Apr 3, 2015 · 49 Comments
Now that we've covered the things to think about when writing a bad guy, I thought we could talk about what it takes to make a good hero.
In the same way that bad guys need to be more than just bad, the good guy (or protagonist) can be really boring if s/he's all the way good. For instance, if the main character of a story is pretty, smart, has lots of friends, never makes a mistake, does everything her parents want her to do, and nothing bad ever happens to her, it's going to be a mighty boring story. We want to relate in some way to the people we read about, and so we need to see something in them that reminds us of us--and none of us are perfect.
This is also closely related to the character's story arc--the things they go through in the story that take them on a journey that affects them in some way so that they're not the same person at the end of the story. If they are perfect to begin with, it's a bit hard to grow in some way through their adventures.
If we look at Grayson, it's pretty easy to see his faults. He's a bit arrogant, has a bad relationship with his parents, has messed-up priorities, and oh, there's that stealing/spying thing. It'd be easy not to like a guy like him, except he's also cute, sweet, charming, and he cares about Claire, and he really wants his dad to like him/be proud of him. Even if we can't relate to his faults, we can appreciate his strengths. So his story begins with him as a bit of a mess, all round. But, he meets Claire and life gets a lot trickier for him. How he ends up at the end of the book will be entirely different to how he began it. In fact, he's already changed quite a bit.
And then there's Claire. In the beginning, she's pretty and talented, but she's also awkward, struggling at school, unfashionable, has a bad relationship with her Mom, doesn't like her new city, and her moral compass is a bit messed-up too, since she's finishing her dad's paintings for him so they can sell for a fortune. But she's also very sweet, loyal to her dad, desperately wants to do the right thing, and cares a whole lot about Grayson. She also adores cheesecake, and if you ask me, no one who likes cheesecake can be unlikable. Her story starts with her as a fish out of water, with her life in a bit of a mess, desperate to get home to Idaho. Already things are more complicated for her, and like Grayson, she's already come a long way and we're only halfway through.
While your character should change and grow through the story, they don't necessarily have to be a better person at the end, just like the ending doesn't have to be happy. They really just have to grow and change in some way. Sometimes, they end up worse off, but hopefully they are at least stronger.
So, the things that happen to your character, and their faults, are the things that make their story interesting to read and make them someone we care about. When we find a character we can relate to, then we can imagine ourselves in their position and all the things that happen to them are so much more real for us too. We can be more scared for them, and happier for them, too.
There's a lot more to say about creating a good character, so I might share some little hints and tips I've come across for making an interesting character with you guys next time.
Meanwhile, can you think of any faults or other things about the heroes in your favorite books that make them so wonderful?