Heroes seem to be going out of style in favor of antiheroes and villains, yet some of the most beloved characters are heroes. They're characters who genuinely want to be good and strive to be even better. They inspire us to be better human beings.
"It's almost unbearable, isn't it... the pain of being all alone. I know that feeling, I've been there, in that dark and lonely place, but now there are others, other people who mean a lot to me. I care more about them than I do myself, and I won't let anyone hurt them. That's why I'll never give up, I will stop you, even if I have to kill you! They saved me from myself, they rescued me from my loneliness, they were the first to accept me as who I am. They're my friends."
~Naruto Uzumaki from Naruto Shippuden
"Maybe the reason you don't see it is that it's stuck to your back. What I mean is, a person's admiral qualities - they're just like, say, a pickled plum on a rice ball. In other words the person's the rice ball and the plum's stuck to their back. So, all over the world you can have rice balls made with all sorts of wonderful ingredients, all different flavors and shapes and colors, but since they'd be stuck in the middle of everyone's back, someone could have a plum and not even know it. They'd look at themselves and think "I'm so plain, nothing but white rice," even though it isn't true because, turn them around and, sure enough, there it is. There's the plum. So if someone is jealous of somebody else, well, then, it's probably because it's easier to see the plum on someone else's back than it is on your own. Yup. I can see it. I can see it very clearly, Kyo. You don't know it but you have a great big plum on your back." ~Tohru Honda from Fruits Basket
One day it'll grow. And every time I look at it, I'll remember. Remember everything that happened: the good, the bad... and how lucky I am that I made it home. ~Bilbo Baggins from The HobbitHow do we create characters like this? How do we think up boys, girls, men, and women who are inspirational, human, interesting, and relatable? Let's first look at the definition of a hero.
1. a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character:
He became a local hero when he saved the drowning child.
2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has special achievements, abilities, or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal:
My older sister is my hero. Entrepreneurs are our modern heroes.
3. the principal male character in a story, play, film, etc.
A hero/heroine is normally thought of as both the main character and one who is noble. It's common to equate nobility with perfection. I wrote a post all about how that's untrue earlier this month. Therefore I've ascertained seven elements that I believe are key to creating a great hero and keeping to the principals of a true hero.
Warning: Spoilers from Avatar: The Last Airbender, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the Divergent Series, The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, Spirited Away, Naruto Shippuden, and Fruits Basket.
None of the images are mine.
|Just sit back and read the post.|
Example: Aang from Avatar: The Last Airbender - At the climax of this series, Aang is faced with the battle he's been training the whole show for: to defeat Fire Lord Ozai. However, everyone is pressuring him to kill this man which would mean crossing the biggest moral line Aang has which is he can never murder someone. Through much struggle, he manages to find another way to defeat this tyrannical villain while still keeping his moral boundary.
Example: Naruto Uzumaki from Naruto Shippuden - Within the first few minutes of the Naruto series, you well know that Naruto Uzumaki wants to become the next hokage (basically like a president or mayor but can only have that positioned granted if they are someone of great honor and respect) of the Village Hidden in the Leaves. He is bound and determined to get there no matter what it takes. He has an incredible passion to reach that goal and amazing perseverance. As you watch him grow, you want him so badly to succeed, because he just wants it so much--and in the end he wants it because he wants to be loved and respected, instead of rejected and shunned like he was. And in the end ... he meets his goal and you just want to sob in joy.
Example: Captain America/Steve Rogers from the Marvel Cinematic Universe - Steve is a symbol of justice, kindness, sacrifice, leadership, and strength. He is the most noble of the Avengers and he wears that with pride. He has in many sequences showed his colors even before he became a super soldier, whether that be never giving up even when bullied for his size or diving to cover a bomb to save other soldiers in training. Captain America is an amazing role model for any young man.
Example: Thor Odinson from The Marvel Cinematic Universe - In the first Thor film, Thor begins his journey as a reckless, foolish, and prideful. He disobeys his father starts a war in his defiance. These flaws force his father Odin banish him to earth so he may prove himself to be worthy of the throne. Shades of his flaws peek through in subsequent films, but not anywhere near as strongly as the first films. Also new flaws are unveiled as his old are conquered showing more potential for arcs.
Example: Chihiro from Spirited Away - Chihiro begins her journey as a whiny, dependent, coward of a little girl. She's overly clingy to her parents, whines about anything adventurous, and is scared of everything as she enters the spirit world. Other characters point out to her directly her flaws and limitations. These barriers are a big hindrance to her at the beginning of the film, and she has to learn to move past them if she has any hope of saving her parents.
Example: Tris Prior from The Divergent Series - In Insurgent, Tris reaches a low point after her parents' death and after killing Will in self defence. She is unsure what to do about her grief, and she lets herself spiral. She beats herself up because she believes their death is her fault, and she hates herself for killing Will. But after she finally forgives herself, she rises up even stronger than before.
6.) They Can Have Just As Interesting Backstories as Antiheroes - Don't horde all of the good backstories for villains and antiheroes. Not every hero has to have an extremely impressive backstory to be great characters (Chihiro, Lucy Pevensie, Bilbo, and Tris didn't), but that doesn't mean that they can't have intriguing backstories full of mystery and suspense. They can be raised by monks. They can be the last of their race. They can be an immortal norse god. They can have a powerful beast imprisoned inside them as an infant. One of the biggest appeals of a character is often the backstory. Don't let villains and antiheroes have all the fun.
Example: Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings - Aragorn is the last of the Dunedain, a race inherently part of Gondor, and blessed with long life. He lost both of his parents at a young age and was raised by the elves of Rivendell, becoming fluent in their language. There he also he met Arwen and fell in love with her. Love between elves and men is frowned upon because if an elf marries a human then he or she gives up their immortality. Aragorn is also eight-seven years old, has fought many battles including on with Theodin's father, and even tried to find Gollum before Sauron captured him. I think that's a pretty interesting backstory, don't you think?
|Aragorn at his mother's grave|
Example: Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit - I feel like Bilbo's character development is more prevalent in the movies than the book, so I'm going to focus on that. Bilbo begins his journey as a homebody, stuffy, inflexible, and a bit of a coward. But some little spark in him that yearns for adventure pushed him to take the journey with the dwarves. At the end of the long trek to Erebor, he is not the same hobbit. He saw things and did things he couldn't imagine. He found his courage. He made steadfast friends. He lost people dear to him. This meme puts it perfectly:
There's so many other heroes I didn't even have time to mention like Meg from A Wrinkle in Time, Harry Potter from the series of his name, Thomas from the Maze Runner, Cinder from the Lunar Chronicles, or Lucy from the Chronicles of Narnia. Let's not in our craving for antiheroes and villains, lose sight of these amazing characters. When I see people pining for them over heroes, I'm saddened. I want to be inspired to be better than who I am. Antiheroes and villains don't urge you to do that. Heroes do.
What are some of your favorite heroes? Have you ever written an hero? Do you have further questions about heroes?
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