Some writers make the mistake of thinking that heroes are perfect. Their character is flawless, their wisdom timeless, their strength unmatched, and talk about good-looking!
Often as new or young writers, we want our heroes to be larger than life. We want them to come in and save the day like a knight on a white horse. But we have to remember that behind every hero is a story of trials, temptation, and perhaps suffering.
A too-perfect hero becomes a piece of cardboard to the reader.
Think of Spiderman. He is a great example of a flawed hero. He’s not really very confident. He’s kind of a weakling at the beginning. A geek. Not what you’d consider hero material. But that’s what brings his hero-self to life as the story progresses and what makes us really, really love this guy.
How about the Count of Monte Cristo, one of my faves? I root for this guy because of all that’s happened to him, all the pain and horrors he’s suffered. But he’s a bitter soul. He’s vengeful. Those are major flaws. He can’t have real victory over all that’s happened and regain the love and peace that once was his until he learns to forgive.
So what makes a hero? Is it that they put themselves in the way of risk or danger for the sake of someone else? Is it that they are leaders? Is it their intelligence and sophistication?
Or is it that they develop these attributes despite, or because of, their hang-ups, unresolved issues, suffering, temptations, and everything else that tends to hold people back?
- Pick your favorite book hero and examine what makes them flawed on the inside and out. In other words, what are their inner and outer obstacles? How do they overcome them to become heroic?
- Take a look at your own character hero. Is he as imperfect as he should be? What angst does he struggle with? What causes him to reel on the inside?