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Johne

Your Hero Must Fail First

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David Safford cautions that heroes shouldn't come too strong out of the gate.

https://thewritepractice.com/call-to-adventure/
 

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A common mistake of amateur writers is to create heroes who are too strong. These authors dream up “powers” and “abilities” and other features to make the characters “cool.”

But “cool” isn’t interesting without conflict. And conflict requires weakness.

A story—or a character—isn’t interesting without conflict. And conflict requires weakness.

No matter what genre you’re writing in, it is imperative that your hero fails early on. When you hero is tested for the very first time, she can’t pass with flying colors. She needs to blow it, screw up, or chicken out. She can’t get it right yet.

Otherwise the story won’t resonate with your reader’s soul. Readers have always known that being a hero is hard, and no one can simply be heroic on Day #1.

Sometimes the failure is small, or internal. Katniss Everdeen doesn’t take back her entry into the Hunger Games, but she despairs, bidding her family farewell under the assumption that she will certainly die. Harry Potter doesn’t run away from Hogwarts, but doubts his roots and often doubts his own abilities as a wizard.

The Refusal of the Call must reveal your hero’s weakness. This weakness should take two forms:

  • Physical
  • Emotional/Spiritual

First, your hero’s physical ability to complete the task must be in doubt. Perhaps she’s not the strongest, the prettiest, or the most agile. Something about her physical strength must make the reader wonder.

This psychology is as old as human history. Every culture has its David vs. Goliath archetype because the story resonates in our hearts. There’s something in our souls that knows that it’s capital-t True.

Secondly, the Refusal must reveal your hero’s emotional fragility. She can’t “have it together” — at least not underneath. She may maintain a bold exterior, but the reader must be able to see this for what it is: a mask.

Because this, too, is psychologically true. Whenever we must face a new challenge — a new job, marriage, parenting, conflict at home, seeking weight loss, attempting something great — we always face a crisis of belief. Even the most confident, self-assured person in the world struggles with confidence sometimes.

And this step of the Hero’s Journey brings that reality to vibrant, painful life.

 

 

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Yes, thank you. When we are weak and vulnerable we are relatable but only to a point. It is a fine line between self-pity and admiration. To have your readers enter in and cheer for the character they must overcome some obstacle. By revealing their weakness up front, after the assumption they can make it on their own, you can see how they learn to overcome. The Incredibles is a good visual of this. Your readers will find this type of character far more real.

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Definitely true. I've been thinking about it a lot lately when crafting a hero in an action/adventure, and this confirms my thoughts. Thanks, Johne. :)

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Hey, Johne, what about David makes you think that he is weaker than Goliath?  He was clearly superior to him because it only took one shot to finish it off.

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12 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

Hey, Johne, what about David makes you think that he is weaker than Goliath?  He was clearly superior to him because it only took one shot to finish it off.


I think you're referring to something David Farland wrote and which I quoted. I (personally) think David by himself was weaker than Goliath, but David + God is stronger than anyone in history. ;)

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Posted (edited)

Big fan of the flawed (and/or reluctant) hero/protagonist. Someone who starts out on a journey/mission, stumbles along the way, but manages to pull it together to overcome the final (and biggest) challenge. 

 

 

 

 

Edited by Accord64
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     How about Moses?  The greatest of all Prophets.  He never wanted the job, and asked that it be given to somebody else.

     He was also constantly asking the Lord, "Why did you give me these people?"

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3 hours ago, William D'Andrea said:

How about Moses?  The greatest of all Prophets.


I like Moses but I'm more personally impressed with Elijah.

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I love heroes who are flawed or quirky.

 

I don't like heros who always get it right or never get sacred/lose etc. 

 

Sho when I write I try to create a character who is basically good but has a particularly hang up or issue which affects their ability to get their desire/goal.  How about anyone else?

 

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Maybe I just characterization very differently, but I don't necessarily "create" the flaws in my characters. In a way, I feel that I "discover" them and their flaws. So I basically see that they act a certain way, then I ask why they acted like that. 

 

But every now and then, I do take over and force a particular flaw onto my characters just to see what happens :D 

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