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We all know about the typical hero. We all know who our Anti-Heroes are. But do you know about the grey-hero?
We all understand the Grey Antagonist, but what about the Grey Protagonist?
Introducing the grey-hero
For example, you see it everywhere on Pinterest. “How to write a morally grey Antagonist!” “How a grey Antagonist Will Shake Your Readers.” They’re not wrong. A morally grey Antagonist IS a good Antagonist. Typically, you don’t want a bad guy who’s purely, 100%, Evil Mc.Evilness. People, particularly your readers are bored of that type of villain and I bet will also be bored of the golden hero AND the anti-hero Protagonist, as well. There is a fine line that can be so eloquently straddled to make a one-of-a-kind hero who’s neither your “Pure of Heart” or “Reluctant Anti-Hero”. Introducing: The Grey-Hero.
Choosing Your Protagonist Is Very Important
Above all else your hero is everything…your beautiful babe, your Protagonist. The light of every book’s life. Choosing the type of Protagonist you want for your novel is a big task, and one you should make quickly when beginning to flesh out your story ideas. Therefore, making that choice is highly determinate on the type of story you’re wanting to tell. Similarly, I’m a firm believer that the RIGHT Protagonist belongs to their RIGHT story. They fit together like puzzle pieces. For example, Jude Duarte from The Cruel Prince series. Firstly, Jude grows up in the land of Faerie, where being a mortal girl is rare and also demeaning-because typically mortals are used as slaves for the people who live there. Secondly, Jude spent most of her time there being severely bullied and abused by the people of Faerie, giving her a deep sense of powerlessness and fear.
Read The Cruel Prince Here!
The Hero, The Anti-Hero, & The Grey-Hero
Next, after choosing a great backstory and purpose for our Protagonist that fits with our specific story, we need to evaluate what type of hero they’re going to be. However, this post is focused of the Grey-Hero. A term I am coining right here, right now. A Grey-Hero isn’t going to be a viable option for every story, so be sure to understand. In other words, it may not be right for you and your story. This type of character is GREY. Simply meaning, they’re not going to always look like the good guy. They’re going to WANT to go to the dark side, they’re going to enjoy hurting specific people, they’re going to be assassins who love the art of killing. Their hearts won’t be made of pure gold, they won’t always do the right thing for the right reasons. They WILL BE highly conflicted.
What's the difference between the Grey-Hero and the Anti-Hero?
Anti-Heroes are still fricken heroes, okay? Typically, these characters are heroes who’s nature is still on the good side-but they’re just dressed up like the Big Bad Wolf. For example, in the 2018 adaptation of Venom. Eddie Brock sorta looks like an asshole. He’s blunt, doesn’t seem to give a shit, tells people off, and is generally not the ideal type for “The Hero”. Buuuut, deep down, we see Eddie doing all the right things. We even see Venom, the alien inside of him, making questionable choices for a “villain” to be making. Needless to say, without spoiling the ending for anyone, Venom and Eddie aren’t exactly “bad guys”. Their nature is more geared towards “good” than “bad”, IMO. Therefore, this now popular archetype isn’t necessarily as “grey” as their writers would like them to be portrayed.
Time to see The Grey In Things
My version of the Grey-Hero is a hero who doesn’t have that “pure of heart” nature that the Anti-Hero does. For example, Nova Artino from the Renegades Series by Marissa Meyer. Nova lies, Nova hurts her friends, and she loves fighting for what she believes is the right thing. Her character is the closest thing to my Grey-Hero. A Grey-Hero will be a Protagonist who’s fucked up, does bad things that matter to the plot, and who aren’t above screwing over the people they love to get what they want. I would give this Grey-Hero good qualities that even out the bad because they are the “hero” after all.
Why Have a Grey-Hero at all?
For example, the Grey-Hero doesn’t start off “good” and “pure” and then end “gooder” and “purer”. They start off as questionable people who do questionable things, but have the potential to end their story with a powerful change. With a dynamic, profound, actual life-changing change. That’s WHY we write stories! We tell human stories and people love reading dramatic character arcs like this. People in real life do reflect the Anti-Hero typically. But, a lot of people have done something bad in their lives. Most people have gotten revenge. Most people have lashed out or betrayed a friend and then later regretted it and did whatever they could to make it right. Our Grey-Hero is more like real people than any other hero, in my opinion. And what’s better than being relatable in fiction?
- Choose the right Protagonist for the right story.
- Take tips from the Grey-Antagonist
- Know the difference between the Traditional Hero, Anti-Hero, and Grey-Hero. They’re all different, have different arcs, and have different natures.
- Create a dynamic and profound character arc for your Grey-Hero to grow and ultimately change. Let them make those bad choices, that’s what they’re suppose to be doing for awhile. The Anti-Hero wouldn’t do what they’ll do, and that’s how you’ll know the difference.
Allow your Grey-Hero to be just that: GREY
I get that typically, our Protagonists can do no wrong. It’s Good VS Evil and all that shit. Good guys vs bad guys. Contrarily, I don’t think it should be that simple. Real life isn’t that black and white. Human beings are definitely not that simple. I considered this with my own Protagonist, Kara Ruzz, in The Mark of Creation. I started off writing the character as pure of heart, then an Anti-Hero, and ultimately a Grey-Hero because that’s what’s required of her in this specific story. As I wrote this character, I searched my history of novels, movies, and TV shows I loved and didn’t find too many main characters that fit my description of a Grey-Hero. I hope you find use for this character, and you do them justice. People do not get like the Grey-Hero with good, happy lives. They’ve suffered. Much like most of us.