Holding Out for a Hero: Discussing the Hero Archetype

by Sarah Perchikoff

Who doesn’t like a hero? They save the day, go on adventures, and maybe even get a love interest. Yes, the anti-hero is fun and broody and will stab someone for no reason, but that doesn’t mean the hero can’t be multi-layered. They don’t have to be boring and if you’re writing one, they definitely shouldn’t be. Your reader will spot a boring hero from a mile away. When you think of a hero, who’s the first character that comes to mind? For me it’s Superman. And no offense to Superman, but he seems so boring. He’s nice and always saves the day and is always right and never loses. Ugh. He’s perfect. Who wants perfect? Perfect is hard to connect with or relate to. A good hero needs a flaw. Just because they're the hero doesn’t mean they can’t be vain or envious or maybe even a little bit bitter. It’s their actions that make the difference between them and the antagonist. Even Captain America, a hero who could easily be portrayed as perfect, has his issues. If we go by the movies, he’s stuck in a world he doesn’t entirely understand and the people he once trusted don’t seem so great anymore. And for goodness sake, his best friend is back from the dead and trying to kill him! He has to think about what’s right and wrong and, in some cases, break the rules. The same goes for characters who some might not think of as heroes. Frodo Baggins goes to hell and back and is by no means the same person he was at the beginning of The Fellowship of the Ring. He can be mean, possessive, and shady, and yet, he’s still the hero of the book. He took on the ring and with some help (and the loss of a finger), he achieved his goal. Little ol’ him. A hobbit only Gandalf thought could make it that far. I love when heroes are unsuspecting people. Little kids or animals or people who aren’t given a thing in life. Because, despite every law of nature saying “No, you're not the one. You aren’t strong enough. You couldn’t possibly do it,” they do! They make stories so much more captivating and draw you in like nothing else. When writing a hero for your own work, whether it be a romance, mystery, fantasy, or something else, make sure they have enough depth that they don’t become boring or meh to your reader. While Sherlock Holmes may seem like a perfect “hero” type, remember he’s also addicted to drugs and has bouts of depression. A perfect hero can be very one note. But that doesn’t mean you can’t play with the perfect hero stereotype in your writing. Perhaps you start off your story making the reader think your hero is the epitome of perfection and then flip the switch on them a couple of chapters in. A reader will want to know what happens next! Who are your favorite heroes? What do you do to make your hero interesting to your reader? Let us know in the comment section below! We love hearing your thoughts.

About the Author: Sarah Perchikoff is a writer and bookworm. She lives with her miniature dachshund named Gracie. You can find her on Twitter @sperchikoff or at her book review blog, Bookish Rantings.

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