559 Words About Antiheroines

ejwenstrom

Antiheroines have been on my mind a lot the last few weeks. Because Nia, the protagonist of my new release RAIN, is one.

And she is not an antihero in the vein of Adem (MUD), where he tries his earnest best, and he simply can’t seem to get it right.

Nia is bad. She starts out lonely and sad at the beginning of RAIN, but in her fight to protect herself from these things, she gets downright devious and selfish.

My editor even warned me: You are aware of how terrible Nia is, right? You did this on purpose? Just checking.

ejwenstrom

Did I do this on purpose?

Um, kind of?

As I wrote her, I was well aware of how terrible Nia was becoming. And I kept writing her that way anyway.

But … well. I am not one to blame my character for what I write about them—after all in my story world, all is whatever I say it is. But let’s just say that as the plot developed, terrible was the only appropriate direction for Nia’s character to go.

And while I stand by the story that is RAIN, I was nervous about releasing Nia to the world. In particular, I was nervous about making Nia my first impression to readers by giving her away to my newbies for free.

If people found this particularly unlikeable character, erm, unlikeable, would they find the novella as a whole unlikeable? Would they find me as an author unlikeable, or worse, unreadable?

ejwenstrom

Personally, I adore an antihero. I think Amazing Amy from Gone Girl is badass and important. I think Annie from Family Fang is a glorious, beautiful mess. Characters like Katniss, who start out innocent and clean but end up grim and terribly broken—that resonates for me.

(What does this say about me? I do not know.)

ejwenstrom

But our society does not do well—yet—with women who don’t stay in their tidy little boxes. We find them cute as children (Eloise, Ramona, Matilda) but when girls grow up, we expect them to put on a nice dress, cross their legs, and straighten the heck out.

Even though Amazing Amy was the villain in Gone Girl, and even though Nick was also unlikeable, readers criticized the book for Amy’s unlikeability. Other female antiheroes have gotten similar backlash.

Put otherwise: While male characters are expected only to be interesting, people want to be friends with female characters. (And I would not recommend being friends with Nia, even before her descent.)

ejwenstrom

But the antiheroine is important. The antiheroine is messy. The antiheroine pushes back on society’s expectations. Perhaps most important, the antiheroine is true.

It is scary, as an author, to put an antiheroine out the world. But, I think they’re important. Necessary, even. Not just because they challenge societal bounds put on women, but because it is honest about the human condition.

And as authors, if we’re not doing that, then what the hell are we doing?

Some great articles about the importance of antiheroines:

What do you think about antiheroines? Who are your favorites?

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6 thoughts on “559 Words About Antiheroines

  1. Jim

    I had a chat with a friend yesterday and I realized all of my favorite characters are really jerks and asses. I think the key is to have an even more unlikeable villain. And the protagonist has to have a very clear motivation and reason(s) to be flawed.

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  2. Tim Haynes

    Bad girls should be just that. Bad. Abrasive. Terrible...Even if they are the antiheroines. Otherwise, they're not very believable. Show me a villain or anti-anything that is actually soft and cuddly right under the surface, and I'll show you a book I didn't finish.

    Reply
  3. alrw

    A recent discovery, an antiheroine, is Cass Neary. For me she is the best in a long line of antiheroines in what is now a long reading life. She takes me to the edge of where it is so scary, where it may already be illegal but for the slightest of nudges. She goes where it is dark, where people are as damaged as she is. Could it be that she understands them? Yet there is always that glimmer of light- will Cass be saved? Will she come out of this? An old school camera accompanies her but author Elizabeth Hand saw her giving that to an interesting young girl in her latest appearance, "Hard Light". What will come next? First of all, catch my breath!

    Reply

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