Would you rather be a tragic hero or a likable villain? Aren’t they the same thing? Both are misunderstood, and likely problematic. The difference is that you feel sorry for one, and feel guilty being fond of the other.
I have reasons for doing the things that I do. We can all justify our decisions and rationalize our actions. You can agree or disagree with what a character, or a person, does or doesn’t do. A lot of how they’re received will depend on their attitude. If I’m humble and express regret over what must be done, the hard decisions I am making, you’re going to be more inclined to see me as a tragic hero. If you agree with me, you can see that it takes a toll on me. Even if you disagree, you’ll still know that I did the wrong thing for the right reason.
If I take the exact same actions, make identical decisions, but I’m confident to the point of arrogance about it, you’re going to hate me. Even if you agree with me, you might think I’m an ass. If you disagree with me, you’ll hate me even more because I’m so unapologetic about it. My charisma and likability won’t absolve me of my villain status. My heart reveals me as the bad guy.
A Tragic Hero or a Likable Villain
The one thing a tragic hero and a likable villain have in common is that they’ll both lose in the end. You’ll feel bad either way. Sad for the hero for the tragedy of it. Sad for the villain because you kind of adored them. It really is the same character with a different perspective.
The Merry Writer is a writer’s game on Twitter run by Ari Meghlen (@arimeghlen) and Rachel Poli (@RPoli3). Each day there’s a new question, and each month there’s a new theme. In these posts I expand upon the answers that I’ve posted on my Twitter.