Hi Gang, Craig here today. Put on your tinfoil hats, because I’m about to create a wormhole in the writing world.
Once Upon a time, I wrote a series about The Hero’s Journey, also known as the Writing Monomyth. It was fun, I got some good comments, then I came up with various expansion packs based upon this idea.
One of my recent Expansion Packs was called Character Archetypes + A Trick. It was based upon some standard characters that appear in the Writing Monomyth.
The fact is the steps from the Monomyth meld with the standard characters. So is this an Expansion Pack based upon an Expansion Pack? Can it serve as its own series, with some Expansion Packs of its own? It kind of blows my mind, but like Dr. Jeckyl once said, “Can’t know for sure until I drink the potion.” Away we go…
This is probably going to be the toughest one, because everyone instinctively understands this archetype. With few notable exceptions, this is your main character. This is the point of view readers are going to use to discover the story.
Your hero must undergo a character arc during the story. This means any sort of creed or beliefs they held true needs to evolve and improve by the end of the tale.
Not every character deserves to have their story told. Someone in a recliner, having a beer and watching Godzilla get defeated on CNN isn’t the person you want. You want your character on the ground and participating in some meaningful way in Godzilla’s demise.
I try to create heroes by starting with a nameless and faceless soul. At this point there is no race, creed, religion, gender, age, weight, or eye color. These are all window dressing. A hero should be an underdog of some kind, but not to the point of losing all credibility.
Look at your plot, and assess ways of overcoming the main event. It might be good to start a list. Will it take raw strength, intelligence, trickery, deception? How many ways can you find to overcome the main story problem.
At this point, it’s fairly easy to avoid the low hanging fruit. Choose one that will offer you some twists and turns as you write.
This may seem like I’m writing about plot again, but we use this information to decide who our hero is going to be. Raw strength might require a certain kind of character. Deception gives you a lot more options.
With deception, maybe you need a disgraced Evangelist, or a stock broker who lost his SEC license and did some time for insider trading. The plot requires someone who can get inside someone’s organization or inner circle, then lead the villain astray.
Maybe you need someone with knowledge of higher mathematics to provide solutions to a programmer who’s diverting a missile of some kind.
Make sure you have a way for a hero’s moment. At some point near the end of the story, they’re going to take center stage for the big smack down. (This doesn’t have to be a physical butt kicking, but it doesn’t hurt, either.) If you don’t, maybe you can tweak the character a bit to make sure this happens. This would happen face to face. Your mathematician might take some creativity to make this happen vs. someone who is going to have a physical fight.
Now it’s time for the window dressing. Human or not? Male or female? That sort of thing. I gave one of mine a mild physical handicap once. It really helped sell her as the underdog. Maybe you need a seafood allergy in a fishing village?
Your hero is also going to need a personality. Pick something people can relate to. It’s always easier if readers like your character. Yes, I know there are plenty of antagonistic main characters. I said a likable hero is easier, not the only way. Quirks, flaws, wounds, your hero needs these more than any other character, because readers are going to spend more time with him/her than anyone else in the story.
As I get into the other archetypes, some of them have specific character traits, too. You have a bit more leeway with the hero, than some of the others.
In an attempt at an example, I tend to write more stoic heroes. I surround them with a colorful supporting cast. This works for me, because in my stories the hero usually carries a lot of responsibility. They don’t normally have time for playing grab ass. That doesn’t hold true for my supporting characters.
That’s it today. The hero is hard to write about, because everyone pretty much understands it. As I get into some of the others, I might be able to offer some more unique spins. You can pick up the second post, The Mentor, at this link.
Leave me some comments. I love the comments section. Did you gather a nugget or two to help with your next story? Do you have a different tip to add?