2010
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thank you everyone! I'll need to check out Perfume, Warcraft, and Monument. They sound like the type of story I'm aiming for. More towards the Monument side than anything else. However, my antiheroine isn't some drunk bum. Perhaps she's a bit psycho but she has a knack for killing people (mostly enemies in opposing armies) and dark secret desires. She's not one to fool with. And I'd love for that to show.

    The only thing I'm worried about is that would I lose a lot of my potential audience for going antiheroine? Regardless if I'm trying to create a salable piece of fiction, I want people to like who my protagonist is. However, I don't want to lose readers because of who my antiheroine is. I know the antihero take is a rather fresh concept to stores...there are a heck of a lot more regular heroes than antiheroes out there. Anyone have any more thoughts?
     
  6. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    actually Perfume sounds like what you want its about a serial killer in I think 18th Century France. He is really not pleasant.

    Personally I wouldn't read your book I like to be the character when I am reading or writing and have no desire to be evil lol But the books mentioned have their audience.

    When I moved my story to junior fiction I lost some of my audience and my second story is going to narrow it even further. Your never going to please everyone.
     
  7. Marthix
    Offline

    Marthix Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2010
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    0
    Very true indeed. You cannot please everyone. Even my favorite author of them all, J.K. Rowling, has her haters for the Harry Potter series. Hard to believe but it's true. What if my main character was an 'in between' where she's slipping over to both sides within the book? Perhaps you could see through the eyes of Severus Snape, where he doesn't make up his mind up until the last minute. He was a very entertaining character until his end. Not sure if that'd make a great story, but it's an idea to think about too I'm sure.

    I'm definitely going to purchase Perfume and Monument. I need something unique to crank my gears. I'm one who'll read and enjoy any type of novel, but I'm not one for the romances.
     
  8. Elgaisma
    Offline

    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 12, 2010
    Messages:
    5,337
    Likes Received:
    92
    Write it you can always delete it and start again or change it. Its not set in stone. I have a character didn't really meet in the last story that was the most evil influence in the universe (its a Cain and Abel type story). He has had a taste of his own mortality in the previous story, he is now with the help of his brother facing up to what he has done, and trying to make amends.
     
  9. Diablo Robotico
    Offline

    Diablo Robotico Member

    Joined:
    May 28, 2010
    Messages:
    70
    Likes Received:
    3
    I would say that you can make antiheroes do some very unspeakable things, as long as you provide enough motivation and reasoning for their actions (being crazy doesn't count). It probably also depends on how evil the villain is.
     
  10. Annûniel
    Offline

    Annûniel Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2008
    Messages:
    564
    Likes Received:
    31
    Location:
    Ye Old Dominion, USA
    I think there are enough readers that can handle quite a bit of evil in an anti-hero or anti-heroine. I recall a set of books by Jeff Lindsey, starting with Darkly Dreaming Dexter, that are extremely popular, even spawning a popular television show. It's basically about a sympathetic serial killer as he tries to balance pretending to be "normal" while secretly murdering "bad" people he who have managed to escape justice.

    I think the true key isn't that there is so much a limit as to what your anti-heroine can do, but just that it somehow has to be seen as understandable or justifiable to at least some of the readers. In the case of Darkly Dreaming Dexter, his vigilantism is certainly a hot topic that some people will support while others don't.

    I guess you might have a limit at killing children, torturing puppies, or something that can't be justified somehow.
     
  11. thewordsmith
    Offline

    thewordsmith Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2009
    Messages:
    874
    Likes Received:
    124
    Location:
    State of Confusion
    "... not villainy in her eyes ..." That's the telling comment and this is such a sharp parallel to reality that it really intrigued me. Consider the Lincoln County War of New Mexico Territory which made the names of Pat Garrett and Billy 'The Kid' practically household names around the world.

    Both of them were working for men whom they believed to be on the right side of a war. (My personal opinion is that it was not unlike the Italian Mafia in New York in the 1920's - 50's - but that's another story.) Both of them acted in concert with their beliefs that they were right. Both of them, coincidentally, had the backing of the law in that Billy had been deputized after the war and was authorized to hunt down certain criminals and murderers wanted by the law. Pat Garrett was sheriff and had parlayed that into a position as an acting U.S. Marshall for the Territory.

    People continue to argue who was right, who was wrong. Who was the devil and who was the angel. In truth, in their own eyes, they both were right and acting in the name of the law.

    I remember a bit from Monty Python, lo! those many ages ago, wherein a knight from one side of the crusades fell to his knees and begged God to be with his side. This was immediately followed by a warrior from the other faction beseeching the same almighty power to, likewise, support his side of the battle. History lays out the truth in hindsight but, at the time, both factions believed their cause was just.

    If a three year-old picks up a loaded gun, pulls the trigger, and his brother dies, is he guilty of murder? Of course not. He has no concept of such a thing. The same would hold true for your anti-heroine, I believe. SHE believes her cause is just and does not perceive her actions as villainy. Is she, then, evil because she does evil, even if she does not see it as such?
     
  12. Peerie Pict
    Offline

    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2009
    Messages:
    724
    Likes Received:
    29
    Location:
    Scotland
    As thewordsmith and others have suggested, the antihero must either convince the reader that his/her deeds are morally justified, or they must be so deluded as to believe their heinous acts are acceptable.

    So what you might want to decide is whether your antihero is a sociopath or not. Does he use a moral framework (however deluded perhaps), or is he devoid of the ability to recognize good or bad?

    I almost said that your antihero can't be 'insane' but then I remembered Bret Easton Ellis's American Psycho where the protagonist is a true sociopath. He is incapable of feeling empathy or remorse, leading to atrocious multiple murders. He's a repugnant guy but you still read on. Bateman is readable because he is fascinating, despite perhaps being a living embodiment of evil.

    So I think your main character can do terrible things, as long as he can tell himself or convince us that they are justified.
     
  13. Steerpike
    Online

    Steerpike Felis amatus Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 5, 2010
    Messages:
    11,106
    Likes Received:
    5,316
    Location:
    California, US
    I disagree, Peerie.

    Again, using the example of Monument, I don't think most readers (if any) would find a way to empathize with the protag, find his acts understandable, morally justifiable, etc. He's a thoroughly repugnant person through and through.

    Granted, you don't see that often in fiction, but Graham demonstrates that it can be done well.
     
  14. Peerie Pict
    Offline

    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 10, 2009
    Messages:
    724
    Likes Received:
    29
    Location:
    Scotland
    I totally respect that you disagree with my opinion I'm just not sure what part you disagree with?
     
  15. Marthix
    Offline

    Marthix Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2010
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    0
    Hmm...I've been having thoughts on and off about this idea. As for my antiheroine, I know her actions won't appear evil to her...she will justify her actions to make the world a better place, regardless if those actions appear evil to others. What do you all think if I had her start her own gang/military outfit against a certain political group? If she plotted an assassination attempt on someone? Are those ideas plausible if she's now an ex-military lieutenant?
     
  16. Taylee91
    Offline

    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2010
    Messages:
    1,262
    Likes Received:
    73
    Location:
    The Bay State
    Hmm...those are good questions.

    I think she just might have enough leverage to pull the assassination off. If she possesses a considerable amount of followers and inner circle confidants, and has the experience with many weapons - Yeah, it's plausible.
     
  17. Fedora
    Offline

    Fedora Active Member

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2009
    Messages:
    119
    Likes Received:
    24
    Peerie Pict has the right idea. Just make the reader sympathize with your main character, and always keep it believable. That means no raping kittens or burning orphanages down. The best antiheroes are only evil some of the time, usually because of a character flaw or a significant plot event.

    If you try a more realistic approach and give him/her positive qualities as well as negative qualities, you'll be more successful, and your readers will thank you for it. Even the most despicable antiheroes had good qualities that kept them balanced and vice versa. Humbert Humbert, John Dillinger, Iron Man, etc.
     
  18. mattattack007
    Offline

    mattattack007 Member

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 2009
    Messages:
    47
    Likes Received:
    0
    As long as the ends justify the means, you can really have your character go as far as needed.
     
  19. Islander
    Offline

    Islander Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2008
    Messages:
    1,542
    Likes Received:
    59
    Location:
    Sweden
    Why does the character have to be evil or morally ambigious? There are plenty of reasons for a basically good character to be antisocial and independent.

    In a medieval/fantasy setting, someone could become an outlaw by defending someone from being raped by a nobleman. The character would then have to lie, cheat and steal to survive, and it could easily be justified in the eyes of the readers. One of the most popular characters in the history of Western literature, Robin Hood, was an outlaw who stole and cheated the authorities, and he is generally depicted as "good".

    In a modern setting, you can justify antisocial and independent behaviour by contrasting them with an unjust surrounding, for example, a dictatorial government, a corrupted justice system, or oppressive and hypocritical morals.
     
  20. Aeschylus
    Offline

    Aeschylus Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2009
    Messages:
    240
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    What makes a protagonist isn't whether he's good or evil, but how the author places him in the story. It really doesn't matter how good or bad he is, but to make him effective he has to be someone that the reader understands. If the reader understand the monstrous antihero, can feel some level of sympathy or at least awareness, then there is no limit.

    Michael Corleone from The Godfather movies slowly transforms into a tragically evil character over the course of the first two films, but the viewer sees this transformation and understands what is happening to him; despite his monstrosity, he receives sympathy and, sometimes, admiration from the viewer. Macbeth murders his best friend but remains the protagonist whom the readers/audience can sympathize; he is an antihero. Rorschach from Watchmen is a monster in many respects, but the reader sees into his head and agrees with some of his ideals. Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, Gollum from the Lord of the Rings, and even Hannibal Lecter are all antiheroes. All of these characters do terrible things, but this has not stopped these books, movies, etc. from becoming extremely popular. The only difference between a villain and an antihero is the way that the author puts them in perspective in the story--sometimes a character is both at once.
     
  21. Marthix
    Offline

    Marthix Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2010
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    0
    Thank you everyone for all of your posts! Now the biggest thing concerning me is what if the majority of my readers were to despise my antiheroine because of what she does? Indeed, I'd make it interesting but I wouldn't want the likeability of my story to hinge upon who my antiheroine is. Whatever she acts, she justifies. I'm not sure, if her pulling off an assassination attempt on someone she dislikes is seen as vile to a lot of readers, should I be concerned about that too much?
     
  22. Aeschylus
    Offline

    Aeschylus Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 19, 2009
    Messages:
    240
    Likes Received:
    18
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    I'm currently writing a story centered around a tragic character, an antiheroine. It's about a brilliant young conductor who becomes a ruthless monster in order to destroy her rivals and build her career, destroying herself in the process. She's a twisted, monstrous character, but readers will feel for her anyway and want her to get a happy ending. Why? Because they understand how she became this way. They sympathize for her; near the end, when she has shut out and destroyed all the positive people in her life, they feel sorry for her. It works perfectly. It'll work for you too.
     
  23. Marthix
    Offline

    Marthix Member

    Joined:
    Aug 6, 2010
    Messages:
    30
    Likes Received:
    0
    Sounds like a great read, Aeschylus! Thanks for the inspiration! I should also add that my antiheroine will be a dynamic character, she will change. After the assassination, her life will spiral downhill...indeed people will feel bad for her (her closest allies...which are few in number) but many people will also begin to hate her to the core and want her dead instead of alive. In the end, her attitude changes and she begins to feel for her allies. Perhaps, she may even save one of her allies by using her body as a shield (against bullets or something)...maybe killing her in the process. She would go from someone whose wealthy and wasn't humiliated to someone who becomes more middle-class and humiliated. She experienced a reversal of worlds. Would you say that she is not a static character by those means?
     
  24. Tessie
    Offline

    Tessie Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Aug 8, 2010
    Messages:
    1,103
    Likes Received:
    62
    Location:
    Mass
    Hi there!

    Yup, definitely dynamic, and you've got me hooked!
     
  25. Taylee91
    Offline

    Taylee91 Carpe Diem Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 13, 2010
    Messages:
    1,262
    Likes Received:
    73
    Location:
    The Bay State
    Yay, goodie, Marthix! That sounds awesome. (I've always liked characters who undergo a change throughout a story).

    Keep at it:D

    Taylee
     

Share This Page