Tools for the craft of story: The Hero
Updated: Sep 24, 2019
The hero of your story is the vehicle for your audience. Lets talk about the hero and the different ways you can use this element to help your audience experience your story. Your audience needs to be able to identify with your hero so they can become invested in the world you’ve created for them.
Your hero can be anyone or even anything so long as they are relatable. Remember, your audience will experience your story through the hero. If your hero is a thing, then it needs to have a human aspect to it. Disney and Pixar are great at making anything relatable. They have made cars, bugs, toys and even a lamp something we all can identify with. PERSONIFY
Making a relatable hero means making a flawed hero. Your hero can’t be perfect, perfect is boring. We all have flaws and when we see someone that is perfect we usually have a negative reaction to them. A hero that has issues is a hero that can change and grow. This change is how the hero triumphs over his enemy. That is what the audience wants. They want to see the underdog win. We are all the underdog with our flaws and if your hero can win then maybe so can we. Seeing someone overcome their flaws inspires us to do the same, if just for a moment. A great way to discover your hero is by interviewing them.
OK. You have a flawed hero now what do you do with them? Well your hero needs a goal. Without a goal the hero is just like you and me. Who wants to see our hero binge watching Netflix? Not me. I want to see a hero go do something. The goal has to be something that I can easily see when it’s finished. A goal like “attaining the perfect life” is harder to show then “who stole my car”. The audience should not have any question in terms of when the goal is complete. Finding the guy who stole the car is clear, you found him or you didn’t. Attaining the perfect life is a lot more fuzzy with grey areas.
Now we have a flawed hero with a goal. Is that enough? Nope. Why not? Well we need to know why he wants this goal and “just because” isn’t gonna cut it. The why is what will motivate the hero to attain the goal. "Just because" isn’t nearly strong enough to keep the hero grasping for her goal. “Just because” is so weak that we would understand if the hero gave up. We face that everyday, it’s normal life, and we don’t want normal. We want compelling. Maybe the heroes parents will die if he doesn’t achieve the goal. Maybe the world will end. This will give us a motivated hero and the stakes are high enough that he will stop at nothing to achieve his goal.
So, lets mix up the ingredients and give or hero some conflict. Why do we need conflict? The conflict is what forges our hero into what he is meant to be. Without conflict our hero will never grow and we will have a boring story. Look at this example. The goal, to hand over the president of the United States to a terrorist group. The motivation, the threat of a nuclear strike on Europe if it doesn’t happen. If there isn’t any conflict all our hero would need to do is walk into the White House, tell them what’s going on and they would say “sure” and hand over the president. No conflict but boring as hell. That wouldn’t happen though. Just looking at the goal and motivation the audience automatically knows there is going to be some resistance to this crazy scheme. There will be conflict. And that’s where the fun is.