Monday, October 5, 2009

The Anti-Hero


The anti-hero has become my favorite principal character in fiction. I love the men who are less than ideal or picture-perfect, so flawed that at the outset they seem beyond all redemption. It's more accurate to say I start out hating them for the miserable bastards they are but by novel's end, the anti-hero and the writer's skill at character portrayal, have won me over.

Murad Reis, the protagonist in my new WIP, Renegade, is a Dutch privateer turned Barbary corsair who fits the anti-hero description perfectly: A central figure in a work that repels us by his or her actions or morality, yet who is not a villain. The Anti-hero accomplishes a useful purpose or even does heroic deeds. I started researching Murad nearly two years ago, in part because I attended a writers' conference session on pirates. While I prefer the medieval period, the age of piracy and the 17th century also interest me. Murad was born Jan Janszoon and took to the seas as a Dutch privateer. Many years later, Barbary pirates captured him and since they always needed skilled seaman, he joined them. In doing so, he abandoned his wife and small children, preyed upon the ships and lands of many European nations and sold their people into slavery, and in general, seems to have been a mercilessly brutal, calculating, cold-hearted sort of man. Yet, he was welcomed with open arms at the end of his life by his youngest daughter whom he'd abandoned. He's an absolutely perfect historical figure to research and write about because he's conflicted and lacks clear motives or morals.

The anti-hero may be the guy that you love to hate but without him, the pages in which he lives would be less memorable. Some of my favorites in literature include Lestat de Lioncourt of the Anne Rice novels and Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series. Who's yours?

6 comments:

N. Gemini Sasson said...

My favorite anti-hero? Uhtred Uhtredson, of Bernard Cornwell's Saxon Chronicles. A firm believer of the old Viking gods in a Christian world, he dislikes priests and finds himself bound to a king he doesn't care for. Yet underneath the ruthlessness and rough exterior, he is a man of his word.

I'm with you, Lisa. I love the bad boys! They're so much more complex.

Victoria Dixon said...

Like your site. I found you via Anne Davison's blog, btw. Thought I'd let you know, it must be the week of anti-hero blogs. There's another great post on them at pyrsf.blogspot.com.

Victoria Dixon said...

Sorry, I'm getting Anita confused with someone else who is in the same historical fiction critique group. *___*

Lisa Yarde said...

Gemi and Victoria, thanks for stopping by, and to Victoria for Pry-o-mania blog info. I grew up reading about bad boys and anti-heroes, who've been a staple of romance novels and westerns for a long time. Writing about one is difficult but a lot of fun.

Anita Davison said...

I love Severus Snape too, he's so misunderstood and the fact he was in Love with Liy Potter exonerates him in my view. The other one which I am sure Lisa will agree with is Captain Sparrow - an amoralpirate with a sliver of diamond in his heart and a wicked sense of humour.
And you are forgiven Victoria

Victoria Dixon said...

Thanks, ANITA! *___* (Still blushing furiously.)

Ebook Release Day! Sultana: The Pomegranate Tree is here!

After a year and a half, the ebook version of the novel is out. It's been like giving birth to a really big baby, who had some troubles...