How to Write Better Heroes for your Stories

Heroes and villains in Edge of Tomorrow
Heroes and villains in Edge of Tomorrow

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IT happens to all of us at some point or another. We set out to make a certain character the Hero of our story only to have him turn into a wimp by the end of the tale.

What went wrong?

Here, curtesy of William M. Akers, are some suggestions to avoid this happening to you.

Writing better heroes

1. Heroes have well defined problems—-something they need to solve to win the prize, save the earth. But in order to do so heroes have to learn things about themselves, which may be even harder than the physical obstacles they encounter.

The physical barriers that heroes face are often reflections of the inner fears and thresholds that they have to  overcome in order to achieve the outer goal.

2. Heroes are active. They may be aided and abetted by a bevy of allies but they are the ones who initiate actions, reach for the goals and never quit until the bad guys are defeated and the goals achieved. In Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise keeps coming back to life again and again in an attempt to defeat the Mimics.

3. The Hero’s problem must be absorbing to an audience. The bigger the stakes, the more interesting the plight. In Breaking Away, the hero struggles to discover whether he is a bike rider or a stone cutter. This may not be much of a problem for you or me, but it is a problem for this particular character. Since we identify with the hero, we, too, desire that he solve it, and that he do so in an intriguing way.

4. Heroes must be steadfast. Aimless, unfocused Heroes who drift in and out of fuzzy situations are best left for art films with niche followings, because they will not prove widely popular with mainstream audiences.

These, then, are some of the characteristics that define the Hero in your story. So, when is your Hero not a Hero? When he turns into an aimless wimp.

Summary

Heroes are active problem-solvers whose actions drive the story forward. They are leaders not followers.

Published by

Stavros Halvatzis

I'm a writer, teacher, and story consultant.

2 thoughts on “How to Write Better Heroes for your Stories”

  1. Heroes need to be human. What makes a hero relatable is the fact that they are ordinary people with there own fears and believes that are put to the test when they are tossed into extraordinary situations. It’s when a hero’s trades and flaws are not probably fleshed out that causes one not to have an emotional connection with the characters. One example is Justin from the animated film Justin and the Knights of Valour. The reason why this medieval adventure is so flawed lies not in the predictable plot but rather the weak protagonist. The character of Justin is so perfect that we never really like him. He goes on a quest and achieves his main and only goal without obtaining any self discovery. Again a happy ending that is satisfying yet not effective. Take a film like Brave heart that is set in the same time period. The bio-scope would have been empty if Wallace was able to start a family with the love of his life and live out the rest of his days as a peaceful farmer. The tragic ending is extremely effective because it’s only in death that Wallace can be united with his wife – It’s as gripping as the ending of Gladiator , despite the hero dying at least he is at peace.

    In short : For a hero to be relatable , deny him what he wants most in life and force him to pursue new goals that starts a journey of self discovery within the hero’s soul.

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