Tag Archives: Hero

Why the Hero Needs Friends, but the Villain is a Loner

Hero with friendsWhy does the hero usually benefit from a group of friends to support them, while the villain seems to go it alone, surrounded by toadies, henchmen, and often monstrous servants, but no real friends?

A favorite example for me is David Eddings’ classic fantasy: The Mallorean. I loved this series when I read it as a teen, and one of my favorite aspects of it were the fantastic cast of characters. Their friendship, bantering, and personal quirks felt so real, and helped draw me into the story. Every one of them played an important role somewhere along the way, without which the hero could not have succeeded.

On the opposite end of the spectrum was a villain who casually killed just about everyone they knew as soon as their usefulness ended. The contrast was powerful and effective.

Frodo and gollumAnother stellar example is the friendship between Frodo and Sam. Without Sam, Frodo was doomed. Antagonistic forces were always loners: Sauron, the Dark Lord; Saruman the White, who turned traitor and allied with Sauron, but couldn’t be considered a friend of the ultimate tyrant. Then there was the creature, Gollum. So alone he had developed schizophrenia to have someone to talk to. I was fascinated by Frodo’s attempt to befriend that broken, evil soul. In the process of allowing Frodo close, Gollum actually seemed capable of redemption, but when he rejected Frodo, his ultimate fall was guaranteed.

So why are friends necessary for the hero? I’ve come up with what I think are some compelling reasons:

  1. The hero is usually the underdog in most stories. They’re caught up in crazy events that they usually would rather avoid, but cannot seem to escape. The enemy is usually far more powerful and dangerous. Without friends to help them develop and grow and become the hero the story needs, they’d never survive long enough to get a shot at victory.
  2. The hero must usually rise to fight some kind of evil, which means they represent the good. They might not be necessarily good of themselves, but they must represent good, or have ties to those they care about that are good. And those ties of love and friendship make them human, help readers relate, and encourage us to root for them.
  3. The hero is usually attempting to effect change. Real change cannot be done solo.

There’s a lot of great information about heroes and heroism out there. One resource I discovered is Matt Langdon of Heroism Science. He’s got an excellent post about heroism and the team heroes need to build in order to succeed. Check it out here: https://heroismscience.wordpress.com/2015/07/16/every-hero-needs-a-team/

Back to the villain. Why do they have so much trouble building friendships?

  1. If they’re truly evil, they simply can’t understand friendship, which is a form of love, placing it outside of the realm of understanding of a truly evil villain.
  2. True friendship requires acts of kindness and thoughtfulness, which is selfless and understanding. Most villains are proud and selfish, which again makes it nearly impossible for them to understand or embrace the necessary demands of friendship. Pride is by nature competitive, pitting the proud villain against anyone and everyone.
  3. However, if your villain is not one of those ultimate evil types, you might be able to craft one who gets it, at least at some level. Some of the most interesting villains are those who honestly think they’re right, who display kindness and honor, but who draw different conclusions about the world and how to fix it than the hero.

Xavier vs MagnetoThink Magneto from X-Men. He’s ‘The Villain’ and he does terrible things. But through the story, he is portrayed as a man of deep thought and, at least initially, seems interested more in protecting mutants from abuses than causing them. He’s actually very good friends with Professor Xavier, even though they must face off time after time. The root of their differences is their different world view. That type of conflict is extremely fascinating.

So build stories with great heroes and a stellar cast of supporting characters: the Mentor, the funny Sidekick, etc.

And when crafting your villains, consider making them human too, with real, complex motivations for what they do, with people they care about, and with real human emotions.

Those kind of villains are harder to hate, those stories are more complex, and often more difficult to write. But those are the stories that resonate the most powerfully. None of us will have to face the Dark Lord to settle the fate of the entire world, but we all have to face people who do mean or rotten things. Or maybe they’re just people who hold different political or religious views. It’s easy to see them as villains, but those people are human too, and although it makes it harder for us to hate them, they usually feel like they have good reason for what they do.

Deeply moving stories happen when the hero must stand against a friend. Find that story, and you’ve got a winner on your hands.

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank Morin
Rune Warrior coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers Urban Fantasy/Historical thrillers, check his website: www.frankmorin.org

A Hero That’s Not a Hero…But Still Is

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Hero is exactly what the title and poster suggests. It’s about a hero and his incredibly difficult quest that will bring joy to the masses. What isn’t depicted here is that there isn’t one hero, but two — each with their own quest.

It took multiple viewings for me to figure this out. At first I was so blown away by the amazing fight sequences and gorgeous scenery. It’s clearly Zhang Yimou’s masterwork. They didn’t spare any expense or effort and the results were worth it. It’s the most stunning piece of cinema I’ve ever seen. Here’s a taste:

The story is told from the hero’s point of view as he recounts to the emperor the events that earned him an audience and the sizable reward for eliminating the emperor’s enemies. Each stage of his journey is shown in a different color and each color has a corresponding emotional theme — red for passion and anger, blue for logic and sadness, green for fear and desperation, black for resolve, and white for hope and mourning. Each stage of the tale bring another level of depth to the story, makes us care about the hero as well as the assassins he brought down. However the emperor knows the assassins well and sees through all this as an elaborate plot to kill him.

Which it is.

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This is where it becomes clear that the man we’ve been led to believe is the hero is actually the villain. The real hero is the emperor. The emperor, who is a warmongering self-appointed ruler, deserves the enemies that he’s acquired. However everything he did was for the greater good, not for that generation but for all those to follow. When the hero/now villain realizes this he has a change of heart and despite being given the opportunity to kill the emperor, chooses to spare his life. When he leaves the palace the emperor’s guards execute him.

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Death by pincushion. Ouch!

This is why I find this film so fascinating. Only in the East would they think to make the hero a villain, who then redeems themselves in the end by becoming the hero at great sacrifice. The additional twist of making the villain a hero once we’ve learned more about them is a powerful storytelling tool; one that I think is often overlooked. It also provides a deep moral that can be interpreted many ways. It keeps the audience thinking long after the story is over… and lures them back again, and again.

As writers isn’t that what we want to accomplish? To write a story that’s so unexpected and compelling that the readers return to it and discuss it many times? To create something that changes the way they see the world around them?

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It’s something to meditate on.

You can find out more about Kim May here.

Calling all Alpha Males”¦Romantic Character Needed

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In romance, we have fairly specific types of characters running through our pages: The hero (probably alpha, could be beta), the heroine, the best friend or side-kick, and perhaps a villain or antagonist.

Let’s look at these characters in terms of romance because romance is almost always a character-driven tale of ups, downs and eventual happy-ever-after (HEA) togetherness.

I’m not discounting any combination of relationship (male/male, female/female or anything else) because to my mind you’ll still have at least one person who is more or less portraying the hero and one the heroine, regardless of gender. So, with that disclaimer let’s start.

While many heroes are alpha males, there is also the beta hero. What’s the difference? For me – it comes down to ease of emotion and sensitivity.

Alphas are strong – they ooze confidence and strut arrogance. They’re über capable and may even be abrasive because they don’t really care if they offend anyone. They don’t worry about their emotions or being sensitive. They don’t need to. They’re too busy kicking-ass. If they were a doll (action-figure, for the guys), they’d be G.I. Joe. Guys want to be them and girls want (desperately) to be with them.

Beta heroes are more subtle. They’re often funny and charming. They may be able to kick ass, but they’d rather reason or humor their way out of any conflict. Mother’s love them. They bring flowers just because and remember anniversaries. They’re in touch with and willing to express their emotions. They can (and do) plan candle-light dinners and know what present will bring their lady-love joy. If they were a doll/action figure, they’d be Ken. Happy to hang out in Barbie’s dream house for romantic weekends of long talks and walks along the beach.

I love both types of heroes.

Our heroines need to be smart and capable. No one wants to read about a lead character who is too stupid to live (it’s a thing… really). We want our heroines to perhaps need rescued from a situation but not from their lives. They need to be able to stand on their own two feet just fine without our hero, so they don’t need the hero, but they want him.

The key is that our hero and heroine are both better people for having the other in their life. And as a reader, we need to love them both. If we don’t, we aren’t rooting for them to get together and find their HEA. Through this identification with and love for the characters, we are invested in their path to happiness, and that’s what a romance is all about – the emotional journey. Next month when we discuss genres, I’ll go into more depth on the whys and what-fors that make romance … romance. Right now, let’s continue on with the people inhabiting our stories.

We may also have the sidekick/best friend characters. Like other genres, these people can be a huge amount of fun because they don’t have to be heroic. They get to have a lot more flaws and we don’t have to love them. They can be cowardly, obnoxious, slightly stupid, clumsy… a whole host of things that our heroes do not get to be. They are perfect foils for our leads characters.

Our villains and antagonists in romance may or may not be actual bad guys/gals, they may just be the wrong guy/gal for our hero/ine. How far this character is willing to go to keep our leads in their lives determine where they fall on our villain – antagonist spectrum. Or they may be someone (a well-meaning, or not, relative?) who feels these two should not be together and will do whatever it takes to keep them apart. Often though, what is keeping our lovebirds from their HEA isn’t a who so much as a what – their flaws or internal conflicts. I’ll discuss more on this next month as well.

What traits do ya’ll think are necessary for our hero/ine to be identified with and loved?