Tall, Dark, and Heroic: Paul S. Kemp on How to Write Antiheroes

Writersdontcry Like that tall, dark, and handsome someone in the back of the bar, antiheroes command our attention and demand we try to understand them. They're deep, man, and though they have more baggage than a circus, their inner battles are riveting--fierce enough to rival their battles on the outside. Antihero_big

The antihero is the answer to today's complicated world. When good and evil are not so easy to separate, and every protagonist has their share of damning secrets, the golden hero of yesterday--in his innocence and good will--is unrelatable. The modern audience demands moral complexity--heroes who face the same challenges, temptations, and questions we do. Writing antiheroes is as complex and challenging as the antiheroes themselves--and so I knew I was going to need an expert. Someone who has delved into the heart of the antihero and shown, time after time, that they can capture an audience with their antiheroes, and not drive us away with the hero's darker tendencies. Someone like Paul S. Kemp.

PaulSKemp Best-known as The New York Times best-selling author and creator of Erevis Cale, who transformed from a cold-hearted killer into an antihero who would die for his friends, Paul S. Kemp has captivated readers with his dark but relatable characters for over a decade. And there's a reason he boasts such a fiercely loyal readership: his characters have a depth and a darkness to them that hooks right into your soul and pulls you under, into a story you'll be hard-pressed to put down.


1. What draws you to antiheroes?

I’m drawn to the anti-hero’s constant flirtation with redemption, the possibility that this horribly flawed person might, in the end, find meaning, and maybe even peace, despite the tribulations of the world and the questionable choices (s)he’s made. I love that. It’s symbolic of the tension between temptation and grace, the world and the afterlife (if you believe in that sort of thing), between surrendering to regret or finding inner peace. In that sense, the anti-hero embodies the kind of struggle and questions we all sometimes lay awake at night and ask ourselves.

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Comments (11)

Strong interview, excellent piece. Well done, Susan and Paul! :)


Posted by: Erik de Bie | Monday September 26, 2011 at 9:53 AM

Thanks, Erik! I think Paul has great insight into antiheroes. :)

Posted by: Susan J. Morris | Tuesday September 27, 2011 at 10:12 AM

There is hope and a kind of beauty in there somewhere, if you look for it.

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