Currently Browsing: Main Characters & Villains

The Anti-hero: The worst hero is loved the most?

The antihero is a character that lacks perfection, internally conflicted… a big flaw? Perhaps. This antihero character is usually interesting and refreshing to introduce, develops over the course of the story, becomes influenced by other characters, and advances the plot or develops a theme. Is the antihero the best choice for your main character? Well… Is it important to have a likeable main character? Someone the audience can relate to? Write something you know? Can you dance with the dark side? The audience needs to love to hate… a passion for hating an antihero seems key… at least for most of a story. To really be a hero, the redemption must occur. Some savory bits of… audience relating to and liking the antihero character, thus replacing the hatred with affection. Charlie Brown is the Peanuts’ antihero. He’s a blockhead. He’s easily disappointed. He’s the scapegoat. He brings flaws, neuroses and issues to the story. Lara Croft could be considered a hero or a villain… thus earning the title antihero. She is a thief and tomb raider, she pursues selfish agenda (the opposite of Indian Jones for example), and she claims to only murder people in self defense. She admits to killing endangered species, and should be incarcerated for all of her many crimes. Tony Stark could be easily considered a villain… he creates and distributes weapons of mass destruction. He’s a cocky, ego driven jerk and a pompous upper class twit. But, he saves the day and endears his audience to his vulnerabilities and turns out to be a normal guy (without a heart) with a false caricature exterior. Every single bad event/conflict that happens in Iron Man 2 is a direct result of Tony Stark being a jackass. He is this movie’s villain. All the other villains in this movie were inspired and created by Stark’s showing off and egomania, thus making him the super-villain. Not sharing his “super suit” invention with the “good guys” and being selfish about his “Iron Man” technology directly causes lots of civilian deaths. If you google “antihero” you will find a character treading the thin line between good and evil. There must be a flaw and there must be redemption. It’s an archetype. It’s a trope. It’s an idiom. If you try to explain it to someone, it’s like a broken record. My advice to writers: The antihero is a tricky character to master. This could go either way, depending on who... read more

Great Supporting Characters Can Make Your Main Character Shine

When I get asked about my favorite characters, I often think about those in the supporting roles. But when I looked back at the books I read as a child, my eyes were open to the storytelling craft of the authors who used secondary characters to heighten our connection with the main characters. Many children still read Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White and it will probably remain a classic for years to come. The main character, Wilber the pig,would have died early if it wasn’t for Charlotte the spider. We see Wilber’s growth and development as he interacts with Charlotte throughout the story. Charlotte teaches him about life, love, and friendship, becoming a sort of mother figure for him. Without Charlotte, Wilber wouldn’t have grown and changed into the pig so many people love and adore. Charlotte left her impact on me, too—even today, I never kill a spider unless it poses a threat. Another supporting character that makes a good foil for the main character is Gurgi in The Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander. Gurgi can be described as a nicer, more timid and hairier version of Gollem, from The Lord of the Rings. Gurgi’s obsession with food and other annoying tendencies frustrate Taran, the main character. In these situations we see some of Taran’s flaws and also connect with him more as we think about the Gurgis in our own lives. At the time I was reading this, my little brother resembled Gurgi in every way, even the hair. My favorite supporting character by far is Heart’s Blood in The Pit Dragon Chronicles by Jane Yolen. Heart’s Blood is a combination of the loyalest of pets and the best of friends. Reared by Jakkin, a slave boy living on an outer planet, Heart’s Blood is a dragon who would give everything for the boy she loves. It was from their relationship that I had my first understanding of sacrifice and salvation. A word of caution for those of us who want to write great supporting characters: Don’t let a secondary character outshine your main character. Even though I fondly remember these secondary characters, I related more to the main characters—the awkward and scared Wilber, the annoyed Taran who struggled to be a hero, the struggling Jakkin who wanted to escape from bondage. So as you’re writing your stories and developing your main character’s personalities, remember to spend time forming your secondary characters, too. One of them might just be the spark that makes your book shine... read more

Favorite Characters

In my reading experience I find most often I enjoy the main character (MC), but a sidekick is usually my favorite in the book. It could be because I plant myself into the spot of MC and notice his friends more. Or it’s because the MC has something happen to them. Yes, technically they have a choice to act or not. If they choose to do nothing we don’t have a story. So I know what the MC will do most times. However, the side characters have a bigger choice. At any point they can walk away, yet so many stay and put their lives in jeopardy. That to me is braver than the person of whom the problem is inflicted on. Side characters like Hermoine Granger in Harry Potter, who never, ever (even Ron left) left Harry’s side. In The Hunger Games Series, Peeta Mellark, who instead of covering his own rear end, decided to do everything, even sacrifice himself (if he had to) for Katniss. Elena Vilkas, Lina’s mother in In Between Shades of Gray, not only gives/protects her own children, but goes out of her way to help everyone she meets (Even a guard keeping them). Writing Irresistible Kidlit, by Mary Kole suggests that the best MCs are the ones we fanatically love or love to hate. I love characters with heart. This heart seems to mostly shine in the selflessness of sidekicks, but sometimes I find it in a main character. Shawn Spencer from the T.V. series Pysch. Shawn is highly observant, but doesn’t wish to hold a job as a detective. Instead he poses as a psychic and his antics often get him and his best friend, Gus into trouble. He is obnoxious, petty, and hides his emotion behind jokes. He takes advantage of Gus and his father all the time, yet we love him. Although Shawn can be very selfish, when it really matters, he is selfless. He puts the safety and lives of others in front of his own. Sara Pennypacker’s middle grade novel, Clementine, Clementine is an eight year old who is artistic and impulsive. Her intentions are good, but misunderstood. She finds herself in the Principal’s office quite a bit. Clementine feels sorry for her friend, Margaret who gets glue in her hair. To fix the problem she suggests Margaret let her cut the glue out. Then her misadventures throughout the book are her attempts at repairing her friendship with... read more

Villains Have Feelings Too

Why do some villains make us stick the book in the freezer and others fall flat? Do they even matter? Yes, you better believe our villains matter. As writers we don’t want our audience to close the book and be done with the experience. We want them to carry it with them. Even villains need to haunt us off the page. As a writer, I want my reader to be passionate about the main character. They need to love them. It isn’t enough to like them. The same goes for the villain. I need to inspire passion. The reader needs to despise/hate the villain. So what makes that hate so strong or that villain so scary that you can’t even have the book in your sight? It’s familiarity, a villain the reader can relate to, a disturbing bond. This happens when the reader meets this unbelievably awful person and sees themselves reflected in them. My favorite examples include Jack Frost from Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Bellatrix Lestrange from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter Series. In the opening scene of The Graveyard Book, Jack Frost sneaks into the main character, Bod’s house while everyone is sleeping and kills his whole family with a knife. Bod a baby, escapes, and Jack tries to find him and kill him. The whole idea that someone could kill a baby is very disturbing and the fact that he treats it as business as usual is even worse. Then he has a name that symbolizes a happy childhood character that just intensifies his creepiness. As the book progresses we learn that Jack dresses like a respectable gentleman, does good deeds (more likely pretends), lives with his grandma, and is part of a topic secret brotherhood: Jacks of All Trades. Then bam we find out that it was prophesized that Bod would destroy the Jacks, Jack’s family. Wouldn’t you do anything to prevent the destruction of your own family? There are plenty of reasons to fear Bellatrix Lestrange: pure blood witch, Death Eater, tortured the Longbottoms to insanity, escaped the unescapable prison, killed her family both Nymphadora Tonks and Sirius Black, and Voldemort’s most loyal servant (Respected by him too). Like Jack, she comes from a respectable family. She is described as tall, dark and beautiful and is even named: Bella. Prison has taken a toll on her, but if she is anything, she is a woman of values: loyal and honest. She is extremely... read more

My Own Worst Enemy

By Linda Fry Sometimes our enemy isn’t the Big Bad Wolf, or The Wicked Witch of the West, or Voldemort. Sometimes we are our own worst enemy. I’ve recently read three books that demonstrate how a character can sabotage themselves by remaining silent – Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, Looking for Alaska by John Green, and Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher. In Speak, Melinda Sordino suffers in silence after being raped. Obviously, the real enemy in the story is Andy Evans, her rapist. However, how would things be different had she been able to speak up? She spends her entire ninth grade year tormented, exiled, and confused by her experience. Her friends turn their back on her. Her parents don’t understand her. Her teachers judge her. If only she had told someone the truth about the party during the summer, then she could have gotten help. Luckily, by the end of the book she finds her voice, saves a friend, and begins to heal. Looking for Alaska is a very different kind of story. My focus for this blog is actually the secondary character named Alaska. She’s a wild, carefree girl with deep seeded issues. Alaska spends her entire life feeling guilty over her mother’s death and never getting the help she needs. Her tragic death wreaks havoc on the main character, Pudge. After a night of drinking, she freaks out and ends up in a car crash. Her friends are left to wonder if it was intentional or a horrific accident. Lastly, Thirteen Reasons Why is about Hannah Baker’s postmortem revenge against her bullies. Again we have a story of a troubled girl, who never spoke up. Rumors spread about her, friends turn on her, and bullies descend on her, but she never stands up for herself. Instead she waits until after she commits suicide to speak out. These stories cleverly use the characters faults as the antagonist. By doing so, they up the stakes and force the characters to overcome their own demons. These authors raise the question: How do I defeat the enemy, when I am the enemy? It is our job as writers to ask these kinds of questions and raise the stakes in our own manuscripts. I recommend reading all three. Villains aren’t always monsters. *On a side note, if you are the victim of abuse, bullying, or tragedy, please speak up and get help. You’re not... read more

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