Heroes And Anti-Heroes – What’s The Difference?

We are often asked about the differences between heroes and anti-heroes on our Writers Write course. There are many including the storytelling truth that heroes need confidants and mentors, while anti-heroes need sidekicks.

According to the dictionary a hero is ‘a person who is admired for their courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities’. A fiction hero is a ‘character in a book, play, or film, who is typically identified with good qualities, and with whom the reader is expected to sympathise’.

The anti-hero is ‘a central character in a story, film, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes’.  These missing attributes include idealism, courage, and morality. Anti-heroes can sometimes do the right thing, but it is usually because it serves their interests to do so.

Anthony Ehlers compiled this list as a guide for aspiring writers.

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This article has 6 comments

  1. J.E. Rogers

    Super post! Thank you so much for the succinct characteristics. I will certainly keep this around while writing my second book, which includes one of each of these! Cheers.

  2. Alison Strachan

    I don’t necessarily agree with this list. Why does the hero have to be “classically handsome or beautiful” ?

  3. Caitlin W.

    I agree with Alison. It is certainly possible to pick a number of traits from the hero side of the chart and apply them to the antihero, and still come out with an excellent antihero, and vice versa. This list works as an outline of stereotypes, but not much more.

  4. Janet W.

    Thank you! as a newbie in writing. I really love the helpful hints. I post them over my desk and it helps a lot. If there are any other helpful hints, please post.

  5. Hannah Bodkin

    What would happen if my character falls under both these categories? Half the time he’s a hero, half the time he’s an anti-hero. What should I think then?

  6. Mary

    The “hero” doesn’t HAVE to be “classically beautiful or handsome”, they just usually are.

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