With out a Great Hero, the story can’t move forward, and the reader will not be engaged and emotionally involved. So, what makes a Great Hero? There are four simple requirements.
- Mystery: One way to avoid a boring character is add an element of mystery. The Great Hero has a secret, or is hiding something. This forces the reader to become involved in the story to discover the unknown.
- Identification: The readers must identify with the Great Hero. BUT not completely or they will not see how the hero changes. Most writers believe identification means the character’s race, gender, interests. That is incorrect. There are only two elements that help with the reader’s identification with the main character.
- A Desire: What does the Great Hero Desire? This need will drive the story forward. The reader will want the hero to be successful and will continue to read as long as the desire line is clear and distinct.
- A Moral Problem: What appropriate or inappropriate behavior is causing a complex struggle in the story. The reader will want to see the change and will expect it by the end.
- Empathy vs. Sympathy: These two are not the same. Empathy involves understanding the character. Sympathy is felt, without understanding. The difference is very important and involves a central element: motive. The reader will understand the ‘why’ even if they disapprove of the action itself.
- Psychological Need: In addition to a desire, every Great Hero must have a moral need and a psychological need. John Turby in The Anatomy of Story says: “A psychological need only affects the hero: a moral need has to do with learning to act properly toward others.”The writers can increase the emotional effect by ensuring their Great Hero is more than a checklist of physical characteristics. Turby says, “When your lead character gets boring, the story stops…”
Make your characters mysterious. Help the reader to identify with the character through
desire and moral problem. Create empathy through understanding of motive. Lastly, give your Great Hero a psychological need.
To read more about developing an engaging and powerful character, read John Turby’s, The Anatomy of a Story.