How To Write An Effective Anti-Hero In Your Screenplay


Lately, anti-hero characters have graced both film and TV screens. Audiences love them  because, just like humans, they aren’t fully good or fully bad. Let’s take a look at why they are fascinating characters to write about and why screenwriters love writing them.

During the spread of organized religion which promoted absolution and redemption, heroes were highly revered and enjoyed superhuman or divine status. They were more physically attractive, stronger, braver, more clever or charismatic than the average person.

Later on, heroes adopted more “human” traits. They weren’t as attractive, strong or intelligent as their heroic counterparts. They were antithetical, grittier, flawed, unlikeable, but “real” and empathetic. They became anti-heroes. They were more morally ambiguous and focused on attainment of their goal regardless of the collateral damage called. Consider Will Smith’s character in “Hancock” and Tom Cruise’s character in “Collateral”. They weren’t villains because their deeds served a higher purpose.

What qualities should anti-heroes possess in your screenwriting?

  • arrogance
  • high level of intelligence and perception
  • cunningness, brutality and ruthlessness
  • a troubled past, traumatized
  • sophisticated and educated
  • self-critical and introspective
  • mysterious, magnetic and charismatic
  • power of seduction and sexual attraction
  • social and sexual dominance
  • emotional and psychological conflicts
  • a distaste for social institutions and norms
  • being an exile
  • disrespect of rank and privilege
  • jaded, world-weary
  • self-destructive/ addictive behavior
  • physical or mental handicap
  • winner at something
  • single-mindedness
  • violence
  • passion

Despite their negative qualities, anti-heroes must possess some admirable qualities both as a counter balance, but also to make audiences empathize with them.

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