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.)
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.
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.
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.)
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.
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.
I sort of get what you mean. I tend to dislike a lot of those typical hero-main-characters as well, since they're totally unrealistic and highly predicable. Although there's definitely a target group for it, for me it kinda ruins the story.
I prefer main characters that are not really good, but not bad either. Just like the people you meet on the streets.
Heroes in my opinion are characters you root for. You can root for a guy who's not always saving people, as long as he is in some way admirable. At the same time, they shouldn't be always good, central, and powerful. Characters are much more intriguing with flaws and weaknesses. Nobody is going to worry about somebody who does everything right and never loses fights. There's nothing to worry about. And if he's central to every fight or decision, that means the other characters are following and agreeing with him like sheep.
TL;DR: Characters imitate people. Since nobody's omnipotent or morally perfect, three-dimensional characters shouldn't be either.
I find it a bit odd when people refer to all main characters as the 'hero'. Especially non-hero-type stories like romances, when people call the male and female leads the 'hero and heroine'. They're not doing anything remotely heroic! I think a hero is somebody saving something/a lot of people are depending on them to do something/save them from something. I think even an antihero qualifies as a hero, cos it's that same type of thing.
In one of my stories the characters (space bounty hunters) could fall under "you can call them heroes if you want to, but I don't". I wouldn't call them heroes cos I think it sounds cartoonish and they're not really saving anyone except themselves/each other, but I guess they could fall under 'action heroes'. The other story, it's just about the dude's personal life, so he's not a hero in any sense of the word. There is no saving or adventures or fighting at all; it's not a hero type story. I think there are lots of non hero main characters; they're in non heroic stories.
I find things like 'hero' 'love interest' 'villain' 'sidekick' to be kind of restricting, personally. Especially villains. I don't like villains and I don't really have them.
While I'm sure that works for some people and can be effective, I try to avoid that, because sure, in the end, each character will probably fit inside a certain role, but I try not to think about that too much. If I'd start out defining a character as 'the elder sage / hero's mentor' I will compare him to other well-known characters who fulfill that role too much and most likely create a self-fulfilling prophecy that will not aid the character's development / uniqueness. Have you ever read a book where you're able to tell who's who and who will fulfill roughly what role from the first line of introduction? I sometimes have that, and I often have that when it comes to 'the love interest' character of a novel / series, who can be very very transparent.
Yeah. "So long as you're willing to let the edges bleed." That's possibly an even more important part, for that very reason. My character creation process works on this logic about 9 times out of 10. I start with an event or action that needs to happen, or a job or role that needs to be filled. I then create a character who satisfies all conditions. But since I have only defined a certain aspect of their life, I'm free to flesh them out from there. Just because I build my characters to fit a given archetype doesn't mean I can't build around that to make them something more. The problem isn't boundaries, it's just when the author hugs them too tightly.
I think you haven't been exposed much to the use of the word hero just to mean main character. But most authors are and know it implies nothing about what kind of character they are, just that they are central to the narrative. Many words have separate meanings and this is just one of them.
"I wouldn't refer to my main character(s) as hero(es) at all ... 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 ... 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."
I find it particularly interesting that you're defining heroes by power.
I do not define them solely by power, as you can already tell from that quote. 'Not the driving force behind everything that happens' has nothing to do with power, but has to do with the fact that not everything revolves directly around him and that it's not like in many stories where nothing seems to happen unless the hero makes his entry. Power is definitely a part of being / becoming a hero in many stories, in a 'a nobody becomes the almighty hero' the hero often gains some kind of power, in a 'hero solves it all' story the result of what he does is often caused by his superior power.
Perhaps I'm not following you but it would seem to me that in most stories, nothing at all happens unless the protagonist makes his entrance because stories tend to follow a small cast of protagonists and we only witness the events around them and that and of which they are a part.
This is true of adventure, horror, romance and so on.
The protagonist can return and find things have changed (thus, happened in the meantime, while he wasn't there), or he could hear something has happened elsewhere through someone else. In some stories the world seems 'frozen', kind of like an RPG game where only the appearance of the protagonist can cause change.
Well, I don't want to openly criticize writers by their names, considering there's a lot of literature fans here and surely someone's going to get offended. But I can think of two from the top of my head.
I have come across this sort of thinking with a lot of fantasy, which is one of the reasons I think the genre gets such a bad rep. However there are plenty of books that go about "heroes" in different ways.
Game of Thrones has already been mentioned but I don't think I saw any mention of Bakker's work.
The hero of "The Prince of Nothing" trilogy by R. Scott Bakker is in actuality a Magnificent Bastard Chessmaster (if TVtrope speak is acceptable here) basically just a guy who cons each and every person he runs into. It's amazing. Homeboy basically pulls a con over a whole crusade.
Heroes in my own stories tend to be the underdogs that just happen to be clever enough or desperate enough to come out on top.
The Silmarillion is Tolkien, but you can definitely say that there are few "heroes", if any. Feanor and Turin, two of the most prominent characters, are straight-up sociopaths whose deeds come back to kill them both and have consequences that pretty much destroy the world as they know it. The only two that come to mind right now are Beren and Earendil, who could be considered heroes for the reason we typically ascribe to hero status: brave deeds, strength and intelligence, saving the world, etc.
I think it's because deep down we just to want escape from the real world and cheer-on a hero we know will beat the bad guys and save people, it's the same reason black and white morality are prominent in entertainment.
Depends a bit on what your definition of hero is. If you mean, allround good guy, saving the world on monday and his girlfriend on thuesday, than, yes, there are quite a few stories around like that. But not all of them. Game of Thrones is the most obvious example of fantasy without or as good as without heroes in that fashion. And the ones that may become heroes, usually die. So, I guess you have all kinds of fantasy, with and without heroes. My own story is somewhere in between, I think. In many ways, the main character in a hero, as you define it. But in many other ways, he isn't, as in most of the story, he does what he does not to save others, but solely for the sake of his own survival, thereby endangering at times much bigger interests. 'The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few', isn't exactly on his mind. Plus, he seems to be scared most of the time. Which isn't that heroic either.
Yeah I see this a lot in popular literature but a lot of the fantasy I read and enjoy avoids doing this pretty well. I think one of the best examples of how to avoid doing this was Song of Fire and Ice were the author wrote the series so that there are no protagonists just people with different points of view and bringing out large character flaws in even the most likeable characters.
In my own book I am trying to avoid this as much as possible. The character I consider the "hero" of the series has relatively small parts for most of the story lines and spends most of his time trying to get out of the shadow of his dead father who was a "hero" in every glorified definition of the word. So far I really enjoy how it is working out as it really humanizes all the main characters since the idealistic hero has already been personified and killed leaving all others to fall short.
When most lit theorists use the term "hero," they don't mean hero as in "the good guy." They mean hero as in "the 'hero' of a hero myth." A hero myth does not by any means require its protagonist to be a good guy, or for that protagonist to have a major impact on the world he lives in. A hero myth is simply a basic story structure that just about every novel follows, with a few rare and usually obnoxiously hoity-toity exceptions. When your fourth grade teacher uses the term "hero," they also don't necessarily mean hero as in "the good guy." They probably mean hero as in "Protagonist, but that's a big word so I'll just use 'hero' instead." I wish they wouldn't do that because it's confusing as fuck and gives young writers stupid ideas about how stories work, but that's what they do.
"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?" What planet do you live on? Does Batman ring a bell? Severus Snape? Homer Simpson? Gregory House? Gollum? V? John Rambo? Loki? Sasuke Uchiha? Those douchebags from Southpark? These are all antiheroes who are extremely popular on the mainstream, in part because they're antiheroes. And they're not exactly rare instances.
This covers just about everything I was going to say. "Protagonist," "main character" and "hero" really are synonyms. The definitions may not be identical, but you can swap one for either of the others and whatever you're saying will still mean much the same thing.
The antiheroes you bring up seem especially relevant: to me, antiheroes seem to have become far more "mainstream" than the typical cookie-cutter good guy. Antiheroes are popular to the extent that some characters' inner conflicts seem really forced: like the angsty version of a token romantic subplot. Thinking of straightforward good guys, I can only really name Superman. The hobbits from Lord of the Rings might also qualify in terms of overall goodness, but they don't do nearly enough swashbuckling to match the fantasy hero stereotype.
The adventures of Conan belong to the heroic fantasy genre but Conan's not exactly a "hero": he's a barbarian, a mercenary, he was a pirate, he defiled graves out of greed/for money and he was wanted for his deeds in many countries.
In my book a "heroic deed" can simply mean "a courageous deed", not neccessarily a good deed. Storming a building to kill terrorists and free hostages can be considered heroic, but killing people...
I think you might find the answer by reading the intro to the book about the concept of the heroes journey. I don't remember if it was in the original book by John Campbell or by another author writing about it. Anyway, the intro showed that the term "hero" was indeed understood by people in each country/region differently. The biggest problem with heroes have the Germans (because of the thing that Hitler did with patriotism and the concept of a hero) and they prefer flawed protagonists, everyday heroes etc.
I don't really do that in my own stories. I usually think of them as the individual who is involved of resolving the conflict. Not a hero. In fact often times, conflicts in my mind aren't solved ultimately by one individual. That individual might be the main tool in getting what needs to happen to make things right but not all of it is put on them. Everything is not decided by their decision alone. They might find themselves having to become stronger than they are but they won't get to the point when they can handle themselves without making stupid mistakes instantly. Most the time, my characters don't find themselves stumbling into a position where others see them as the ultimate key to stopping everything. They don't get elevated to that position. Most of the time they stumble into a situation and it's either they do something about it or wait around for someone more qualified. The latter never happens.
In the more epic fantasy when the character if following an hero archetype, that sort of thing is expected. However not all fantasy follows those same reused hero tropes. By the way, the whole coming from humble beginnings to the hero that saves all, is a very common hero archetype. It can come off very trite if not even done the right way.
In my mind, the term "hero" is just a generalized term that people use for the main protagonist in a fantasy story. Saying all fantasy fall into that hero category, is like assuming all fantasy consist of a dragon and a knight saving a princess from it. Though it is something in fantasy that is expected and that is what many think that people can relate too because that is all they know. Looking at my book shelf, not all the novels I read at the those typical high fantasy hero type saves all. I tend to avoid those.
I'm confused what you mean by hero? Like "always good" hero? Or "super strong?" Or do you mean that just too much of the universe acts like it knows they're the main character.
I think most of those are terrible tropes. Heroes should make enough mistakes that there's a real internal AND external challenge, and at times they should be relegated to not the center of everything.
I'm interested in what you and others see as a hero, and what not
Hero, to me, implies that the character's impact is huge, and that he saves the day more than once, and that he's generally a good guy (even if his methods are questionable). And I don't think a lot of (my) main characters (should) fit that description. Of course, it's only my definition
I meant the main character was always referred to as 'the hero' in this book I was reading... which was kinda strange, as it takes away so many possibilities for characters, don't you think?
Well, I really don't like like literal superhero stories like those in comic books where the main character is literally almost nigh invincible and can defeat infinite waves of mooks, and is only threatened by other people like themselves. And how this starts early on, so the WHOLE story will be like this.
Also, it's fine for main characters to save the day several times, but it has to be believable. If they're represented as not too strong, but then survive impossible odds an outrageous amount of times, then there either has to be a reason, or at least some kind of justification.
...Of course, if there's a justification it shouldn't be too obvious. The ye olde "the villain didn't kill them since they needed them alive for something later" one gets used often, but sometimes it works better than others.
I got around it with time traveling, and the villain being the actual future self of the main character. So whatever else happened, he needed to keep the main character alive so that his current self in the future didn't cease to exist, AND keep him not suspicious about the fact that was happening. All while manipulating his past self in order to ensure he would have the correct emotional disposition to do the things which he knew that he would come to need to have done in his own past, but the future of his past self.
(Or at least think he needed to do, til he ultimately redeems himself. His hero status gets cancelled out a bit by the fact that for the first 90% of the book you know him as morally neutral with mediocre strength, then evil with great strength, and real hero-like good with great strength status only happens for one last redemption scene in the last act. )
Seriously though, there's room for all kinds of protagonist in fantasy. "heroic fantasy" may by definition require a "heroic" type, but even the standard of "high fantasy" had as its protagonist a character who, if not an anti-hero, was certainly not a typical hero type. It's interesting that, as often as Tolkien is imitated, the one thing that "Tolkienesque" fantasy tends not to feature is a small, timid protagonist who in fact fails at the end and ends up with such severe PTSD that in the end he has to abandon everything he had fought for.
In a genre were Thomas Covenant is now old hat though, there's nothing too strange about non-heroic main characters.
Hmm, that's good to hear, thanks The theory book mentions no other possibilities than for the main character to be a 'hero' and insists on referring to it as 'the hero', I had a feeling this just had to be wrong.
I was thinking about Candide, which, given, isn't fantasy, but which I suppose is also a popular book because of what the character goes through rather than his 'heroicness'... and what works for one genre can also work for another.