Everyone loves an underdog. At least that’s what people say. These aren’t as easy to write as one would think. You have a lot to consider and a delicate balance to maintain for the adventure. What are some ways to make sure that happens?
- Know the definition of an underdog. That means the hero is considered to have little or no chance of success. It doesn’t mean that they are the strongest character in the story, but have a long walk ahead of them. They need to be at a level below whatever they are facing to be a real underdog.
- The title doesn’t remain indefinitely. Yes, I’m using two tips to drive this point home because people don’t get it. An underdog can become powerful enough to be a real contender. As soon as he or she wins, he is no longer an underdog as well. The best example I can think of is Rocky Balboa. He was the underdog in the first two movies since nobody thought he had a chance and he was lacking. The rest of the series, he’s the champion or a powerful contender. Don’t mistake a character being slightly weaker for having not chance either. Yeah, he lost to Clubber Lang, but I still don’t believe he regained the underdog title.
- Characters who are underdogs don’t always realize their position. Many are able to continue on because they believe in themselves. They understand they have weaknesses, but think that their positive qualities are enough to counter this. Now, this could be true. In fact, most times it is and that’s why underdogs can win. The label is primarily given and thought of by other characters and the audience.
- Training and special gear can help improve the chances of an underdog, but it doesn’t entirely clear them. It’s still the same character and he can still go into the main fight with a hindrance. His chances have improved to little in this case. Maybe the training isn’t enough or the gear is damaged. You have to be careful about making this change a sure thing. Otherwise, the hero and villain are on equal footing, which tends to go to the side of good.
- An underdog hero can remain as such and still be a danger due to how they think and act. An unpredictable or cunning nature means that they have a mental aptitude for problem solving. If not that then at least doing the unexpected, which can take a more powerful character by surprise. For example, Luke Callindor in Legends of Windemere is an underdog in many of his fights. When not fighting regular monsters, he tends to be overpowered and less experienced than his enemy. He wins by doing the unexpected and thinking his way through. This does get dicey near the end of the series though, so I’d give it to him for around the first 6 books.
- There is no shame in a character rising from an underdog status. Don’t be afraid to have this happen if it works for the story.
- Other characters are allowed to be fully aware of a hero being an underdog and react accordingly. They can have faith in them, but 9 times out of 10 it is obvious that they’re backing the weaker combatant. This is what can lead them to help the hero instead of sitting on the sidelines. More powerful people may take it upon themselves to train the underdog up. On the other side of the battle, a villain could easily underestimate a weaker opponent until it is too late.