Heroes come and go. That’s certainly true of the fictional variety where very few linger in the mind beyond the last page of a novel. So what makes the perfect fictional hero? It’s not an easy question to answer because our characters likes and dislikes are wholly subjective yet there are hero traits readers are repeatedly drawn to. But before we come to them it might help to take a quick look at heroes from a classical perspective.
Perhaps the likes of mythological figures, such as Achilles or Hercules readily spring to mind or perhaps your thoughts turned to a more recent era and characters like Superman or Wonder Woman. What they alll have in common though (even when you strip away their superhuman powers) is a quality of character, like courage or honour, that elevates them above the ordinary. Leading them to stand resolute in the face of danger as they combat adversity through feats of ingenuity or bravery.
Thankfully the archetypical stereotype hero is falling by the wayside and the majority of heroes in contemporary fiction are a completely different breed. Remember the TV series Dexter or Lestat de Lioncourt from The Vampire Chronicles. We’ve come to love dysfunctional heroes and their flaws as much as we loved the classical heroes of old yet there are still some tenets authors favour when creating their characters. Now, remember we are talking about fictional heroes here and these are the top 4 attributes.
- A powerful backstory that sees our hero suffer in some unjust way which in turn becomes the trigger for change.
- Readers need to be drawn towards their fictional heroes and there is no better way for an author to do this than by making us worry about them.
- It should be a given and yet many authors underestimate the need for our heroes to be likeable. If not by us then at least liked by other characters in their story.
- Finally, fictional heroes need to be unique. Harry Potter has been reimagined by numerous authors thousands of times over with countless different boy wizards gracing the pages of contemporary fiction. The heroes that shine are the ones we haven’t come across before.
Out of all the points above, it’s the last one that presents the greatest challenge to seasoned and aspiring authors alike. Some instinctively get it right, others get it horribly wrong. It’s certainly a challenge for debut authors and one who has adopted a unique approach to his hero’s development is Author Hareesh N. Jayanthi. We recently reviewed his novel Hero which you can read HERE.