A Writer's Journey

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

Maya Angelou

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.

Victor Hugo

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Writing Wednesday: Character Archetypes - The Anti-Villain

This week's Writing Wednesday post continues the Character Archetype series I wanted to cover. Again, with a new batch of fresh characters I'm going to be playing with, I wanted to get a little more technical about what the different archetypes are so that I can have some sort of idea how to distinguish my own characters' places within the story.

Much like the anti-hero, the anti-villain goes against the typical character traits that would normally embody a villain. Where the anti-hero means to put a darker take on the squeaky clean hero, the anti-villain means to humanize the evil world dominating villain.

Most anti-villains are aware that what they're doing is not necessarily good, though they may be reluctant to dive completely into the "evil" and relinquish the part of themselves that still hold some sort of moral fiber. Or perhaps it could just be a small hint of cowardice to completely become the evil that they thought they could handle.

Prime example:

Draco Malfoy

Anti-villains could also have large gray areas in their moral code. In all other aspects, they would be considered the villains because they exhibit qualities normally seen in villainous characters (i.e. stealing, cheating, killing, etc.). But the gray areas are what sets them apart from a true villain. These gray areas may be fueled by love for friends and family, and/or loyalty to the same.

Prime example:

Jonah Prowse from Jericho

For a more in-depth explanation of the anti-villain, mosey on over here.

How do you feel about anti-villains? Do you think they make more effective villains than true villains?

And now for our regularly scheduled pretty...


  1. I loved Draco Malfoy for the reasons you mentioned. Actually, that's a little deceiving--I hated him at first, but as he started to grow as a character and we learned more about his motivations, I realized I didn't hate him so much after all...I actually started to feel bad for him. That, in my opinion, made him a great antagonist.

  2. I've realized recently the more human a bad guy seems to me, the creeper he is. A total souless, no gray area kind of person, just doesn't register in my head to be scared of them. I really think Anti-villains can be used to be an awesome bad guy! Or a bad guy turned good. Although I never found myself scared of Draco. He was still a very interesting character.

  3. I definitely think they can be more effective than true villains because there's more potential for you to feel for them. You might see their side or find yourself liking them for one thing but still hating them for others. They've got pull because you never know where you stand with them.

  4. Love this, especially with Draco as an example. I was aware of anti-hero's, but hadn't thought of anti-villains.

    Also, posted a comment with a filk you must go read for your anti-hero post! :-)

  5. Greta post! And yes, I definitely think they do make more effective villains because when it's not all black and white, the reader becomes more emotionally engaged, I think. Well, at least I tend to do so and so the effect the story has on me ends up doubling when I care more, even if I don't want to care... if that makes any sense lol!

    Loved your examples too!

  6. Like the scheduled pretty. :D

    I like the idea of the anti villain. Find them very ineteresting.