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We all know what each of these character types are and how they’re integral to genuine story, but what if I told you, all three of these are actually the same character type… only on different points of the same scale.
Let’s get into it.
With the exception of some abstract Buddhist zen-like mental kung fu (the best action is no course of action kinda thing), heroes, antiheroes and villains are defined by their actions. Ok, really, all characters are defined by their actions, but broad generalizations do apply to this specific group.
In essence, when you say you’re going to create a hero, antihero, or villain, you’re really saying, you’re going to use an archetype template for the core nature of the character.
Character Archetype p61 Story craft for comics;
“Character archetypes are “genres” for characters. If I tell you I’ve got a horror comic, slasher script, your mind automatically opens a drawer of preconceived notions. You sit to read the script with expectations.
Character archetypes are exactly the same thing. Classifications of traits that define a role—universally accepted roles that transcend culture, creed and nationality.”
At the top of the scale we have the HERO.
Someone concerned primarily with the welfare of others and who acts in a manner that puts their welfare ahead of his own. In fact, he’s likely to sacrifice himself or his personal desires, for the benefit of others. Heroes generally have a high sense of moral ground, distinguishing clearly between right and wrong, and following this morality without wavering.
If you want to be a good writer, dare I say a great writer, you should always look to Robocop to guide you.
Robocop’s prime directives were;
- Serve the public trust.
- Protect the innocent.
- Uphold the law.
- Any attempt to arrest a senior officer of OCP results in shutdown.
Clearly, everyone knows not to arrest a senior OCP officer, so let’s forget about that one.
Serving the public trust, means adhering to fundamental principles of ethical behavior. Ones that place the character’s loyalty to the law of land, and principles above private gain.
Heroes work within and uphold the law. They recognize the symbolic and inspirational weight of their actions. While they often have the power to act outside of the law, they don’t, because working within the accepted system is–the right thing to do.
I’ve saved the protect the innocent for last on purpose, as this is a real benchmark of the character template. We can even be more specific than simply saying “protect” and say heroes do not harm the innocent.
A hero can not intentionally harm an innocent… and if he somehow did, he would suffers serious psychological consequences from the action conflicting with his core nature.
If you’re reading this article, you’re already aware of the importance and necessity of a well-developed character arc. Hero character flaws (the beginning part of the arc) are not dark in nature. While they need to be potent, the flaws heroes wrestle with do not stop them, or skew their perspective so far to the side, that they can’t function as heroes.
- Noble to a fault.
- Always taking on everyone else’s problems.
These are the kind of character flaws and problems heroes deal with.
In the middle of the scale we find the ANTIHERO. Someone who concerns himself primarily with the welfare of… well, himself.