Monday, June 6, 2011

Correctly Identify Your Hero

And so the question is: What makes a hero?

Your character is not a hero just because…
…he dies.
VICTIM does NOT equal HERO
People die every day. Some die young and some at the ripe age of 100+
That doesn’t mean they are heroes. Just because a good person who has everything good in the world going for them suddenly dies in a car crash, a freak animal attack, or even while trying to rescue another person from—let’s say a fire—doesn’t make them a hero.
Just because your character lives a good/decent life but dies a tragic death at the end your story DOESN’T make them a hero.
The true heroes in the “victim” situation are the ones who try to save the other victims.

Your character is not a hero just because...
…he lives.
Just like people die every day, not everyone dies. I mean you’re still here. I’m still here. Does that make us heroes? Your character could be stuck on the top floor of a burning building and have to wait for hours to be rescued while they watch everyone around them die. That still DOESN’T make them a hero.
The true heroes in the “survivor” situation are the ones who spent all those hours trying to rescue that character at the top of the burning building.

Your character is not a hero just because...
…you say so.
Um, no. Just…no. Let’s say your character is an immoral scumbag who treats people like crap. One fine day he is on a plane that has gone out of control and he lands it, thus saving the lives of everyone else on board, not just himself….that still DOESN’T make him a hero!

* Holding consistent moral values.
What does this mean? This means simply that your character won’t use deception or force to get what they want. John Doe would never force his subordinate to have sex with him for a better raise. Just like Jane Doe would never pretend to be pregnant just to get a man to marry her. Your hero would never do that.

* Taking responsibility.
John Doe would never say he didn’t drink that shot of whiskey right before flying a 747 full of passengers. Jane Doe would never cause an accident and then place the blame on the other driver.

* Cherishing that which genuinely matters.
Your hero will cherish his/her life. Integrity. Family. Loved ones. Dreams.

* Taking extraordinary action to preserve what matters
Defensive action and deception can be used only to prevent destruction.
John Doe lies to the terrorist about where the President is to buy himself time to disarm a nuclear bomb, knowing if he doesn’t succeed…the terrorist will kill him. Not only him, but his family, whom the terrorist is holding captive. You know the deal…struggle, shooting (maybe) some punches here and there…in the end the terrorist either dies or is captured.

Every action John Doe takes is moral.

So…is your hero REALLY a hero? Why or why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Happy Writing!

**Make sure you check out Thursday's post when Raven Clark will be blogging about How To Create a Hero**


  1. I appreciate your proper use of the em dash. Too often nowadays people leave spaces on either side of it.

    Thanks for the article, it'll help me pinpoint the traits of my main character better. :)

  2. I agree with what you're saying here, Ree, but I can't help but think that if I follow all those rules listed hero will seem too perfect. Nobody wants a perfect hero. I often give my heroes certain 'unlikeable' traits to give them a sense of realness. Things people can relate to. Cuz nobody is perfect. not even a hero. Or is that not a hero then?

  3. Great question(s) Cherri! Yay! I was hoping to have questions. :)
    You're right...nobody is perfect and nobody will want to see a perfect hero. Real people are flawed and unless you're writing about an all perfect world where everything is always hunky dory--well ok you wouldn't cuz there would be no story. It would be more like: There was this world and it was perfect. The End. Lol. Not exactly read worthy material there.
    But you can have your hero hold the heroic standards
    * Holding consistent moral values
    * Taking responsibility
    * Cherishing that which genuinely matters, and
    * Taking extraordinary action to preserve what matters
    and still be far from perfect.
    Here's an example:
    Jake Test is a detective whose family was murdered by someone he nearly put away. Now he's bent on getting revenge and bring that murderer to 'justice.' Along with any other criminal out there who have wronged innocents.
    But his experiences have left him a somewhat angry man. He is rude to people he doesn't like, has no patience with pollitics or religion--and he doesn't hesitate to say so. Yet despite this, he IS a hero. Why? Because he is fighting for justice. He takes responsiblity for what he does and says--never denies it. He values intelligence and honesty. And he goes to extraordinary lengths to keep his friends and colleagues safe.
    Basically if your character is supposed to be the hero--yeah he/she might have some fiesty attitude or other--but when it comes down to the wire, they either act like a hero, or they aren't a hero.
    I hope this helped.

  4. I read this when you posted it but was waiting for your response to Ms. Cherri's question. Lol. Mainly cuz I had the same one. Thanks for this! I've been struggling with my hero and now I know why.

  5. So glad I was able to help. Don't forget to check out Raven's post, which is a follow up to this one! It has some great advice :)

  6. Thanks for responding to my questions. I get it now :D There are some great points here and what you said is true--heroes aren't perfect but they do have to follow certain guidellines otherwise they wouldn't BE heroes. Thank you!



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