As a writer I know how important the ‘hero’ is to the reader. Whether we’re watching a film, TV or reading a book, our stereotypical hero has to be the one we love, the one we root for, the one we want to get the girl or guy in the end. We want them to be flawless in every type of way. But actually it’s the anti-heroes that have the audience tugging at their heartstrings.
Why is this?
Well, realistically, who wants to read or watch anything where the hero is a hundred per cent perfect? Okay, James Bond can be the obvious exception – but even 007 has his flaws. A lot of flaws. If our hero has no real flaws then they become instantly boring and so does the story.
Luke Skywalker was a typical hero – but he had Darth Vader as a Dad and a Princess twin sister whom he was attracted to during the first two films, so that immediately made him interesting. Frodo Baggins is one of those ‘pinch your cheeks’ type heroes and would be utterly boring if he wasn’t played by Elijah Wood in the films. Likewise, Harry Potter would also make a boring hero if he hadn’t left behind a trail of dead people in his wake.
So, you know, each to their own.
When I wrote my Downton Abbey fan fiction, I wrote a character called Edward who was the second son, the ‘spare’ in comparison to his elder brother, ‘the heir.’ I wrote him as a rebellious kid who always gave his parents hell. I intended him to be a little shit but it turned out that all my fans loved him. Edward quickly became their favourite because he was the ‘bad boy.’ He was someone they hoped would be ‘redeemed’ and ‘saved’ by the end. I then started thinking about books I’d read and my own characters. When you give someone the role of an anti-hero you have to load them with a troubled past. Fill in that backstory with as much shameful, eye avoiding secrets you can conjure up. They could have all the personality traits of a villain…but the heart and soul of a hero.
You could have an alcoholic cop who ends up saving a family from a burning building at the end. It’s the layers that build a person’s character. Time has taught us that in terms of TV and literature, it’s the protagonists that seem more human that grab our attention. We want to connect with characters that are more like us. That’s why soaps are such a hit in Britain or anywhere. Everyone’s hiding something, everyone’s keeping a secret. Everyone has flaws.
Next time you settle down to watch a film or read a book, have a think about the protagonist. Do you like them or do you hate them? Are they a hero or an anti-hero?


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