Heroes are morally good, courageous, honest, and self-sacrificing. In a nutshell, anyway. They are the good guy of the story and it is obvious that they are, usually from the get go. Some have something exceptional about them – like powers or are from a benevolent race – while others are perfectly normal individuals who do not yet know their fate. However, they all are profoundly good at heart.
Anti-heroes, however, are characters who possess traits that are opposite to the typical heroic ones. They are, more often than not, conflicted individuals that struggle with morals or just don’t want to get involved in conflict. Some blur the line between hero and villain, while others can end up becoming more the reluctant hero.
Anti-heroes are so much more complex and interesting both to read about and to write. Straightforward heroes can often become dull and there is nothing less engaging than a guaranteed happy endings and the anti hero is much less likely to have that. They will have more layers and therefore more to get involved with.
In the writing world, hero and protagonist are often used interchangeably for the main character/s of a book. With our writing, our protags are the good guys but not many of them fit comfortably into the heroic archetype. Some are heroes (or heroines if you want to nitpick over gender specificity) and some are anti-heroes… but none are outright. There is something alluring about writing conflicted characters that is hard to resist.
Which do you prefer: the out-and-out heroic types or the conflicted anti-hero that have you wondering which way they will go?