Is the Hero heroic, do I care?

SUMMARY: Ed Wilson talks about the different types of heroes, and the likability factor

MeInFrontOfAPirateShip_thumb.jpgThere are three different types of hero characters. By hero character, I am talking about the main character. This character is typically used for the point of view. I use this technique in my technical writing, as well as in fiction. The three different types are listed here:

  • The traditional hero – this is the Superman kind of person, the Nancy Drew type of person. They are basically good moral characters who do not cross the boundaries, and who are all around nice people. I would love for one of these types to be living next door to me.

The traditional bad guy – sometimes a story is told from the point of view of the bad guy. The bad guy knows he is a bad guy, and is unapologetic. This sort of honesty is one of the endearing qualities of the villain. Some of the James Bond bad guys fall into this category. If they were not confronting James Bond, I might root for them. I use this technique in writing non-fiction as a bad example type of person. This is what not to do.

  • The antihero – this is the type of hero that sets his own agenda, and accomplishes the task at hand by breaking any law / rule required. In the early noir type of mystery stories. Perry Mason, Mike Hammer are both examples of this type.

What is important in any type of writing is that the reader fall in love with the lead character. We may not want to, but we like the Hannibal Lechter character in Silence of the Lambs. In fact, Anthony Hopkins did such a great job with the role in the movie, that everyone remembers his character. No one seems to remember the name of the character that Jodi Foster played. At the end of the movie, I rooted for Hannibal Lecter to get away, and when he said “I’m having an old friend for dinner” I knew exactly what he meant, and somehow it seemed ok. That is the power of a well developed antihero. In fact, it is this strange appeal that forces us to examine our own lives. While this is a great technique for fiction, I have never used it in non-fiction.

Key point, no matter how you create your hero, the reader must like that character. Must feel for, and must be concerned for what happens. On more than one occasion, I have gotten a hundred pages into a novel and decided I did not like the hero, I did not live the villain, in fact I did not like any of the characters and did not care what was going to happen to any of them. Obviously that is a suboptimal result.

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