Two quick things.
First, I want to share something I read in Orson Scott Card’s Elements of Fiction Writing – Characters & Viewpoint. This goes back to my obsession with the anti-hero. Oh how I love the anti-hero.
Card has a very simple explanation for how to write an unlikable character who appeals to the reader and gains the reader’s sympathy. Give this character several unlikable traits. Keep those traits prominent from page one to the end. Now, along the way, weave in many other subtle traits and actions to create sympathy for this character. Keep these minor. Don’t play them up. The reader will focus on the obvious nasty behavior while slowly gaining sympathy due to the subtle goodness.
Second, Liz over in Purgatory linked to a site that sucked me in. I found this great quote about torturing your protagonist.
The writer is both a sadist and a masochist. We create people we love, and then we torture them. The more we love them, and the more cleverly we torture them along the lines of their greatest vulnerability and fear, the better the story. Sometimes we try to protect them from getting booboos that are too big. Don’t. This is your protagonist, not your kid.
And for my third book, I am on it.
I’ve done some research on the difference between the anti-hero and the Byronic hero. I couldn’t find a definitive article anywhere comparing the two directly, but from what I’ve read here’s my own conclusion.
A Byronic hero is a bad good guy. He does bad things, makes his own rules, operates outside of the law. But his goal is to do good. He’s tormented. He’s introspective. He hurts. He takes full responsibility. He’s Batman.
A Byronic hero will never find true success because he is so conflicted. He seems to be constantly putting out fires in his quest to do right, but due to his own sensitivity of the world he will never achieve his goal. He’s tragic. He’ll never be happy.
An anti-hero is unpredictable. He’s good when he wants to be. He’s bad when he wants to be. And sometimes he’s bad just to piss you off. Because he knows he can, and he doesn’t care. He doesn’t know the meaning of responsibility. He has no regard for right and wrong, he only knows what he wants to do in the moment. His actions will be completely different on another day.
An anti-hero finds success in everything he does. He is happy in his own world because it is all he sees.
In a nutshell, a Byronic hero does bad things for the greater good. An anti-hero does whatever the hell he wants.