What Drives a Hero?

Hero Quote

In The Mercenary PrinceDelvin Cunningham goes on his adventure to prove to himself that he has what it takes to be a champion.  Luke Callindor starts his adventure to prove he deserves his famous surname.  Nyx has been raised to save the world while Fizzle is more interested in protecting his friends.  Sari has become a hero out of fear of being left behind by her remaining loved ones, Timoran Wrath is honor bound to stand by the others, and Dariana knows no other path.  All of these characters hold the role of protagonist in Legends of Windemere, but the all have different reasons.  Many times these reasons change as a story progresses.

Looking over the reasoning, I think there’s always a level of selfishness within a hero’s inspiration.  He or she either do it for themselves or do it because they feel like they can’t trust anyone else to do it.  This might not be as bad as it sounds since things are never as black and white as we’d like to think.  Yes, it’d be easier if a hero was truly good and that was the end of it.  That tends to be boring too.  As much as people want the boy scout in real life, it seems we don’t really like them in fiction.  We also tend to distrust them in real life because ‘nobody can be THAT good’.  Supposedly.

So an author has to really think about what to do as far as why the character is a hero . . . or not.  To be honest, some characters simply fall into their role as you write.  For example, Luke and Nyx were planned.  Timoran and Delvin kind of just happened as I outlined along.  The point still stands that there are different reasons for different heroes, which one should consider in the case of an ensemble cast.  It has to be natural too and not forced because that can simply ruin a character.

So, what drives your heroes?

About Charles Yallowitz

Charles E. Yallowitz was born, raised, and educated in New York. Then he spent a few years in Florida, realized his fear of alligators, and moved back to the Empire State. When he isn't working hard on his epic fantasy stories, Charles can be found cooking or going on whatever adventure his son has planned for the day. 'Legends of Windemere' is his first series, but it certainly won't be his last.
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29 Responses to What Drives a Hero?

  1. twixie13 says:

    Let’s see…Travis is driven by the need to help people and wanting to prove that he isn’t, as his father had told him frequently in his childhood, a complete fuck-up. Spencer’s motivations are similar…he’d already become a doctor for the sake of helping others, and just wants to show that he isn’t weak. Also, two of the enemies they’d made in life were people they’d made the mistake of trusting, and so they’d want to keep their loved ones safe from said mistakes. The big motivation for most of the protagonists in my series, come to think of it, is family/friends.

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  2. So true. I have an anti-hero in my next book. He’s in it for the money, but makes a large moral decision near the end of the story.

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  3. Bookwraiths says:

    I’ve always been drawn to the characters who are heroes because they have to be. Frodo comes to mind. You know, the man or woman who doesn’t feel they are up for the task, but they have to save themselves, their loved ones, their land, or something else dear to them. These guys struggle from the get go; they usually fail a lot (at least, in the beginning); and they generally don’t suffer from the Gary Stu/Mary Sue issue other heroes have. And for me, it is always cool to tag along behind them, as they find their way and attempt to get the job done.

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    • I like those types of heroes, but I think I’ve read so much with those types that I get bored easily. I don’t remember getting into a lot of ‘destined hero’ stuff when I was younger. It was always a choice like Frodo or a desire for redemption like Spider-Man.

      I brought this up with another author a week or two ago. I’m not really sure what a Gary Stu/Mary Sue character entails. I’ve heard the terms flung at characters all the time, but the modern usage seems to be more ‘character that bores me’. Is it supposed to be a character who has no motivation or depth?

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      • Bookwraiths says:

        At least for me, the motivation or depth of a character doesn’t really have a bearing on my use of Gary Stu/Mary Sue.Rather I generally use the term with a couple “types” of characters. One, the overpowered character who is so skilled and powerful he/she has nothing to fear from any danger. Two, the lucky character who always seems to get the exact right break at exactly the right time. Three, the character who miraculously develops or discovers the perfect skill necessary to overcome the adversity faced at exactly the right moment. Those type of Gary Stu/Mary Sue characters are horribly boring to read about, because you already know they are going to overcome any obstacle in their path.

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      • So Superman, Longshot, and Eragon. 😉 Sounds like characters that claim victory with no effort on their part or through deus ex machina.

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      • Bookwraiths says:

        Well said, sir.

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  4. I think evolution plays a big role in what drives a hero. Circumstances come up and they evolve into a situation that requires heroic actions

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  5. Ooooh good thought exercise. So Eris, my darling protagonist, goes through several motivations. In the first book, she starts off just trying to get home, and then ends up fighting to save her home. In the second book, she starts off fighting to save her home (i.e. the Nonconformity), and ends up fighting to save the people she loves. In the third book … well, obviously I can’t say what’s going on there, but you can guess where her motivation is starting out, at the very least 😀

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  6. noelleg44 says:

    I have a hero, an anti-hero, a rogue and a boy scout. Killing two of them off in the third book. My hero has common sense but doesn’t pay much attention to it. I think she believes she is the best person for the job and like the adrenaline.

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  7. It wasn’t planned, but my protagonists often are driven by family issues. In Masters of Air & Fire, three orphaned wyrmlings try to keep their family bond despite sibling rivalries. In The Grimhold Wolf, a woman has to rescue her son and a man rejects his evil family.

    People often focus on romantic relationships as the most important ones, but I think family is far deeper.

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    • I think a lot of people take the family relationships for granted. Many times they’re either all loving or broken beyond fixing. There’s a common belief that you can’t choose your family, so why bother even fighting against them. I’ve been wondering if this has bled into fiction where people figure it isn’t something that can be changed over time. It remains static (right word?) as if family can never be altered.

      Love the sibling rival touch though. Not enough where the siblings have issues with each other, but are still trying to stick together.

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