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Nov 8, 2006

Anti-heroes?

I belong to a writer's discussion and critique group, the Online Writing Workshop. (Long ago, when I first joined, it was the Dell Rey Online Writing Workshop, but that's a story for another time.) I've added the link to my sidebar for your edification. To any aspiring sf/f/h writers out there--I highly recommend it.

The discussion on the OWW list today concerned anti-heroes. What distinguishes an anti-hero from a villian? Is an anti-hero just a hero with a few flaws (boastfulness, bashfulness, bad acne)? Or does he do truly reprehensible things (lie, cheat, steal, kill, rape), but somehow is redeemed by other aspects of his character or actions in the plot?

Because of our love affair with rebels and the glamour of rebellion, I think we often mistakenly call a hero with flaws an "anti-hero" to increase his mystique. A regular old hero sounds stuffy. What, a person who tries their best to be good all the time? Yawn.

I think that comes from a mistaken impression about how easy it is to do good, even if one wants to.

My short stories, "Drawn to the Brink" and "Portrait of a Pretender" establish several characters, each of whom is trying to do good, but who inevitably come in conflict with one another.

Othmordian, the protaganist of "Portrait of a Pretender," could be described as a villain or an anti-hero. He is cast in the typical villain's role--that of the conniving uncle who usurps the throne of his nephew.

But Othmordian has his reasons. Are they sufficient to redeem him? That's the question...

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