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Protagonists: The Antihero

September 1, 2015

What makes a good antihero you ask? The same things that make any protagonist worthy, he needs to be likeable and/or relatable. If even if your main character is a mean and nasty son-of-a-bitch, he can have some quality about him that makes an audience feel for him. Read more about creating compelling characters by clicking here.

The protagonist doesn’t always have to be the good guy. In fact, the protagonist doesn’t even have to do selfless acts of heroism. Even if he only does good deeds out of selfish desire he can still be a great protagonist. This is what’s known as the antihero, the central character of your story without your typical heroic characteristics.

So who are some typical antiheroes? I’m glad you asked. Here are a few of my favorites: Tony Montana. Tony didn’t do anything that he didn’t personally benefit from, yet there was some likeable/relatable quality about him that made audiences root for him. Dirty Harry. Harry always got the bad guy, but by unconventional means and usually by fracturing a few laws while doing it. Captain Jack Sparrow. Enough said. And last, but not least, Clarence Worley.

Clarence Worley is one of my most favorite antiheroes. Clarence is an ordinary, everyday guy working in a comic book shop. While at a movie theater watching a Sonny Chiba marathon, he bumps into Alabama, a prostitute sent by his boss. Clarence falls for Alabama and decides to rescue her from her life (first day on the job) as a hooker. Problem is her pimp doesn’t want to let her go so easily. After a scuffle with her pimp, the main dealer for a drug kingpin, Clarence mistakenly walks off with a suitcase full of cocaine. Now this is where the hero and the anti-hero part ways. A typical hero might turn those drugs over to the police, but not Clarence. He decides he’s going to make a trip to California and convince a struggling actor friend of his to help him sell it to a well-known B movie producer. What Clarence doesn’t know is that the drug kingpin and the police are hot on his trail. If you’ve never seen this movie, I highly recommend True Romance.

The moral of the story is, the antihero story that is, to make him just a little bit better than the bad bad guys. If your protagonist is a bad guy then the real bad guys need to be really bad and your protagonist has to have some quality that the audience can get behind or identify with. He can be an asshole, but make sure he’s a likeable asshole. I know you’ve met a few of those in your life. Until next week, happy writing.

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5 Comments
  1. It is hard writing a bad guy with a noble purpose. The current motivation see in the scripts I read are greed, money or power. But I need to take your advice on my current script. Thanks

    Like

  2. There can be more than one antihero, right? Like 11 or 12 or 13? As in “Ocean’s 11” (and “Ocean’s 12” and “Ocean’s 13”). How can you not like Mr. Ocean and his antiheroes? I especially liked it when Mr. Ocean told Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) to make a donation to a children’s charity.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There can be, but beginners should stick to just one as too many heroes can muddle up the story if you’re not careful.

      Like

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