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November 9, 2012
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Hero obsession

:iconteano:
This might just be an impression, but it seems to me in Fantasy (and perhaps some other genres too) people seem very obsessed with the protagonist being 'a hero' to the point where 'protagonist', 'main character' and 'hero' become synonyms to them.

I first started paying more attention to this when a theory book on Fantasy writing gave several options for the 'type' of main character you were going to create... all of them 'hero!' While I don't mind every story that has a main hero by far, this attitude that 'by default' the main character should be 'the' hero bothers me greatly.

What are your own thoughts on this, and even more importantly, perhaps, from which point on would you consider a (main) character a 'hero'?


More specifically, my own story ( [link] ) I wouldn't refer to my main character(s) as hero(es) at all. I suppose some readers would perceive them as heroes, but the choice is open. Depending on your point of view, you could even see them as villains. My main character is quite competent, but he's not the driving force behind everything that happens, by far not the most powerful individual or even the leader. He might 'save the day' occasionally, but is that enough to call him a hero? Mostly the solving of problems is a team effort, and it quickly becomes clear the main character would be at a total loss without the support of the side characters, and it's the same for those, too. Almost everyone screws up sometimes, just like in real life.

I just picked my main character in this story based on who went through the most interesting personal process and character interactions with others.

I suppose I also have a problem with this 'hero obsession' because the whole 'a nobody suddenly becomes the most powerful guy of them all' in a Fantasy world commonly populated with tons of people who've had many years of experience and training whereas 'the hero' often becomes super powerful in a few months. Again though, this doesn't mean I can't enjoy a good hero story.

Perhaps this isn't done / not mainstream because such possibly controversial, not super impressive non-heroes aren't commercially successful at targeting larger audiences who have become accustomed to the 'hero solves it all' scheme? I honestly wouldn't know.
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Devious Comments

:iconhardhatshetland:
HardHatShetland Dec 4, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Most people i've seen tend to view the terms 'hero' and 'villain' as having more to do with either the character's moral standing (e.g. virtues, modus operandi) or their motivations than the level of power they have in the story. So an archetypal 'hero' is an all-around good guy, both in means and ends. Therefore, the protagonist of a story doesn't necessarily have to be a 'hero', and an antagonist doesn't necessarily have to be a 'villain'.

It's very very easy to blur the lines between the classic definitions of 'hero' and 'villain', I find. On one hand, you could have a protagonist who is a ruthless vigilante who mercilessly kills bystanders for getting in his way and tortures criminals for fun, despite having fairly noble goals. On the other hand, you could have an antagonist who is also a philanthropist who hosts charity fundraisers and is a very nice guy to talk to, but he secretly has 'evil' goals that the protagonists oppose. And both these roles can easily be reversed while changing nothing else. Here's how i'd define it:

Good Means + Good Ends = 'Hero'.
Bad Means + Good Ends = 'Anti-Hero.'
Good Means + Bad Ends = 'Anti-Villain.'
Bad Means + Bad Ends = 'Villain'.

Depending on what you want to write, any of these types, and anything in between, can assume the roles of protagonist and antagonist. It just seems like the classic 'Good Heroes Vs. Evil Villains' storyline is (still) the most popular, because it's the most obvious. Personally I find them really boring.

(I have a feeling that i've just completely missed the point of this thread... please let me know.)
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:iconteano:
Not really, that was an interesting answer actually :)
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:iconhardhatshetland:
HardHatShetland Dec 4, 2012  Hobbyist Writer
Ah. Well, glad to help.
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:iconwitwitch:
witwitch Dec 1, 2012  Student Writer
It always bothers me when the new hero is a very young child and yet is able to easily best adults who having been training in a martial art form for their whole lives. Ugh. There are few things that will make me put down a book or change the channel faster.
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:iconle-kaikai:
I, personally, favor villains. I like the Dark Side. Even if they did lie about the cookies.
Probably because of this bias towards evil, I don't particularly like "heroes" (which I'll define, for my sake, as the "good guy," or the "one who saves the day!"). I'll still write them and bitterly allow them to defeat my dark overlords after they've earned the right to win, but I don't like them.
I'll often write stories in the perspective of neutral characters to avoid the intense bias towards evil and against all that is good. Or I'll write stories through the eyes of the survivors of the dark side.

Though often in fantasy, heroes make the story. You can't have a fantastical adventure against whatever dark and impending force is torturing the land of light and happiness without the mightiest hero of all to rise up and stop them. It just doesn't work like that.
Or it does, and people will complain that the story sucks and will create their own perfect supplements to fill the gap left by the absent hero.
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:icondeizzan:
One possible explanation is that most fantasy novels follow a combination of the Tolkien model and the Hero's Journey. Personally I prefer antiheroes to heroes, but we all have our preferences.
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:iconteano:
Hah, you're not alone in that.
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:icondeizzan:
Yeah, the whole generic hero thing tends to annoy me more often than not. Mary Sues are a plague. Give me a character with some sort of depth and I'll be appreciative. I cannot stand all of these cookie-cutter heroes. For example Drizzt is an amazing character and a joy to read, but so are the adventures of Jarlaxle and Entreri. (If you read Salvatore at all.)
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:iconteano:
I should note that one down, seems interesting... I agree with you they're a plague in more than one way. Llorrin, the 'hero' if you wanna call him that of the story I'm currently writing may save the day occasionally but he also has his flaws and weaknesses. I know some people are very apprehensive of Gary Stu's and might stop reading quickly when they fear they recognize a main character as one, and though Llorrin definitely isn't one, I wonder if he might seem like one at first. In the earlier chapters, his fear of certain things and some personality flaws are already revealed, and he's not always coming out on top in each situation or saving the day each time, but I'm not sure if it's enough. Though I'm pretty confident this shouldn't be a big problem, I have had a steady drop in views from chapter to chapter so far, so I'm considering this might be part of the reason.
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:icondeizzan:
Sorry for the delay. This, that and life. The series is R.A. Salvatore's Forgotten Realms series. Drizzt is generally considered to be the main character and has some anti-hero aspects, but is mainly a hero. As for Jarlaxle and Artemis they are generally considered to be the antagonists. Jarlaxle is a sell-sword who is also the head of a mercenary group. Artemis is a famous human assassin who has a habit of murdering people rather violently. Definitely interesting.

As to your story, one of the things I've seen that happens with stories that come out chapter by chapter is that readership will drindle as more chapters come out. It's nothing serious, it's bound to happen. The people who continue reading are the ones who enjoy your story and the ones who stop are the ones who didn't find it interesting enough to continue reading. It's a natural occurance and nothing to be overconcerned about. The concern should come when the readers stop coming alltogether. Until then keep writing. Best of luck.
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