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Monday, May 27, 2013

The Making of a Hero

Picture Credit: http://mainecatholic.blogspot.com/2003_07_01_mainecatholic_archive.html

For anyone out there who did not grow up watching Underdog, I am very sad for you because you missed out on the best childhood superhero of all time. :) But to keep you from getting too depressed that you have forever missed out, I'll go ahead and say that Batman is the best superhero now.

Picture Credit: http://www.khamis.ae/2013/05/%D8%B5%
I see all the superhero movies that come out, but they captured such an unforgettable character with Batman that I think he's hard to beat. And how can you not love Alfred? He makes me really want a butler. :)

Think about your favorite hero, whether it's a superhero or simply the main character from any story. What draws you to that hero? In order to make the hero or heroine in your story as good as possible, try to incorporate some of the things you see well done in other characters.

I have a list of 8 things that I believe are true of any good hero. See what you think, and please tell me if you feel there should be more added to this list.

Hero Characteristics

  1. Readers must connect
    • A good hero will make readers (or viewers if we're talking about a movie) long to see him victorious. Have you ever read a book or watched a movie and you find that you don't care if the bad guy wins? (Yes, I know you root for the bad guys sometimes, Tayla.) Chances are that you are having a hard time connecting with the hero.
    • Help your readers to connect by giving your hero desirable qualities, realistic weaknesses, and putting him in a situation where he is in over his head.
  2. Set the hero apart
    • What makes your hero or heroine different than any other person your reader will pass on the street? She does not need superpowers, by the way. Actually, if she is so powerful that nothing around is a threat then the story runs a serious risk of being boring. But there should be a reason that she is specifically meant for the part she plays in the story.
    • Take some time to think about why you chose her and her personality.
  3. The hero must be willing
    • There are some amazing stories out there where the hero does not feel capable of doing what he is destined to do, and he does not want his quiet world interrupted. That's great. But at some point the hero must decide to act. Even if he never does enjoy the role he plays in the story, he should at least decide there is a higher duty than doing what he wants. 
    • No matter how you get your hero to act, he must be a willing participant in the story. If he is being dragged every step of the way then he's not going to be much of a hero. He should find himself in a position that he can't refuse his role even if the option is presented to him.
  4. A hero will sacrifice
    • A hero or heroine will work for something she believes in. She will be willing to sacrifice something important to herself for the overall good she hopes to accomplish. In the best stories, she is not only willing to sacrifice, but she is also required to make that sacrifice. Readers have a much easier time connecting with a heroine who life hasn't been good to. They will feel her pain when her sacrifices come.
  5. Heroes have trials
    • I have implied this one in talking about other things in this list, but hardships in some form are essential. If the hero has an easy life, no one will get involved in your character. If all the bad guys attempts are simple to overcome, readers aren't going to feel threatened by the bad guy. It's universal to like to watch/read characters overcoming hardships. If there's nothing to overcome, you are simply writing an essay about how perfect your hero's world is.
  6. The hero must need help
    • Every hero or heroine needs help from someone. Independence is a good trait, but if she can handle everything on her own, then she isn't thrown into a hot-enough fire. She might feel alone, but she should receive help at some point. The help can come at the beginning in the form of a mentor who teacher her how to cope with the challenges that are involved in the story. Or the help can come later. But a perfect character who can handle all situations by herself isn't as compelling as one that hits brick walls.
  7. A Hero is powerful
    • I do not mean here that your hero considers himself powerful. But in the story, no matter how much outside help he's getting, he must find that he is strong enough to complete the task he's given. This doesn't have to be a defined quest. It could be a compelling story about a teenager struggling to overcome abuse. Or any other of the unlimited options out there for a trial. But he must be able to fulfill the role you have assigned him in the story.
    • If you are writing a sad ending, this is still true. Even if your hero dies at the end, he should still be strong enough to fulfill his role before his death. 
  8. Heroes change
    • During the course of the story, some change should take place in the hero or heroine. She should be different for what she's gone through. This is generally called character growth, but the term can be misleading. Your heroine doesn't have to be a stronger person at the end, though usually she will be, but she should recognize that she will never get her old life back--not in the way she remembers it. 
    • The Lord of the Rings accomplished this one well. Think of the end of The Return of the King. (Spoiler alert for anyone who is REALLY behind at watching movies) None of the main characters are the same as at the beginning. The scene that shows the four hobbits back home in the tavern together is almost sad. Without any words, the movie portrays the fact that life is forever different. Frodo finds he can't live among the other hobbits anymore.


  1. Heroes are a tricky bunch! This reminds me of my own character Aster the Terrible and I had a panic attack when I thought that he was just dragged through the action, then I realized that he had a change of heart near the end and WAS different, not self-centered anymore.
    And your comment about me liking the bad guys made me laugh, yes it's true, but only SOME bad guys, they're more interesting than the stereotyped good guys. =D

  2. With all the thought and attention you give Aster the Terrible, I can't see him being a flimsy good guy! I feel like he's a good friend of yours that I'll get to meet when you publish your book. :)

    And I agree that stereotyped good guys are no fun. I think they ruin the story faster than a poorly-done bad guy.