The Instinctive Hero: Guts Over Brains

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On the other end of the mental spectrum are those characters who demand almost entirely on instinct.  Just like Thinkers, they aren’t entirely instinct, but that’s what drives them more than planning.  Much like their tactics, these characters are fairly easy to describe.  They work off their first reaction when faced with a challenge and continue operating off whatever their gut tells them to do.  For example, a hero may dive into a fight and then retreat when things get to rough or continue swinging until they realize that they might not win.

The funny thing is how people will look at a character like this as a negative.  Loose cannon, loner, not a team player, unhinged, reckless, and the list of descriptions continues going to make sure you don’t want to be anywhere near these guys when they show up.  They are sources of chaos and can have trouble getting along with others regardless of their charisma.  Only so many times an instinct-based character can do what they do without getting into fights.  This might be why they don’t always work well in groups, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible.

Perfect example from Legends of Windemere would be Luke Callindor.  Since his debut, he has followed his first reaction to everything.  This is how his adventures began and the tactic continued.  The instant he spots an opening or gets an idea, he puts it into action.  This ranges from diving between an ally and an enemy or even battling a dragon high above the ground.  It’s not his initial instinct that keeps him alive though.  The reason Luke remains effective and can operate in the group is that he continues to follow his gut.  As a situation changes, so do his instincts, which have tuned themselves to his surroundings.  This doesn’t go for all characters in this role, but those that are most successful tend to have a keen sense of observation.

Writing action scenes with characters like this seem to always be either easy or a real pain in the muse.  It’s like going through a maze at times.  There are scenes that run smoothly from decision to decision with a natural flow.  Then there are ones that I have to keep backtracking because the character who is supposed to win keeps running into a dead end or making a mess.  At least with social situations, you can have things continue going until because we’ve all been in awkward conversations.  While I do write these scenes quicker, I find myself being more aware of what is going on.  Almost like I have to keep my own instincts in check while my characters work off theirs.

It’s hard to really give advice or explain much here.  With the Thinker, I can see a step-by-step or checklist that can help an author with such a character.  Instinct is simply understanding them well enough to know what they’ll do in a situation.  You need the reaction to be natural for the character.  Even if the reader believes the hero is being foolish, they should at least think that it’s what they would do.  Consistency is very important here, but when is that not something to consider.

One final note:  I’ve tried to write a story where everyone was an instinct fighter because that happens a lot in D&D games.  Every player acts depending on the character sheet and uses the tactic that is best for them.  While you can alter your plans depending on what another player does, that isn’t very effective in a story.  You can’t have everyone running around doing whatever they want without their being problems.  Just like you can’t have everyone making plans because those will inevitably collide.  Some people might get an idea of where I’m going with this for Friday’s post.

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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36 Responses to The Instinctive Hero: Guts Over Brains

  1. I can see where some melding and merging would have to happen to make all the characters work together.

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  2. Instinct has to be a big tool for a hero.

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  3. Reblogged this on Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life and commented:
    Charles Yallowitz explores the image we have of heroes, in particular the Instinctive Hero: Guts over Brains… dives in where angels fear to tread…some find that reckless.. how about you?

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  4. L. Marie says:

    Yep, I couldn’t help thinking of Luke. And now I’m wondering where Nyx fits into the scenario.

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    • Same thing really. She casts by well-trained instincts and reflexes. The first 3 champions you meet are actually more instinct than thought while the next 3 are the other way. They become a combo over time though.

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  5. Reblogged this on Author Don Massenzio and commented:
    Here is another interesting post from Charles Yallowitz’s blog on the instinctive hero in writing. You know, those guys that act first and ask questions later.

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  6. Interesting descriptions there. Sorta wish I knew more about D&D too after reading.

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  7. In Luke’s case, I think a lot of his successes stem from the help of his friends (and the odd divinity) helping him out! 🙂

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