Writing Excuses 5: Heroes and Protagonists
In which we learn that Professor Google likes Charlie and The Chocolate Factory; main characters, heroes, and protagonists aren’t always the same thing; and that everyman needs to be competent at something. Oh, and didgeridoo and rutabaga.
What’s the difference?
- Professor Google pointed us at John August’s blog (link on the site)
- The hero moves the story forward, the main character is the perspective or point of view from which the story is told, and the protagonist goes on a trip and gets a character arc.
- The main character is the eyes through which we are seeing the story, but may not do any heroing.
- The protagonist does not have to be heroic; the hero is heroic, someone that we want to emulate, displaying the highest attributes.
- There is a point at which the definitions become too pedantic to be useful.
- One good point in John August’s blog was don’t let the definitions get in the way of telling a good story.
- Can of worms for later: Internet research, or Professor Wikipedia versus Professor Google.
What about different types of heroes? Is there a difference between the everyman hero and the Superman hero?
- When Superman saves the world, it’s not particularly interesting because that’s what Superman does. But when Jimmy Olsen, boy reporter, saves the world that’s much more interesting because he doesn’t have the skills and it’s very difficult for him.
- There is a level of escapism where we want an infallible hero.
- To connect with the story, we need to see a bit of our self in the character. Heroes with flaws make it easier.
- The charm of Superman is that we want to be like him.
So what is appealing about everyman?
- Don’t give him special background. Take a normal person with ordinary skills and abilities, and what he knows already becomes really important.
- Every hero needs to be competent at something. We like to read about people who are competent.
- Can of worms: flaws, handicaps, etc.
- We want someone who is competent, but not necessarily at what they really need for this problem, and yet they manage to make what they do know work
- When you’re crafting your hero, make him or her interesting, with flaws, faults, abilities and competencies. Make the conflict difficult. And find ways to save the world with their abilities and flaws.
- Everyone has gotta be good at something
- And my final words are didgeridoo and rutabaga.
Current Mood: determined