Sharon Bayliss: Creating the Perfect Anti-hero

Carrying on with our theme of in-depth character analysis, I’ve asked Sharon Bayliss to give us some insider tips on creating a compelling anti-hero. Thanks, Sharon!

Give me a complicated anti-hero over a classic “good guy” any day! I love reading about anti-heroes and I love writing them. Of course, using an anti-hero as a protagonist is tricky and risky. Even the edgiest, darkest protagonists absolutely have to be likable, or the reader will put the book down.

In my latest release, Destruction, the protagonist is a man who cheated on his wife and lies his ass off. Considering the fact that most of my readers are married women, using a protagonist like this is almost stupid. But, in my opinion, it also makes it interesting. I actually originally intended to write the story from the wife’s perspective, but I am SO glad I didn’t.

David, my MC, isn’t the only anti-hero in the story. Most of my main characters are dark wizards, and although in my story good and evil are far from black and white, dark wizards generally aren’t likable people. The wife, Amanda, actually seems to anger people the most. She’s cold and sometimes selfish, and driven by fear.

I suppose it’s still up for debate as to whether or not I’ve successfully created likable anti-heroes, but most reviewers say things like, “I really wanted to hate David, but I just couldn’t.” In my opinion, here are some of the elements of likable anti-heroes:

LOVE – This is one of the most important elements in Destruction. My characters may not be the greatest people, but they know how to love. At the end of the day, most of their actions are driven by love. Although my readers may not identify with an adulterer, they do understand a man who loves his wife and kids
more than anything.

Imagine how different many antagonists would be if they loved. For example, in the Harry Potter series, love is what turned Severus Snape from a villain to a hero in a few lines.

UNDERDOGS – No one roots for a bully, and that’s because bullies prey on the weak. However, we love to see bullies get what they deserve. When your character is the underdog and they take down someone powerful, they can get away with almost anything and we’ll root for them.

DARK MEANS TO GOOD ENDS – I’m not going to say that the ends justify the means, but it certainly helps! One of the best and most ambitious anti-heroes of all time is Dexter Morgan from Dreaming Darkly Dexter and the Dexter T.V. series. Although Dexter has a lot of good anti-hero qualities, the most important key
to his success as an anti-hero is that he only kills bad guys. Would the story have worked if Dexter killed innocents? Definitely not. Even if Dexter’s means are dark and sometimes repulsive, we agree with the result. Horrible people get what they deserve and justice is served for the victims.

HEROISM – In a literary sense anyway, heroism is not about being a good person. A hero is an active character. It’s someone who actively changes their circumstances. Someone who believes in something. Someone who takes risks for what they believe in. Whether their intentions are good or evil, active characters are ALWAYS more likable than passive ones.

REALISM – Everyone has some darkness in them, and few people are pure evil. Therefore, if you want an anti-hero, make them realistic. They are not the cartoon villains. They are real people just like you and me. This was another very important component to Destruction. I heard this a lot about Amanda–“I didn’t agree with what she did, but she was just so darned real.” I’m definitely not an adulterer, and I’m much more open-minded than Amanda, but when creating David and Amanda I still made them very much like me. I imagined what I would do or think if I was in their shoes. With this, I hope that readers will also see themselves in the characters, and people are much more likely to root for people who remind them of themselves.

Read about great anti-heroes in literature here.

Learn more about Destruction:

Introducing a new dark wizard family drama, Destruction by Sharon Bayliss, Book One in The December People Series.
An independent family-owned bookstore. The ONLY place to buy signed copies!
A locally owned book store in Austin, Texas.
David Vandergraff wants to be a good man. He goes to church every Sunday, keeps his lawn trim and green, and loves his wife and kids more than anything. Unfortunately, being a dark wizard isn’t a choice.
Eleven years ago, David’s secret second family went missing. When his two lost children are finally found, he learns they suffered years of unthinkable abuse. Ready to make things right, David brings the kids home even though it could mean losing the wife he can’t imagine living without. 

Keeping his life together becomes harder when the new children claim to be dark wizards. David believes they use this fantasy to cope with their trauma. Until, David’s wife admits a secret of her own—she is a dark wizard too, as is David, and all of their children.  

Now, David must parent two hurting children from a dark world he doesn’t understand and keep his family from falling apart. All while dealing with the realization that everyone he loves, including himself, may be evil.

Destruction (Book One of The December People Series)

The Author

Sharon Bayliss is the author of The December People Series and The Charge. When she’s not writing, she enjoys living happily-ever-after with her husband and two
young sons. She can be found eating Tex-Mex on patios, wearing flip-flops, and playing in the mud (which she calls gardening). She only practices magic in emergencies.



3 thoughts on “Sharon Bayliss: Creating the Perfect Anti-hero

  1. I love (x infinity) this post, Sharon! I’ve always had a soft spot for anti-heroes (*cough SNAPE cough*) and find myself putting them into my stories, whether they want to be anti-heroes or not. Thanks for the post, Meli! :)

    • I’ve never tried the anti-hero but after studying Sharon’s work, I’m going to try to work one into my serial short story.

      It’s funny to me that you mention Snape, actually! This post was done as part of her blog book tour for Destruction, the first book in her The December People series. I decided to get involved in her blog tour after she promo’ed it on Facebook comparing the family to the Malfoy family.

Say your words!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s