This is part 3 in a series called The Epic Guide to Character Creation. In this part I will show you different hero archetypes. I will provide examples of characters from both literature and movies/TV-series to provide you with an overall understanding of fictional characters. Let’s get started:
Who is the Hero?
The hero of a story is also known as the protagonist. The hero is the main character of a story.
An important thing to note about this type of character is that the hero (the protagonist) doesn’t have to be the point-of-view character, even though it is common. The Great Gatsby is a novel where the protagonist (Jay Gatsby) isn’t the point-of-view character.
Another important thing to note is that you can, successfully, have more than one heroic character in your story. It’s not common, but consider The Lord of the Rings which contain multiple heroic characters.
A lot of your story’s focus will lie on your hero, so make sure you craft a complex and relatable character that the reader will love. With that said, let’s take a look at some guidelines for crafting a hero.
Categorizing the Hero
If you want to know more about the categories that follow, you can read the first post in this Epic Guide to Character Creation-series: The Epic Guide to Character Creation, Part 1: Categorizing Your Characters
Dynamic or Static, Round or Flat? You should craft a dynamic hero because it’s the hero’s experience and emotional journey that will be presented to your reader.
Your hero should also be a round character because he is the character the reader will spend most time with. To make sure your story is a worthwhile read for the reader, you need to make sure that he/she will get to know your hero.
Black, White or Grey? Your hero can range from everything between a white and a grey character.
You can craft a purely noble hero (white) the way many of the classic protagonists are. Your hero can also be good but have a tendency to make questionable decisions (which is more to the grey side).
Your hero can also take the purely grey side, and by doing this you will thereby craft an antihero (which I will cover in a later post in this Epic Guide to Character Creation-series).
The different hero archetypes, and some examples to these, are:
- The Charmer — Tony Stark in Iron Man and Avengers, Neal Caffrey in White Collar
- The Leader — James T. Kirk in Star Trek
- The Professor — Spock in Star Trek, Daniel Jackson in Stargate SG-1
- The Rebel — Django in Django Unchained, Robin Hood
- The Swashbuckler — Zorro in The Mask of Zorro, Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean
- The Warrior — Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter in Harry Potter
Descriptions of the Hero Archetypes
Here are a few notes on what signifies the different hero archetypes.
This hero archetype has allure, appeal, and charisma. He can also be witty and manipulative. The charmer is often irresistible but unreliable and reckless. It’s not uncommon that he is also somewhat narcissistic.
This hero archetype is active, decisive, and strong-willed. The leader is a man who grabs control of situations when it’s possible. He likes challenges and is often a born conqueror or leader. The leader can also be dominating and unsympathetic.
This hero archetype is analytical, an expert in his field/fields (whatever that might be), and carry a great intellect. He is often used to being the smartest person in the room. The professor can have flaws that are connected to communication or social events, and he might be more introverted than extroverted and thus be somewhat absent-minded.
This hero archetype can be a revolutionary, troublemaker, outlaw, and reformer. He may want to change the way people look at the world, have a strong pull towards righting wrongs, believe that what he is fighting for is more important than what the authority believes, and so on. The rebel is often opposing some ruling force.
This hero archetype is impulsive, fearless and exciting but unreliable. He uses flamboyant methods to reach his aim and is selfish in pursuing his goals.
This hero archetype is noble, tenacious, and a protector. The warrior is the defender of the weak. He believes that evil can’t go unpunished and is therefore compelled to see that justice is done. The warrior can also be sanctimonious and merciless with his enemies.
How to Choose a Protagonist
Choosing your protagonist is one of the most difficult decisions you will have to make in the process of crafting your story. However, there are some guidelines that may help you along the way.
It’s obvious that the first guideline is to have a protagonist that the reader can connect with. This is crucial if you want to draw the reader into your story and have him/her finish it.
Your protagonist needs to be likable or intriguing in some way or another for the reader to be hooked (no matter which archetype your protagonist is connected to).
Your hero should be admirable — in his goals and motivations as well as personality. The reader need to see that the protagonist cares about the consequences of his actions.
It’s also helpful to have your ideal reader in mind when choosing your protagonist. Your ideal reader is the person who will most likely read your story. This ideal person could be based on gender, age, interests, what beliefs he/she have, etc.
With this ideal reader in mind, what type of character would he/she connect with? What type of character would he/she find intriguing? Should the protagonist have the same beliefs or interests as the ideal reader? Should the protagonist be about the same age and be of the same gender as the reader? All of these things can help you craft a protagonist that your ideal reader will connect with.
It is important that your protagonist take action and advance the plot of your story. Don’t let your hero sit at home and wait for things to happen to him, make him the driving force.
Your protagonist should face conflict throughout the story, so you need to craft a strong and independent hero in order for him to pose as a viable threat to your antagonist. You need to craft a protagonist that can stand up to your antagonist’s actions.
Next week I’ll publish a post about antihero archetypes. If you’re interested, make sure to come back here next Tuesday. Until then, have a great week.
What type of heroes do you enjoy crafting? What type of hero archetypes do you enjoy reading/watching?
If you want to read more about hero archetypes there is a book called The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes which dissect hero and heroine archetypes and also which archetypes that can interact with each other in pairs.