Partridge India Writing Tips| Writing the Antihero Pt 3

Aug 8

Partridge India concludes its tips for understanding and writing the Antihero.

Partridge India closes this entry series about the Antihero character with examples and samples of the antiheroes from across the spectrum.


The Classic Antihero

Partridge India Writing Tips| Writing the Antihero
Lord Byron wrote, inspired, and embodied the iconic characteristics of the Classic Antihero.

A ‘hero’ wrought with self-doubt and very self-conscious over failures and shortcomings. Usually the story is about them accomplishing something either in spite of their flaws or by overcoming them. The Classic Antihero is distinct from the traditional hero in that they display character traits, flaws, and shortcomings that would at initial overview mark them as unsuitable for playing the role of hero. While this designation is most dependent on Qualities, as stated in the prior blog entry, and thus also dependent on context, certain attributes and characters persist as anti-heroes through the decades.


A prime example would be Frodo Baggins, a classic antihero both today and by the times when Tolkien wrote the character. Especially in a world of warriors, wizards, and monsters such as Middle-Earth, a hobbit who has spent his life in the idyllic and rural Shire would hardly be most peoples’ first choice for a hero. Frodo does not have the stout strength of Gimli the dwarf, the magical grace of Legolas the elf, the royal lineage of Aragorn, or the magic of Gandalf the Grey. And yet Frodo is the most integral part of the story. The only quality Frodo offers to the story, other than the inherent sneakiness of hobbits, is his courage. It is Frodo’s courage and purity that allows him to deliver the One Ring to Mount Doom to be destroyed, and even then his will falters to the temptation of the One Ring at the end. Thus Frodo Baggins is a Classic Antihero.



The Modern Anti-Hero

The Modern Antihero is one whose motives or methods are seen as unheroic and morally questionable. Thus the version of the antihero is dependent on the time and cultural context for its designation. Some heroes of ancient myths, folklore, and legends may be regarded as antiheroes (or worse) by modern audiences but as full heroes by the peoples of their time. Over the course of a story, the motives and methods of the modern antihero can be challenged or tested, resulting in the antihero acknowledging the questionable nature of their ways. This self-awareness can lead to an antihero either accepting that they are doing something morally questionable but continuing on the same path, or choosing to change.



One of the most famous examples of a modern antihero is Han Solo of Star Wars fame. When first introduced, Han Solo is a smuggler who values money, his ship, his friend Chewbacca, and little else other than saving his skin. He is willing to use underhanded tactics, such as shooting first, and requires promises of monetary rewards for his help. But over the course of Star Wars: A New Hope, and to an extent the entire trilogy, Han Solo grows from being simply a smuggler, to a loyal friend, and even to a hero willing to volunteer for dangerous missions on behalf of the Rebellion.


The Remorseless Antihero

Sometimes the line between an antihero and villain protagonist can blur. This is the case with an antihero primarily driven by selfish motives, whether or not they have any humanizing qualities. An iconic example in modern media is that of Breaking Bad’s main protagonist, Walter White, breathtakingly performed by actor Bryan Cranston. Over the course of the series, Walter grows from a dying chemistry teacher who cooks meth to leave more than enough money for his family, to a ruthless would-be drug kingpin.




The antihero provides an opportunity for both writers and readers, to explore emotions, fears, and motivations we are unfamiliar, afraid, or even outright acknowledge as toxic. Sometimes antiheroes show us we can accomplish great things either by accepting or overcoming our flaws. Sometimes they show us how self-destructive certain emotions, motives, and methods can be to one who holds them. Perhaps that is the allure of the antihero, that combination of inspiration, example, and warning all making for an ultimately fascinating figure.


Partridge India trusts this helps

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By Ian Smith

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