The lure of the dark-side – anti-heroes and anti-heroines

I have to admit that I really enjoy a story with a well developed anti-hero. I’m not talking about the basically good guy who has had a string of bad luck or a tough life. I am talking about the true post-modernistic archetype: someone who can not easily be defined as a villain or hero. These are characters whose attraction hooks you and reels you in as strongly as they repulse you on some basic level. There is just something about these characters that fascinates me. Their complexity can lead a carefully crafted storyline down some totally unexpected twists and turns of the mind, but you have to admit – it can be an adventure. It is a character type that is well suited to both paranormal romance and stories dealing with espionage as well as sci-fi/fantasy literature: all genres that appeal to me as both a reader and a writer. In my own writing, I am finding myself including anti-heroes or rather heroines on a fairly regular basis but something I discovered, which surprised me, was how difficult it is to create an anti-heroine.

These women characters exist. Consider Scarlett O’Hara, any number of roles that Angelina Jolie has played, and – my personal favorites – Nikita from the story La Femme Nikita and Murbella from Frank Herbert’s Dune series. The creation of an anti-heroine seems fraught with many of the same issues that confront women in real life, from business to social settings. A delicate balance must be struck between the characters “good” qualities and those that are less appealing.

So, how does one craft such a creature? From my research into the female anti-hero, it appears that beauty or physical attractiveness alone is not enough to off-set the brutality, amoral behavior, or ruthlessness needed for a true anti-hero. It seems to take a combination of physical beauty, innate intelligence, and some sort of triggering event – but not the jaded, “world-weary” technique often seen in the male anti-hero – to set the stage for a believable or rather acceptable anti-heroine. If the balance isn’t achieved, one is left with a psychotic or clichéd character.

Whether or not I can create a true female anti-hero in my own writing remains to be seen but I am going to have a lot of fun with the process.

Mairead Walpole is the pen name for a somewhat introverted project manager who has 20+ years of business and technical writing under her belt. In her spare time, Mairead reviews books for Crystal Reviews (www.crystalreviews.com) and writes paranormal romance. Her first novel, “A Love Out of Time” will be available soon through Second Wind Publishing or Amazon.com.

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7 Comments

Filed under Mairead Wapole, writing

7 responses to “The lure of the dark-side – anti-heroes and anti-heroines

  1. Anti-heroines are too lovely to be anything other than heroines or villains.

  2. The key to a good anti-heroine is empathy. On some level we have to understand, if not what the character wants, then the want itself.

    I don’t like anti-heroine books or movies (dare I admit I do not like Scarlett O’Hara?), but I think it would be fun to write one.

  3. amydetrempe

    I would love to write an anti-heroine, and hopefully one day I will accomplish the goal.

  4. I like antiheroes! There’s just psychological about about the them; they stories, they developement and can be a mystery character :-)

  5. Anonymous

    I’d rather read a book about a villain tbh, there are plenty of anti-hero stories about but not many where where the protagonist is literally hated by the reader. American Psycho is a good example.

  6. Pingback: Top Ten Most Viewed Posts on the Second Wind Blog |

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