Fiction Focus Week 5- Heroes

One of the things that turns up in fiction (particularly sci-fi, fantasy, adventure and YA) again and again are heroes- and heroines, but for some reason the word “heroine” has much more Victorian connotations, so I’m going to stick with the gender neutral “hero” for now, although that also includes female heroes. Heroes are a special breed, by their very nature. Because they are the chosen one. They are the one that is going to defeat evil, they are the ones who are going to bring balance to the world. Pretty special, if you ask me.

Heroes tend to be good all rounders. They are quite smart, quite strong. They’ve got a bit of everything, and their sidekicks and support team fill in the gaps. Some are born heroes. Take Harry Potter as an example- almost literally born a hero. Like many, he doesn’t have a choice, he has to be a hero whether he wants to or not. But rather than shying away from it, Harry embraces this. It becomes almost his entire personality: he will be the one to defeat evil. He will be the one to save the world. If you’ve ever read Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, you’ll remember that bit where Hermione says that he has a “saving people thing.” It’s not that he does it for glory, it’s that he does it because that’s who he is: the guy who saves his loved ones. Even when he fails, this only makes his resolve stronger.

But Harry would be nowhere without Ron and Hermione, his strategist and researcher behind him to plan and fill in the gaps in knowledge. Heroes are very important, but they’re rarely ever a one man show.

While Harry is off saving the wizarding world, there are plenty of heroes who claim they’d rather be at home, in bed. I almost always question this, because they’re having such fun, why would they want to be boring again? Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit is probably the most famous example of this. Because Bilbo isn’t really a hero at all- in fact, he’s none of the things that Gandalf and the dwarves expect of him. He’s not daring, he’s not brave, he’s not heroic and he’s certainly not a thief…

Or is he? Because as the book progresses, Bilbo proves himself again and again not only to the dwarves but to us as readers. Every time, he says to himself that he wishes he had stayed at home. But then he does what they wanted him to do. And when he gets home, his wanderlust is never cured. Maybe Thorin is considered a more likely hero of the story, but Bilbo too is a hero, even though he’d probably never think it himself.

Another interesting hero is Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games. She too is very reluctant, and her story is an altogether different one to many others. Katniss is almost an antihero in her actions. She doesn’t hesitate to kill, and she acts as if she’s only ever looking out for herself- although it’s clear that she forms attachments quickly and really wants to protect those around her. But she can be selfish and callous, and very independent. Yet in the trilogy, she suddenly finds herself having to act the hero to the masses, having to make decisions and put on a face that she never wanted. She becomes a hero over the course of the trilogy, but unlike Bilbo, at the end, she goes and hides and never comes back out. Katniss’ story is very dark, and her path as a hero is winding, and she epitomises “reluctancy.”

There are a whole host of heroes out there. I haven’t even covered superheroes and vigilantes- maybe some other time! But for now, some questions for you all: who are your favourite heroes? What is your favourite type of hero? Do you think you could be a hero? And do you have any heroes in your own novels?

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5 Responses

  1. Lauren says:

    I particularly like the reluctant hero, but I also really like the heroes that aren’t “divinely chosen”. Those heroes that could be replaced by any other heroic individual, but they’ve undertaken this task for x amount of reasons. I also tend to like to write heroes (and characters in general) that aren’t overwhelmingly good or overwhelmingly bad; mixing up motivations and the like makes for a lot of fun.

  2. Shady says:

    I like writing the reluctant heroes. The ones who don’t want to be ‘heroes’, who don’t want their name to be known, and who try to be indifferent to ‘evil’– but end up getting pulled into the show anyway, and have to overcome insecurities and fears in themselves in order to protect something or someone they love.

    And, like Lauren said, I like keeping my characters fairly balanced. It makes things more interesting. 🙂

  3. beckiw says:

    I do sometimes like reading stories with heroes that a chosen by some prophecy so the task is thrust upon them…I find that when I write I tend to stray away from this type of hero.

    I think it kind of makes it more fun as a writer if you have to come up with motivations and thought processes as to why a character would choose to do heroic things.

    I’ve become a lot more interested in characters that surround a character that is the focus of the bad guy, I suppose the sidekicks, and how they get dragged into things and become heroic in their own way.

    • Cadi says:

      One of the stories I’ve wanted to write but never managed to is about a stereotypical hero & sidekick, where the sidekick was basically the reason anything got done. I think the idea came from the NaNo forums – something about “the hero beat the dragon and got the kingdom, but years later X goes wrong and the sidekick gets called back to sort it out because they were the actual competent one”.

      Similarly, I really love Robin Hobb’s Six Duchies novels, six of which are about the guy who takes all the falls so his friend can save the world.

      Basically, sidekicks are awesome stuff 😛

  4. Heather says:

    My favourite heroes have always been knights, ever since I read David Eddings as a kid and fell in love with his Sir SparHawk and his crooked, broken nose. He wasn’t a shiny ‘perfect’ knight, but he had principles and he stuck to them no matter what and he was willing to make difficult decisions and to kill to protect the people he loved.

    I like a hero who struggles sometimes and who maybe does have a bit of darkness in him/ her and a dark and difficult path to tread.

    Reluctant or cynical heroes can be fun as well and my current hero best fits into the reluctant category. I consider one of my support characters to be more ‘heroic’ on the surface, but lacking in the deeper caring for people – he wants to be seen as the hero and that motivates him to try and act like one, but when that’s stripped away, he’s closer to an ‘anti-villain’. My reluctant hero on the other hand battles between a sense of self preservation and a genuine care for the people around him.

    Thanks for the thought provoking article!

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