Villains V. Anti-heroes: What’s the difference?

What? Why do you people always expect me to have an answer?

Kidding…

Villains are the ones that you love to hate. They are eyeball glue for fiction readers. Seriously–want to ensure that the reader will keep turning pages? Give them a well designed villain and an equally matched hero, and they will finish your book and get that Kindle pages read graph to sky-rocket.

When we think about the basic set up of a novel, what do we think of? Hero + Villain = story? Most of the time. Let’s look at that a bit closer.

Most people go that route because it is a less risky formula. It is easy, accepted and authors choose it for those reasons. The likeable protagonist is common because:

*The reader can identify with them easily and put themselves in the character’s place.

*The character embodies all the good things about ourselves and the world around us that we want to believe in.

*They offer one half of a classic dynamic that readers respond to on an emotional level.

Villains, adversely, prey on the primary and earliest fears of the reader. Remember that monster in your closet when you were six? He’s back. They open up our minds to the idea that not everything is as safe as we might have thought. They activate the fight or flight response in us that is hardwired into our brain (thank our ancestors for this trait. Try running from a hungry cheetah whilst hunting down your breakfast.) Or just go to Subway. Easier.

So–this conventional view makes sense. Hero that stands for all that is right and pure + Villain that is evil incarnate and stands for all the things we fear =

SEEN IT ALL BEFORE

What if we want to do something different? What if we want to risk using an anti-hero as our protagonist? Can you do that? Of course you can. You can do anything–you’re an author.

Anti-heroes are an interesting and conflicted character type to work with. Though the reader may not easily be able to see things from their point of view and step right into those tarnished shoes, anti-heroes are built with some form of redeeming quality. The reader may not agree with them, but they will surely be able to understand why they act as they do. Also, the anti-hero does not have to be fully redeemed by the end of the story. That makes for an unexpected character arc.  Lets take a look at some differences between anti-heroes and villains

Anti-hero: The anti-hero is almost never a willing participant. They do what they do because they have no choice.

Villain: Do what they do out of selfishness and a desire to conquer. Willingly plot and plan against protagonists (or in the case of super-villains, everyone else.)

Anti-hero: Can be very average, or even very unattractive, both physically and morally.

Villain: Can be unattractive, but is rarely ever just an Everyday Joe.

Anti-hero:  Highly versatile and able to transition between scenes easily. Just killed a bus full of bad guys? No problem. Show up two minutes later for his daughter’s graduation looking not the slightest bit disturbed.

Villains: Ego makes them a show off. Just killed a bus full of good guys? Take over the hero’s daughter’s graduation event to use the mic and brag about it.

Anti-hero: A mess of contradictory qualities. “I hate animals rights groups. I will kill them all. Oh…a kitten. I love kittens.”

Villains: Rarely have any redeeming qualities and have no issue being evil.

Anti-hero: Complex MO

Villain: Power, revenge, powerful revenge–selfishness.

Anti-hero: Can often appear to blend in with the good side as well as the bad side, equally as easily.

Villain: Imagine Otto Octavius sitting quietly through a hero awards ceremony. Yep.

Anti-hero: when forced to make a choice between two paths, one right, one wrong–will sometimes willingly choose wrong because the results are faster or less dangerous.

Villain: Chooses wrong because of the pure joy of being evil.

So now that we know some of the differences, we can easily also see some of the similarities.

Both character types do bad things–but for different underlying reasons.

Both types live at the edge of society and make choices that the reader might not make, but will certainly find enthralling.

Both types have issues with authority, but for separate reasons.

Both types can be motivated by self interest, although the anti-hero can often be motivated by love or the desire to protect someone or something.

Both types of characters require the reader to think beyond what they see in the every day world. They make the reader feel vulnerable–frightened even. You want your readers to feel something.

So how do I build a good anti-hero? The anti-hero is an excellent choice for an author. He or she does not have to fit a specific cookie-cutter type. Your Anti-hero can be outrageously sexy, or the guy on the hijacked plane with the bald spot and the stained t-shirt. They can swear every other word and be a racist, an ex-con, a loser who is at the lowest point in their life. Whatever you choose to do with them. Whatever works best for your story.

Here are the important things:

*They must have some sort of reason for their actions, and the reader must know what that reason is. Give them a back story. What made them who they are?

*They must be equal in intelligence (although it may be displayed differently) to your villain.

*They must display their reluctance at some point in the story–otherwise they are just a willing hero with some less than savoury qualities.

* If heroes are blue and villains are red, think of the anti-hero as purple. He is a combination of all traits, to be used at your will and command.

* He usually will have a fragile sense of self worth–this can make him both dangerous and demotivated–so give him a strong reason to care.

A few examples of anti-heroes:

Luke Jackson–Cool Hand Luke

Shrek

Han Solo

Dirty Harry Callahan

Who hates Shrek? Not most people, I wouldn’t think. He is an oddball character type. Some gross antics, not the best manners, negative and suspicious, suffers from ridicule and not all that excited about saving the day–but people love him for all of those things and more. The perfect anti-hero. (No, you don’t have to have a green character who eats eyeballs as your anti-hero, but he is a good example.)

I realise this is a long post, so I will wrap it up. One of the most important things you can do for your characters and for your readers, is allow your characters to grow beyond your own experiences and beliefs. Have you ever crossed the desert on a grumpy camel to save a princess who will thank you with disdain and ignorance? Me either. I bet I could create a believable character who could. So could you.

Do not limit your characters to only believing what you believe, speaking like you speak, and seeing the world through your eyes. Wherever possible, make them your absolute opposite. Yes, the saying has always been “write what you know,” but that only goes so far. Do you think that Anne McCaffrey really knew the Dragons of Pern or that all of the famous sci-fi writers of the 20th century really travelled to other planets for research? Don’t be afraid to be different. It just might pay off.

Go write.

Center of Gravity by Laura McNeill

Center of GravityCenter of Gravity by Laura McNeill

The truth could cost her everything.

Her whole life, Ava Carson has been sure of one thing: she doesn’t measure up to her mother’s expectations. So when Mitchell Carson sweeps into her life with his adorable son, the ready-made family seems like a dream come true. In the blink of an eye, she’s married, has a new baby, and life is grand.

Or is it?

When her picture-perfect marriage begins unraveling at the seams, Ava convinces herself she can fix it. It’s temporary. It’s the stress. It’s Mitchell’s tragic history of loss.

If only Ava could believe her own excuses.

Mitchell is no longer the charming, thoughtful man she married. He grows more controlling by the day, revealing a violent jealous streak. His behavior is recklessly erratic, and the unanswered questions about his past now hint at something far more sinister than Ava can stomach. Before she can fit the pieces together, Mitchell files for divorce and demands full custody of their boys.

Fueled by fierce love for her children and aided by Graham Thomas, a new attorney in town —Ava takes matters into her own hands, digging deep into the past. But will finding the truth be enough to beat Mitchell at his own game? Center of Gravity weaves a chilling tale, revealing the unfailing and dangerous truth that things—and people—are not always what they seem.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow! This is really a very compelling and exciting book. I read this in the space of one evening as I found it impossible to put down.

For anyone who has had issues with a crazy ex–this book will remind you why you were lucky to get away. I loved the relationship between Sam, Jack and Ava. The way the author portrayed the selflessness of the main character and her desperation to be with her children was so on target. I found myself wishing I could jump into the pages and fix the situation for her.

This story unfolds rather quickly, and after the first few chapters there is no way you can put it down without thinking about it when you walk away. The writing is excellent, the conversations seem realistic and the emotions that the characters display are genuine. This is an author who knows how to captivate her readers.

I did find in some places that Jack seemed a bit advanced for his age. Particularly in one spot where he is using a computer, it seems he has knowledge of how things operate way beyond his years, whereas the rest of the book he appears as an intelligent, yet appropriately minded young boy. I wanted to hug him.

Still, this was a nearly perfect book. It grabbed my attention early on and gave me a reason to keep turning pages–I even found that I missed the characters when the story was finished.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone looking for a great read. Fast paced, witty and well planned.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Wonder Fire By B.J. Webster

Wonder FireWonder Fire by B.J. Webster

1666, was called “The Year of Wonders”, despite it being a year of great calamity and disaster in London. The joke was, at least things weren’t worse than they were.

Who really started the Great Fire of London? Nobody knows for certain. The official line is that it was started in a bakery on Pudding Lane. The Privy Council concluded that the fire was caused by nothing other than ‘the Hand of God, a great wind and a very dry season’. But what if that was not the case? Could the Great Fire, which destroyed so much of the City of London, have been the result of a deliberate act? Let’s assume this is the case and delve into the motives of ambition, illicit affairs, unrequited love and political intrigue, none which was a stranger to the court of King Charles II.

Feel what it was like to live in 1666 and better understand the intricacies of politics, power and class divide of the time. Be drawn in by the fascinating web of intrigue and how it plays out to create one of the most devastating events in history.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wonder Fire by B.J. Webster, is an awesome book filled with historical knowledge as well as the author’s take on the happenings of London in 1666.

This is a great book for a variety of reasons. The setting was interesting and hasn’t been overused by other authors. The characters were realistic and I found the speech to be very authentically written. I want to shake this author’s hand.

I find that when you read a book that the author was really passionate about, it shows in their writing and this was definitely the case here. The author has written a beautiful book, but has also shown the true historical side of things. The depth of her research is clear in the little known facts available in this book.

I can’t say enough good things about this book. Highly recommended to anyone curious about this period of history.

This review is based on a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Awake by Natasha Preston

AwakeAwake by Natasha Preston

Scarlett doesn’t remember anything before the age of five. Her parents say it’s from the trauma of seeing her house burn down, and she accepts the life they’ve created for her without question—until a car accident causes Scarlett to start remembering pieces of an unfamiliar past.

When a new guy moves into town, Scarlett feels an instant spark. But Noah knows the truth of Scarlett’s past, and he’s determined to shield her from it…because Scarlett grew up in a cult called Eternal Light, controlled by her biological parents.

And they want her back.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Whilst I liked the idea behind this novel, I felt the execution was somewhat lacking. I struggled with getting into this book, since I didn’t find the main character’s personality to be very appealing. If I can’t relate to the MC, I have a hard time relating to the rest of the story.

The author has a good imagination, and some interesting ideas and I think this is a matter of staying tuned to see what happens next, after this book.

I thought the beginning of the relationship between the main character and her love interest had promise and hoped that would be the redeeming agent for the rest of the novel, but in the end, that did not happen in my opinion either.

I didn’t hate this book, but I can’t recommend it as one of my favourites either.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from Netgalley and the publisher. All opinions are my own.

The Idea of Love by Patti Callahan Henry

The Idea of LoveThe Idea of Love by Patti Callahan Henry

As we like to say in the south: “Don’t let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

Ella’s life has been completely upended. She’s young, beautiful, and deeply in love—until her husband dies in a tragic sailing accident while trying save her. Or so she’ll have everyone believe. Screenwriter Hunter needs a hit, but crippling writers’ block and a serious lack of motivation are getting him nowhere. He’s on the look-out for a love story. It doesn’t matter who it belongs to.

When Hunter and Ella meet in Watersend, South Carolina it feels like the perfect match, something close to fate. In Ella, Hunter finds the perfect love story, full of longing and sacrifice. It’s the stuff of epic films. In Hunter, Ella finds possibility. It’s an opportunity to live out a fantasy – the life she wishes she had because hers is too painful. And more real. Besides. what’s a little white lie between strangers?
But one lie leads to another, and soon Hunter and Ella find themselves caught in a web of deceit. As they try to untangle their lies and reclaim their own lives, they feel something stronger is keeping them together. And so they wonder: can two people come together for all the wrong reasons and still make it right? –goodreads

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A fascinating novel right from the start. The premise here–that two people could fall in love even if they hadn’t been honest with one another from the start, was explored in detail in a way that I wouldn’t have imagined.

Patti Callahan Henry has a gift for creating characters that are flawed, but in such a way that they feel so human, so familiar, you want to know them better. When I read her stories, I often find myself forgetting that this is a book and that these are not real people. They become your friends, your family, people you feel you could open up to. That’s a hard quality to find in a lot of contemporary literature.

From the start we, as the reader get that the characters are not being completely honest, and it makes for an interesting journey. Whilst part of me wanted to scream at them and tell them–“Stop! You are going to ruin a good thing,” part of me wanted them to continue and see how things would turn out.

This book also has some of the most honest sounding and genuinely believable dialogue I’ve seen in a long time. The writing flows so smoothly that you feel as if you are overhearing a private conversation.

The story never slowed down, the plot never lost steam and the characters got more intriguing with each turn of the page. A great book that you won’t want to miss out on.

An unusually enchanting novel with captivating characters.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

Somebody I used to Know by David J. Bell

Somebody I Used to KnowSomebody I Used to Know by David J. Bell

The breakout author of The Forgotten Girl and Cemetery Girl, “one of the brightest and best crime fiction writers of our time” (Suspense Magazine) delivers a new novel about a man who is haunted by a face from his past….

When Nick Hansen sees the young woman at the grocery store, his heart stops. She is the spitting image of his college girlfriend, Marissa Minor, who died in a campus house fire twenty years earlier. But when Nick tries to speak to her, she acts skittish and rushes off.

The next morning the police arrive at Nick’s house and show him a photo of the woman from the store. She’s been found dead, murdered in a local motel, with Nick’s name and address on a piece of paper in her pocket.

Convinced there’s a connection between the two women, Nick enlists the help of his college friend Laurel Davidson to investigate the events leading up to the night of Marissa’s death. But the young woman’s murder is only the beginning…and the truths Nick uncovers may make him wish he never doubted the lies.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really found this to be quite an intriguing book. The mystery is set up in the very beginning and continues to mature throughout the story.

The main character is able to carry a novel like this well enough, and I thought his profession and lifestyle was a good choice. He seemed like a ‘regular guy’ and it made it easy to relate to the way he thought about things and see his side more clearly.

The supporting characters in this book are good, and I enjoyed the various unexpected twists the plot turned. The only issue I had with this book, is that I felt like about 75% of the way through, too much was revealed, and I was able to guess the rest before it happened. The end came off as rather predictable. I’m still not sure if I could logically reason that things would work out so well in the real word–but hey, it is fiction. I did respect the author for spending time describing the importance of the character’s ex-stepson. It was nice to see a bit different relationship dynamic than the usual father protects flesh and blood scenario.

I liked the interactions between the main character and his dog. With all of the intense things happening in this story, I felt that simple thing really helped to ground this story.

Overall, I was impressed with this book. It made me wonder what was going to happen next for a large majority of the story. It made me laugh a couple of times and in the end, the characters and story were memorable.

Recommended.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through Netgalley. All opinions are my own.

Here’s your chance to win a copy of “If Jack Had”

Would you like to win a copy of an exciting Ebook? Here’s your chance! Simply share this post with your favourite social media outlet and then drop me a comment to let me know you did. A winner will be chosen tomorrow afternoon 6/27. Find out all the details on this book below! It’s one you don’t want to miss :)

If Jack Had High Res front
About If Jack Had:

“What’s the difference between a serial killer and an assassin? A pay check.”

Jack is a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times journalist with a secret second job. Since he was a smart-ass grad student slinking around New York’s Upper West Side and Brighton Beach, he’s been working as an assassin for the Russian mob.

Beginning at the end – that is, with an aged, incontinent, and at last truly alone Jack, his mind made up that tomorrow will be the first day he kills someone he loves: himself – If Jack Had [Black Rose Writing, June 4 2015] tells his story in rearview, providing an all-access-pass into the enviable, high-flying life he clear-cut for himself against all odds…and the (literal) trail of dead he left along the way.

The debut novel from sixty-eight-year-old Manhattan author Steve Rappaport, If Jack Had is, much like its protagonist, more than meets the eye. A caper comedy featuring sex and drugs, blasphemy and blood, far-flung exotic locales and all the other stuff that makes for good, not-so-clean fun, If Jack Had also happens to have a big, beating heart. Beneath the surface, it’s a meditation on family, fatherhood, the indignities of aging, the inevitability of loneliness, and the preciousness of life itself.

headshot sr
About the Author:

Steven Rappaport, age 68, has been a stock trader, pot dealer, itinerant hippie peddler, cab driver, retailer, and is currently a successful commercial real estate salesperson in Manhattan. He offers a simple rationale for his first novel: “My eldest son, Jack, died at forty from a progressively debilitating, unknown neurological disorder. This brilliant boy, a Vassar grad, never got to live the life he deserved. I’ve infused him with one.”

If Jack Had [Black Rose Writing] is available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and in brick-and-mortar bookstores nationwide as of June 4, 2015.

Find If Jack Had on Goodreads and at http://ifjackhad.com

My Review:

I think the blurb description of this book is very apt. It is dark, and it is ironic. This is a gritty, no-holds-barred type of book that will not be for everyone, but those who love it will truly love it.

I’ve always liked narrators that get right to the heart of the story and tell you how they feel about life, and you definitely get that with this book. From his adventures as a much younger man to the final moments of his life, this narrator gives it to you straight and doesn’t hold back.

This is the kind of book that keeps you wondering what will happen next, makes your imagination run wild and then twists and goes for shock value when you don’t expect it to. Kind of reminded me a little of Pulp Fiction, at least in the way the atmosphere of the story came across.

I think people who enjoy books that are a bit outside the conventional will find something to love here. There’s some dark humour worthy of a good laugh, an interesting story and a character strong enough to lead a book like this. Overall, I thought it was definitely worth a recommendation.

This review is based on a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

D. E. M. (Deus Ex Machina) by Lee Ness

D.E.M. – Deus Ex Machina by Lee Ness

No good turn goes unpunished!

When Rachel is spurred to use her computing skills to find an abducted boy, she has no idea that it will bring her to the attention of an anonymous vigilante. Is the vigilante what he seems and what does he want with Rachel? As she gets drawn deeper into his world she tries to find out more about him only to put herself and her friends in grave danger. When she finally realises that he isn’t a vigilante at all, Rachel is in a race against time to save her friends and prevent him from escalating the war between Israel and Palestine.

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pleasantly surprised is the way to describe my reaction to this book. Although I am not a huge fan of political thrillers and have limited knowledge when it comes to computer operations, this book offered a lot more than that to the general reader.

The author wastes no time creating an interesting situation for the main character and pulling the reader into the story. From the beginning I could identify with the main character, although we don’t learn much about her until later in the book.

I thought her background and the way the author connected it to the story was really well planned and I liked all of the unexpected twists in this story. Try as you might, you won’t be able to figure this one out until the very end.

The descriptions of the procedures the hackers used were interesting and kept me wanting to find out more, and the relationships between the characters grew more intense throughout the story. This is the kind of book where you are never sure who to trust and that makes in an exciting journey.

Overall, I thought this was a great book and would encourage other readers to give it a try.

About the author:

“I was originally a non-fiction author, having written two sports books (The Sports Motivation Master Plan and Growth: Using the Mindset Model for Sporting Success). But once I had the writing bug, I had to write a novel. The first one I created in my head while driving a very slow mini-bus full of athletes to and from a competition. After 5 hours driving, I had the basic plots for a series of novels about a future Olympian in ancient Greece. I wrote the first of these, Hoplite over the next year or so, but I wisely decided not to publish. I didn’t have the skill at that point and the book wouldn’t have been ready. I edited about 7 times and removed the first 8 chapters.
While I was deciding what to do, I wrote a short story. I enjoyed the story so much, and the two characters in it, I decided to turn that into a full novel and the short story became chapter 1. With what I’d learned from writing and editing the first book, I felt a lot better. It still needed some serious editing and I made a few mistakes originally, but I think the book is much more polished and has a great pace (in my opinion!)
So became D.E.M. – Deus Ex Machina. It came from the short story, which in turn came from a piece of advice given to me long ago as a young manager “No good deed goes unpunished!” Additionally, I just loved the term Deus Ex Machina. So three separate things came together and the story is where they intersect.
Writing D.E.M. has helped me rewrite the original novel, which I’m releasing in 6 parts on e-book over the course of 2015 and on paperback in December. I’ve written the follow up to Hoplite, which I’m just finishing the final chapters on now, and then I have the full plot for D.E.M. – Quid Pro Quo. I’ve given myself the target of releasing that one on 01/01/16, which will be a challenge, but people who’ve read the first one keep asking me for the second, so I can’t let anyone down.”

Siren’s Call by Debbie Herbert

Siren's Call (Dark Seas)Siren’s Call by Debbie Herbert

Lily Borsage is the ultimate siren: gorgeous, aloof and irresistible to all the men in Bayou La Siryna. All of them, that is, until Nashoba Bowman comes back to town. The Native American kid whose innocent first kiss Lily remembers fondly is now all grown-up, hot as an Alabama summer and immune to Lily’s charms. What self-respecting mermaid could resist finding out more?

But Nash has a dark history that puts any woman he loves in grave danger, and a heritage of power he isn’t ready to accept. And Lily has a secret that no mortal man can ever know. When a mysterious enemy starts menacing Lily, they will both have to risk everything and embrace their deepest destinies if they want to survive.


My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Debbie Herbert has done it again, bringing her readers the magic of attraction and romance tinged with danger and the unknown.

Love this book. Just like the others in this series, this novel is filled with things that will make you swoon–most especially the male lead. Of the three books I have read in this series, this one is my favourite. It was nice to get updates on the lives of previously featured characters, and I really felt like the author tied everything together in this novel.

Debbie Herbert is really good at building unique situations for her characters and creating the kind of chemistry between them that you want to see in a romance. Her couples feel really genuine and the story line feels very natural and not contrived.

It is easy to become swiftly involved in these stories and find yourself lost in the lives of these women. The setting was as beautiful and mysterious as the rest of the series, and makes you wonder if there just might really be mermaids in the Bayou.

This was a great novel, and one that I happily recommend. If you are looking for a story that has more than just a simple romance, this is the way to go.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the author. All opinions are my own.

Every Breath You Take by Bianca Sloane

Every Breath You TakeEvery Breath You Take by Bianca Sloane

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, Natalie Scott goes jogging along Chicago’s lakefront. She likes foreign films, cinnamon gum and strawberry yogurt. She smells like sunflowers in the summer and roses in the winter.

These are just a few of the things Natalie’s stalker knows about her.

In fact, he knows everything about her.

In one brutal act of violence, Natalie’s stalker will reveal himself to her, imprisoning her in the process, determined to own her body and soul. Now trapped in a madman’s web, Natalie finds herself in a terrifying battle of wills where the only way to survive is to beat the monster at his own game…

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I look forward to new Bianca Sloane novels for a lot of reasons, but mostly it is her incredible ability to create plot twists that the reader never expects.

“Every Breath You Take” is a perfect title for this book. The author has not only shown us what it is like to be stalked, tortured and desperate, but has given us a more in-depth look at the world of serious psychiatric disorders and the darker side of obsession.

The main character in this story has been through a lot, and yet remains strong and even likeable all the way through the book. I could easily identify with her desire to be free of burdens from the past and want to start anew, and I found my own emotions following that of the character through each event in the book.

I was particularly impressed with the dynamic between kidnapper and kidnapped. Watching the main character gain understanding of her captor and how to use his own desires against him was interesting and kept me on edge.

Once you start reading this book, you won’t want to stop. I found it hard to put this novel down and do much of anything else. This story is quickly paced, intelligent and has the kind of characters that it is easy to love (and hate.)

If you are looking for a good book to take you away from everything, this is one you can get lost in.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the author in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.