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WEEKLY SCREENWRITER TOP TEN #7 "ANTI-HEROES"

Updated: Jan 15, 2023



Anti-heroes: In your script, they should lack traditional heroic qualities, like nobility and courage. They should also engage in questionable or immoral behavior. They should be portrayed as complex, flawed, and conflicted characters who have motivations that are selfish or self-serving. The anti-hero you are writing should be used to subvert the traditional hero archetypes. In the end, it will add depth and complexity to your story when properly written. As you write them, ensure that you evolve that character over the course of your story. Maybe make them more heroic or selfless, or maybe you can even keep them unchanged. Anti-heroes of various kinds can be found in countless literature, film, television, and video games.


Examples of some well-known anti-heroes include...

They're often popular with audiences because they are relatable, and their actions are driven by understandable motivations. Some of them end up serving as a commentary on society or a critique of traditional heroism. They could be considered "gray" characters since have both good and bad qualities and constantly straddle the line between right and wrong. The portrayal of your anti-hero can vary greatly depending on your specific story and the character's motivations and actions. Some anti-heroes may be more sympathetic or likable to audiences, while others may be more controversial or polarizing.


Today, we'll be going over some effective ways to approach and write ANTI-HEROES in your screenplay.


1. COMPLEXITY


Give them a clear motivation or goal that drives their actions. This could be something as simple as wanting to win a competition or as complex as seeking redemption for past mistakes. Explore their internal conflicts and dilemmas. An anti-hero may struggle with their own flaws and moral compass, forcing them to make difficult choices that challenge their own self-interest. Develop complex relationships with other characters. An anti-hero may have strained relationships with mentors or authority figures, or they may have complicated friendships and romantic relationships that are affected by their actions and decisions. Show their growth and transformation.


Your anti-hero may start out as a selfish or ruthless character, but through the course of the story, they are forced to confront their own flaws and make difficult choices that ultimately test their moral compass and force them to become a better person. Use symbols and themes to add depth to the character's journey. For example, an anti-hero who is seeking redemption may be symbolized by a figurative "cross to bear" that represents the weight of their past mistakes. Overall, making an anti-hero more complex in a screenplay requires exploring their motivations, relationships, internal conflicts, and character arc in a nuanced and layered way that challenges traditional notions of heroism and morality.



2. REALISM


Give them flaws and weaknesses: An anti-hero should not be perfect, but rather have flaws and weaknesses that make them more relatable and believable. Make them complex and multifaceted: A well-developed anti-hero should have multiple layers to their personality, with conflicting desires and motivations that drive their actions. Give them a clear motivation or goal: A clear motivation or goal can help make an anti-hero's actions more believable and understandable. Show their internal struggles and dilemmas:


Your anti-hero should have internal conflicts and dilemmas that challenge their moral compass and force them to make difficult choices. Develop their relationships with other characters: An anti-hero's relationships with other characters should be complex and nuanced, with both positive and negative aspects. Use dialogue and action to reveal their character: An anti-hero's words and actions should reveal their true character, rather than relying on narration or exposition. By incorporating these elements into the screenplay, an anti-hero can become a more realistic and fully realized character.




3. EMOTIONAL DEPTH


Give them a clear motivation or goal: An anti-hero with a clear motivation or goal will be more emotionally invested in their journey and more likely to make decisions that reflect their desires and motivations. Explore their past: Giving an anti-hero a complex and troubled past can add emotional depth by showing how their experiences have shaped their personality and actions. Develop their relationships: Giving an anti-hero complex relationships with other characters, especially those who challenge their views and beliefs, can add emotional depth as they are forced to confront their own flaws and make difficult choices.


Show their internal conflicts: An anti-hero who struggles with internal conflicts and dilemmas will be more emotionally complex as they are forced to make difficult choices and confront their own flaws. Explore their emotional arc: As the anti-hero progresses through the story, their emotional arc should change and evolve, reflecting the challenges and choices they face. This will add emotional depth to their character.



4. UNPREDICTABILITY


One great way to make your anti-hero more unpredictable in a screenplay is to give them complex motivations and desires that drive their actions and decisions. This can create an element of surprise for the audience as they try to anticipate what the anti-hero will do next.

Another way to add unpredictability to your anti-hero is to give them complex relationships with other characters. For example, they may have a strained relationship with a mentor or authority figure who challenges them to become a better person, or they may have a volatile relationship with a friend or loved one who is affected by their actions and decisions. These complex relationships can create tension and conflict, making it difficult for the audience to predict how the anti-hero will react in certain situations.


Finally, you can also add unpredictability to your anti-hero by including internal conflicts and dilemmas that challenge their moral compass and force them to make difficult choices. This can create a sense of uncertainty for the audience as they wonder how the anti-hero will ultimately handle these challenges. Overall, by giving your anti-hero complex motivations, relationships, and internal conflicts, you can add unpredictability to their character arc and keep the audience guessing about their actions and decisions throughout the screenplay.




5. SUBVERSION OF EXPECTATIONS


One way to add more subversion to expectations in a screenplay about an anti-hero is to give them unexpected or unconventional motivations or goals. For example, an anti-hero may initially seem selfish and self-serving, but as the story progresses, it is revealed that they are actually acting in the best interests of others. This subverts the traditional hero narrative and challenges the audience's expectations of the character. Another way to add more subversion to expectations in a screenplay about an anti-hero is to give them complex relationships with other characters. For example, an anti-hero may initially seem like an antagonist to the main character, but as the story progresses, they develop a close bond and work together to overcome challenges. This subverts the traditional hero-villain dynamic and adds depth and nuance to the character's relationships.


Finally, an anti-hero can add more subversion to expectations in a screenplay by having a complex character arc that challenges traditional notions of heroism and morality. For example, an anti-hero may start out as a character who is selfish and dishonest, but through the course of the story, they are forced to confront their own flaws and make difficult choices that ultimately test their moral compass. This subverts the traditional hero narrative and adds depth and complexity to the character's arc.




6. RELATABILITY


One way to make an anti-hero more relatable in a screenplay is to give them a clear motivation or goal that the audience can understand and empathize with. This could be something as simple as wanting to win a competition or as complex as seeking redemption for past mistakes. Giving the anti-hero a clear reason for their actions, it allows the audience to better understand their perspective and motivations, even if they do not agree with their methods or choices. Another way to make an anti-hero more relatable is to give them complex relationships with other characters. This could include strained relationships with mentors or authority figures, as well as close relationships with friends and loved ones. By showing the anti-hero's interactions with other characters, the audience can see the different facets of their personality and how they are affected by their relationships.


Additionally, giving the anti-hero internal conflicts and dilemmas can also help make them more relatable. By showing the character struggling with their own moral compass and questioning their own actions, it allows the audience to see them as more than just one-dimensional villain, but as complex and flawed individual who is struggling to do what is right. Overall, making an anti-hero more relatable in a screenplay requires giving them a clear motivation, complex relationships, and internal conflicts, which will help the audience see them as a fully realized and complex character, rather than a one-dimensional villain.




7. COMPLEX MORAL DILEMMAS


Give them a clear motivation or goal that drives their actions: This could be something as simple as wanting to win a competition or as complex as seeking redemption for past mistakes. As the story progresses, the anti-hero may struggle with internal conflicts and dilemmas that force them to make difficult decisions that go against their own self-interest. Explore their relationships with other characters: An anti-hero may have complex relationships with friends and loved ones who are affected by their actions and decisions. These relationships can provide opportunities for moral dilemmas as the anti-hero is forced to choose between their own desires and the needs of those they care about. Have them confront their own flaws and weaknesses.


Your anti-hero may have character traits that are harmful or destructive to themselves or others. As they are forced to confront these flaws, they may be faced with difficult moral dilemmas as they struggle to make the right choice. Create a sense of moral ambiguity: Instead of presenting a clear-cut moral dilemma, you can create a sense of moral ambiguity in the story by presenting multiple valid arguments and viewpoints. This can add complexity to the anti-hero's character arc as they struggle to make the right decision.



8. EMOTIONAL RESONANCE


Give your anti-hero a clear motivation or goal: Giving your anti-hero a clear motivation or goal that drives their actions can help make their character arc more emotionally resonant. For example, if your anti-hero is seeking redemption for past mistakes, this can add depth and complexity to their character arc and make their journey more emotionally resonant. Explore their relationships with other characters: Giving your anti-hero complex relationships with other characters, such as friends, loved ones, or mentors, can help make their character arc more emotionally resonant. For example, if your anti-hero has a strained relationship with a mentor who challenges them to become a better person, this can add depth and complexity to their character arc and make their journey more emotionally resonant.


Explore their internal conflicts and dilemmas: Giving your anti-hero internal conflicts and dilemmas that challenge their moral compass can help make their character arc more emotionally resonant. For example, if your anti-hero is forced to make difficult choices that go against their own self-interest, this can add depth and complexity to their character arc and make their journey more emotionally resonant. Use dialogue and action to reveal their inner thoughts and emotions: Using dialogue and action to reveal your anti-hero's inner thoughts and emotions can help make their character arc more emotionally resonant. For example, if your anti-hero is struggling with feelings of guilt or remorse, this can be revealed through their dialogue and actions, adding depth and complexity to their character arc and making their journey more emotionally resonant.



9. APPEALING TO ALL


Give them a clear motivation or goal that drives their actions. This can help make them more relatable and give the audience a reason to root for them, even if their actions may be questionable. Give them complex relationships with other characters. This can help to humanize the anti-hero and show that they are not just one-dimensional villains. Develop their character arc. As the story progresses, the anti-hero should be forced to confront their own flaws and make difficult choices that test their moral compass. This can help make them more compelling and give the audience a reason to care about their journey. Use humor. Adding some lighthearted moments and humor to the anti-hero's character can help make them more likable and relatable.


Show their vulnerabilities. Allowing the audience to see the anti-hero's vulnerabilities and weaknesses can help make them more human and relatable. Make them flawed but ultimately good. While the anti-hero may have questionable morals and actions, they should ultimately be working towards a greater good or have a heart in the right place. This can help make them more likable and give the audience hope for their redemption.



10. ICONIC & MEMORABLE


Give them a unique personality or set of characteristics: An anti-hero with a distinct and memorable personality is more likely to stand out in the minds of readers and viewers. Provide them with a clear motivation or goal: A well-defined motivation or goal can help an anti-hero stand out and become more memorable. Give them a compelling backstory: A rich and detailed backstory can add depth and complexity to an anti-hero's character, making them more memorable and iconic. Develop their relationships with other characters: Complex relationships with other characters can help an anti-hero stand out and become more memorable. Create compelling and iconic visual elements: A memorable appearance or set of physical characteristics can help an anti-hero stand out and become more iconic. Emphasize their flaws and imperfections.


Your anti-hero being flawed and imperfect can be more relatable and memorable to audiences. Ultimately, the key to making an anti-hero iconic and memorable in a screenplay is to give them a well-developed and nuanced character arc that challenges traditional notions of heroism and morality. By doing so, you can create an anti-hero that stands out and becomes memorable to readers and viewers.



CAN'T FORGET ABOUT THIS ANTI-HERO BELOW!!!




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