Writing Advice · YA Books · YA Films/TV/Books

Heroes Fortnight: What We Can Learn from Our Favourite Heroes (Male)

This post is part of Heroes Fortnight and carries on from our Favourite Heroes post. Focusing on our favourite heroes we wanted to analyse what it is that we most like about these characters, what we can learn from them and how we can use this to improve the characters in our stories. So without further ado, it’s time to introduce our favourite heros!

Thor

Thor is both an alien and a God, lacking the humble beginnings we humans are familiar with and this could have made him difficult to relate to. It’s often for powerful characters like this to become boring (Superman is the best example of this) but Thor still retains his flaws. In the first film, we are introduced to an immature, childish and reckless character that will risk war for the sake of his pride. It is important to remember when giving your characters powers to this extent, to remember their flaws. It is his flaws that make him relatable. Through the course of the film we see him struggle and adapt until he becomes ‘worthy’ at the end of the film.

One way the filmmakers resolve the issue of Thor’s power, is by stripping him of Mjolnir, his hammer and the source of his power. This puts him at a similar level to us, powerless. It is important that the audience relate to the characters in your stories, particularly the main character. Thor is sent o Earth when he has to earn his powers back. This is a very interesting motivation for a character and storyline. Most plots revolve around a character’s first introduction to a power or defeating the villain, but in Thor’s case he has to develop his character (making his personality an important feature of the film) in order to earn back the power he lost. Great heroes are those that earn their awesomeness.

Even more interesting is Thor’s dynamic with the main antagonist of the first film and the Avengers, Loki. Loki is one of the more iconic villains in cinema recently and this only compliments his relationship with Thor. They grow up believing they are brothers and Thor still sees Loki as such. This puts him in a position where he does not want to hurt him and has to struggle with the threat to Earth and his feelings towards his brother, who he still believes can be redeemed. Giving your main character a relationship with the villain can often strengthen your story, though some approaches have been considered cliche the dynamic between the hero and the villain can make or break a story. In the case of the Thor films, the dynamic and characterisation of both Thor and  Loki had a huge impact on the success of the film. This is something to consider when creating your own heroes.

The Doctor

When Doctor Who returned in 2005, we were introduced to a completely unique character. While he was somewhat goofy and easy-going on the surface, as the layers were peeled away we saw someone who had survived a trauma and the only survivor of a devastating war that erased his own race and another from existence. This event had clearly shaped his character but it was a part of his history, information that was gradually revealed to the viewers over years. Every character should have an interesting backstory and an event like this should shape who they are, in the case of the 9th Doctor this made him hold on to the idea he was a ‘coward’, someone who would avoid violence and killing another in every circumstance. Even though the backstory of a character is important to developing them, it’s important to learn from this that not all information needs to be revealed at once and it can be more effective to gradually reveal information than to drop in an infodump when introducing the character.

The Doctor is somewhat immortal in the sense that he ‘regenerates’ into another version of himself. Each version is built from the same experiences and the same personality traits but there are greater influences on who they are, the 9th Doctor was born from war and hate, the 10th Doctor was born from love, the 11th Doctor was born from loss and pain and the 12th was born from loneliness. In many cases this influenced part of their personality, 9 avoided violence because of this, 10 was hopeful and in love with the world, 11 lied to avoid his past, and 12 hung on to elements of his past companions (the Scottish accent of Amy Pond for example). It is very important to see external influences on your character and the development of their character. Something that can be learnt from the Doctor is that so many personality traits can be included in one individual and regardless if they’re negative emotions they can still be descriptive of a hero: traits such as anger, cruelty (for that I’ll point you to the episode the Family of Blood), cowardice, ignorance (his relationship with Martha Jones) and most importantly the Doctor made so many mistakes, from telling Rose she had been away for 12 hours instead of 12 months.

Jon Snow

His character, out of all the others, most resembles that of a hero’s story arc (see Joseph Campbell’s ‘The Hero with a Thousand Faces’).  Jon’s call to adventure begins when he joins the Night’s Watch. Alienated and isolated for being a bastard son, Jon Snow is the underdog of the story, but he has a truly kind heart and he doesn’t discriminate who he becomes friends with. His friendship with Sam and his relationship with Ghost are truly endearing. We’ve seen he has the qualities of a great and honorable leader, and if our theory about his death is correct, hopefully he’ll be able to complete his hero’s journey in the last two books.

For watchers of the televisions series, it’s important to remember that Jon Snow is only 14 years old in the books. At such a young age, the tough decisions that he has to make are given a completely new perspective. His struggle for leadership makes sense, after all why would these older members of the Night’s Watch willingly follow a child. I think George R. R. Martin taught an important lesson about stories, there is a general tendency for the age of the main character to be similar to that of the reader, but he has shown that adults can still be interested in the stories of children with the majority of the main characters in A Song of Fire and Ice being younger than 16.

Kid/Teen Loki (Journey into Mystery/ Agent of Asgard)

Loki had always been a favourite villain of the Marvel comics, made even more popular by the cinematic portrayal of him. Seeing him brought back as a ‘hero’ of sorts, might seem a stretch, especially considering he is has been one of Thor’s greatest adversaries for over 60 years. However this wasn’t just a case of Loki deciding to be good, he died and was reborn as a child with no memories of the evil act his older self committed. The premise this sets up alone creates a lot of dimension to Kid Loki’s character. Firstly he is constantly distrusted for acts that he himself doesn’t remember, everyone hates him yet he doesn’t understand why, and he’s constantly burdened by the fear that he is evil and will turn out to become the villain that he once was. If the characters you create have this many dimensions before you start writing your story, you already have a lot in place to intrigue your readers. Without starting reading the comics, from this information alone we already know that Loki will have to struggle against people’s perceptions of him and his perception of himself.

While lacking his memories, Loki still retains the same personality traits as his ‘evil’ self. He lies, cheats, gambles, tricks and manipulates people to achieve his goals, the only difference is that he does all this with good intentions as oppose to evil. However, this demonstrates it’s not personality traits or actions that necessarily dictate what separates a hero from a villain, it’s the motive behind these actions. This leads to some interesting moments in the comics when as reader you yourself are unclear as to Loki’s motives, unsure whether he intends to help or hinder someone. Explore with characters who people might outwardly view as evil but retain their motives as good and they still remain a hero. It is okay to leave your readers guessing, as to what your characters motives are and it can be very interesting to read about a character who borders between good and evil. With such an uncertain morality, the reader becomes invested in every single choice that your character makes.

In summary, readers want to read about conflict, they want to read about the struggle that your hero must go through in order to prove himself. Even if your character’s a god, the story begins when things start to go wrong. Inner conflict and the conflict that arises from the different relationships that your character has with their friends, family, and the villain can really make your hero stand out – it is how your hero deals with this conflict and tries to resolve it that will elevate your protagonist to hero status.

Elizabeth and Nadia

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