Friday, February 20, 2015

Thinking About Anti-Heroes

It is 32 degrees out and raining tonight. That means another drop in temperature and the roads could become black ice which was predicted yesterday and the reason I canceled hotel reservations (and the doggie motel reservations) to a Writing Conference. I had literally endured the last sixty days or more waiting for this occasion. So the weather was not my friend for this weekend. Then when DH got up this morning with a sore throat and congestion, I just settled in for another winter weekend.
Between dog needs, hubby needs, food preparation (which was mighty sparse today!), I read around in a few books I have going at the moment. I read a few pages in a book on writing the bad guys in fiction. Jessica Page Morrell author of Bullies, Bastards & Bitches gave me a couple of quotes I thought worthy of keeping.

“When characters behave or misbehave we learn.”

“In fiction, you get a chance to explore why people act as they do and these explorations are deeply satisfying.”

This author also gave quite a list for defining an anti-hero. Some of my chosen pointers:
 *not role models but we often wish we had their pluck.
*selfish people who are sometimes good too
*unattractive in character as well as appearance
*complicated motives for their behavior
*show little remorse for bad behavior

Then this afternoon I watched Olive Kitteridge with sickly DH. I have read this book a couple of times and once with my book club. My first reading of Elizabeth Stroud’s prize-winning novel left me cold. I could not see what was so special about it. But a second reading and I fell for the protagonist (and anti-hero?)  Olive and all her imperfections. She is an unlikable character really, but she has qualities all of us might have exhibited at one time or another.

She is a demanding mother to point of driving her child away. She hammers on her husband until readers want to reach into the book and smack her. She considered having an affair with a drinking, poem reciting English teacher while ignoring her husband who was attentive, gentle, kind. But how can readers fault her for that when many women are drawn to the Bad Boys over the Good Guys! She is downright witchy in teaching math at a junior high…but hey, isn’t that the reputation of junior high teachers if they actually teach the material instead of running for Most Likeable Teacher?

I found the HBO mini-series pretty faithful to the book. Frances McDormand was perfect for playing the role of Olive. It was painful watching the character in some of her self-destructive ways, but on the other hand, she is a mirror for learning who we don’t want to be. When the character of Olive misbehaves, we learn; it is satisfying as explore what makes Olive act the way she does.
I have much to learn from Olive Kitteridge and from Elizabeth Stroud and Jessica Page Morrell. I have a hard time letting my characters do bad things. These women, both fictional and real, will help me learn how to get my own anti-heroes on a page.

Have you read or seen Olive Kitteridge?

Who is your favorite anti-hero from fiction?


Sioux said...

I started Olive Kitteridge and couldn't get into it. I guess I should retry?

My favorite antihero? I'll have to think on that..

Anonymous said...

Hope you don't pick up the bug from your DH....

Patricia A. Laster said...

I read said book, but have no memories of it except that it was supposed to be a good book. I don't like to show my characters as doing bad things, either, tho I know the "rules" of characterization. Great post, m'dear. Are you working on the Bombadil project? I can't yet, but more and more it is attaching to my inner need.

Linda O'Connell said...

I started reading Olive Kitteredge, but ended up giving it to Goodwill. This weather is responsible for your missing that conference, and that is so aggravating. I know how you must feel.

Lisa Claro said...

Frances McDormand is fantastic in anything, and though I never saw the series you've mentioned, I remember reading about it, and the book upon which it was based. I tend to lean toward characters I like and would want to sit and chat with over coffee rather than those I don't, so I'm not sure how well I'd do with this book.

Lisa Claro said...

Oh! And I hope DH feels better soon!

marylin warner said...

I had the very same reaction to Olive Kitteridge, Claudia...the first time I started to read it. I put it aside and picked it up months later and really got into it, and then when the movie came out I fell in love with Frances McDormand's portrayal of Olive.

Your summary of it is excellent. And your notes on anti-heros are very good. It gives us much to think about as writers.