Crafting a Legend - How I Created My Anti-Hero
The Queen of Magic series is the first in a long line of planned stories, collectively known as the Legends of Savros. The Queen of Magic herself, Salaire, is the first such protagonist.
But when I think "anti-hero", I think of pirates, leather jackets, scars, and poorly addressed addiction. Salaire only has one of those things!
Per Dictionary.com, the definition is a lot more vague than I expected:
Anti-Hero: a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes.
That may be all it takes to make an anti-hero, but what makes a good anti-hero? The kind we get attached to even as they struggle and fail and make terrible choices. Is it someone relatable, someone who isn’t squeaky-clean in their ethics, someone who…smokes?
Salaire is an anti-hero after all. She's on the side of "good", a protagonist who resists the role of hero at every turn. She weaponizes her imperfections and outcast status to protect herself. Morality is secondary to survival - something we see in some of the most beloved anti-heroes.
And like many other anti-heroes, she started out as an act of rebellion.
I wanted to be worse.
I didn’t set out to create an anti-hero when I created Salaire. I wanted an outlet. I was a teenager, bearing a burden of abuse and neglect and loneliness so deep it was berated as antisocial. And above all, I was trying to get better, to be better.
But I didn’t want to be better. I wanted to be worse. I wanted to retreat into myself, to lash out at any attempt to enter my space, to not care what anyone thought of me, to be the messiest and meanest version of myself freely.
I knew what I wanted, and I knew what was good for me. The dichotomy between these two raised the question: What would someone like that actually be like?
And so Salaire was born. Sharp-tongued, witty, impatient, independent, and without a damn for what anyone thought. But even in this fantasy, that person couldn't exist.
The Good Place, a marvelous and deeply philosophical show, argues that people can only become their best selves when surrounded by the right people. So, at a time in my life where I was without any such people, I gave them to Salaire.
I gave my hero what I didn't know I wanted for myself.
It changed her. She was deeply compassionate, protective, and caring even if she wasn’t soft. Her pride was still there, all of her weapons forged over a lifetime of abuse and fear and survival were still there, but she could set them aside. Begrudgingly, perhaps, but progress is progress.
I think back to when, years after creating Salaire, I met my dearest friend. For years and years I’d been pressured by everyone in my life to change. To be more feminine, to be more social, to be more friendly, to be more patient and understanding and likeable and less me. I only retreated further.
Until I was able to distance myself from those people. The moment that pressure lessened, I became more feminine, more social and friendly, more patient and understanding. When I found people who didn’t ask me to change, I finally could.
As if it were a premonition, the same change was reflected in Salaire before it reached me.
I don’t believe a good anti-hero is some cool, rough-around-the-edges almost-villain. I don’t think it’s the guy with a romanticized addiction who can be fixed. Perhaps it’s instead the person who is merely bent on survival until, finally, they are given the space to thrive. To feel safe.
Perhaps it is simply the person waiting for any reason to be better.