Creating a Hero or Heroine that Captivates Readers
I don’t know about you, but I read fiction for the characters and the adventure those characters go through. Like most readers, I want vivid heroes who draw me into their situations and, often when I don’t get into the main character, I put the book aside. But how do writers create those attention-grabbing heroes?
Here’s what some of my favorite writing experts have to say.
- First, don’t create a wimp. Follow Jack Bickham’s advice from 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes. “Fiction writers too often forget that interesting characters are almost always characters who are active—risk takers—highly motivated toward a goal. Many a story has been wrecked at the outset because the writers chose to write about the wrong kind of person—a character of the type we sometimes call a wimp.”
- In The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth, James N. Frey, a writing instructor and author, suggests that heroes have certain qualities that attract readers. Main characters must have courage. Either they start with it or they develop it along the way.
- Fictional heroes need to be clever and resourceful.
- Also, a compelling hero or heroine has a special talent. Something he or she can do better than anyone else in the story. We’re attracted to competence. We tend to pick doctors, mechanics, restaurant chefs and, yes, even fictional heroes because they perform a skill or set of skills exceptionally well.
- Like the previous examples, the heroine in our novels might use her unique talent to make a living and be proficient at her calling.
- An appealing hero is also a person who lives by his own rules. He strives to do what’s right in his mind even if others in the story don’t understand him.
- An effective main character is the focus of the action and the story. She must take the lead in whatever case she embraces.
- In Thanks, but This Isn’t For Us, Jessica Page Morrell, a best-selling author of many books on writing craft, echoes this. She says, “Heroes take charge, take responsibility, and take risks … they’re people of action who speak their minds, kick ass and take names, and, most important, who act when in real life we’d be cowering, or wetting our pants, or scrambling for an exit.”
- Further, she goes on to state, “Heroes dare to be wrong.”
- Equally important the large-and-in-charge heroine—at the center of the story, should be flawed. She or he has been wounded in the past. Perhaps he’s lost a loved one, been injured or lost his faith. He’s vulnerable and in need of healing. He has an event or a series of events in his past he’s got to work through. This brokenness fuels his current goals, makes him human and enables readers to identify with him.
- The hero has to grow and change throughout the story. Often, he strives to become less selfish or self-centered.
- She may even sacrifice herself for the good of others. Frey believes that the most compelling heroines motivated by idealism at some point in the story.
- Lastly, Frey suggests that the hero should be sexually potent. As Frey puts it, “Creating a mythic character without sexual energy is like bringing the burgers, the buns, and the charcoal to the barbecue, and leaving the matches at home.
I love reading stories that feature intriguing characters and I hope these tips will help you when you write your next tale. Also, if you’ve found the suggestions useful, I hope you’ll consider checking out the resources quoted in this article for further study.
Bickham, Jack M. 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes. Writers Digest Bks., U.S., 1998.
Frey, James N. The Key: How to Write Damn Good Fiction Using the Power of Myth. St. Martins Griffin, 2002.
Morrell, Jessica Page. Thanks, but This Isnt for Us. Jeremy P. Tarcher, 2009.
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Mia Jo Celeste comes from a family of writers and English teachers, so it was no surprise when she chose to pursue both careers. Recently, her novel Other Than became a double finalist in the 2018 Prism Contest in the Historical/ Steampunk and Best First Book Categories.
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