In the history of writing and literature there are many archetypes, for all sorts of characters and plot devices. They’ve come and gone over the years, falling in and out of popularity and some even evolving from another. While there are many types of these for heroes I’m going to focus on only one.
If you’re interested, follow that link to learn a little more about the history as I’m going to focus on the qualities that describe a Byronic Hero:
- Emotionally and intellectually tortured
- Highly emotional
- Spiritually doubtful
- Often reckless or suicidal
- Prone to bursts of anger
- Decidedly prone to substance abuse
- Dedicated to pursuing matters of justice over matters of legality
- Given to self-destructive impulses
- Seductive and sexually-appealing
Now at first glance, you get the impression that these characters aren’t very likable . In that case you’d be wrong. You see, Lord Byron created this archetype as an offshoot of a Romantic Hero.
It’s a hero very similar to the Byronic Hero but, at least in my opinion, lacks the oomph that it’s nastier cousin delivers. You see at the end of the day, despite all of the heroes faults and foibles, they are still held back by some inner compass bred from guilt and/or self-loathing that truly stops them from pushing their characters to the fullest.
The reason I always preferred Byronic Heroes, is that they are not only much more dynamic, but they’re also the most real. All of those traits that mark the Byronic Hero above are all very common human traits. Traits that all people, man and woman alike, tend to struggle with. They’re the bad boy to the extreme. The rebel without a cause, unless they choose to take one on at least.
To illustrate how Byronic Heroes have infiltrated not only popular culture, but the hearts of fans everywhere, please observe this picture:
There’s a certain devil may care attitude about them that I just can’t resist and I will admit, I do have a tendency to veer toward the Byronic in my writings. Not only do I find them so interesting, I can’t help but identify with a lot of those qualities on my list. And because I identify with them so strongly, I feel that others will as well.
It’s also a great archetype to use when designing a villain. Never forget, every villain is the hero of their own story. When people begin writing they tend to make their villain some kind of aloof evil mastermind going about his nefarious plots for some vague reason. This neglect toward one of the central driving forces of the plot can and will decrease the quality of your writing.
That’s the reason I like them so much. They draw people in, speak to their darker side. The traits and urges inside of everyone that one may not feel comfortable with letting out very often. This engagement is what pulls people back in time and again. It’s what will keep people coming back to check in on their favorite characters.
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So what do you think? Agree? Disagree? Think I’m crazy? Whatever you think, please leave your thoughts in the comments below.
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Featured Images: Tony Stark: Marvel Studios, The Huntsman: Universal Pictures, Mr. Rochester: Universal Pictures/Focus Features, Severus Snape: Warner Brothers, Jack Sparrow: Disney, Han Solo: LucasFilm