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This past weekend, ABC Family had a Harry Potter marathon. My roommate recorded the first part of the Deathly Hallows, and we’re watching it now as I’m writing. It’s oddly fitting that the close of this discussion of heroes, villains, anti-heroes, and anti-villains happens while watching a film of the series that encompasses basically every shade of hero and villain that we’ve covered.

darth vader kitty

Photo by J.D. Hancock

50 Shades of Villain

In exploring levels of hero, anti-hero, villain, and anti-villain, there can be a surprising amount of overlap. An anti-hero can show shades of anti-villain as well. Much of it depends on the writer, the universe they’ve created, and the character they’ve created to oppose him.

There are also levels of anti-hero and anti-villain outside the lists we’ve covered.

Simplification is a good starting point, but you can just as easily create an anti-villain who might have evil intentions, but who just can’t seem to actually do anything evil, either by a series of coincidences or by sheer virtue of the fact that their plans always backfire in a way that turns them into a hero.

Or you might create an anti-hero who has his heart in absolutely the right place, and wants only life and prosperity, but can’t seem to leave a village without leaving at least one building on fire.

Characterization Starting Points

The great thing about writing constructs is that they’re only starting points. If you’ve written a hero or villain who doesn’t fit into any of the archetypes that we’ve covered, that’s fine! That’s even great, because that means you’re not limiting yourself to what has already been established.

You’re creating your own type of hero or villain, and maybe it will become one of the great examples that young writers fifty years from now will emulate.

You have to start somewhere.

What well-known characters can you think of who don’t fit the molds we’ve discussed in this series?

PRACTICE

Take the type of hero or anti-hero, and type of villain or anti-villain that you’ve created in the past four weeks, and put them together.

Write for fifteen minutes in the world that you’ve created with those two types. See how they play off each other. Post your practice in the comments, and leave notes for your fellow writers.

Liz Bureman
Liz Bureman
Liz Bureman has a more-than-healthy interest in proper grammatical structure, accurate spelling, and the underappreciated semicolon. When she's not diagramming sentences and reading blogs about how terribly written the Twilight series is, she edits for the Write Practice, causes trouble in Denver, and plays guitar very slowly and poorly. You can follow her on Twitter (@epbure), where she tweets more about music of the mid-90s than writing.
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