Character Development + Writing Resources: 6 Questions to Ask Your Hero
6 Questions to Ask Your Hero
Fiction heroes generally fit one of three molds. They are bad boy/ Alpha males, billionaire/ Alpha males, or sensitive but strong/Alpha males. The variations can be endless, but mostly they are alpha males with some deviation. This doesn’t have to be a bad thing and it doesn’t have to be the only thing. If you prefer your hero to have as much flesh as he does spine let me help. Here are six questions to ask your hero before writing his story…
Who is your hero?
As I mentioned in questions to ask your heroine, who your hero is encompasses more than just his name. It means his quirks, his faults. What does he do when no one is looking and when everyone is? Is he stoic and silent, except around children? Does he eat the grandmotherly neighbors cooking even though it tastes horrible? Is he the brother who shows up or the loner who is unreachable? Who is he?
Establishing his internal identity helps to develop his external identity. If he doesn’t pay his bills because he takes care of his troubled kid brother first or gambles heavily – it matters. Tell readers why we should love or hate him. The specifics cleverly hidden in the background of your plot are what endear your characters to your readers. I can’t say this enough, characters make the books. They are why readers keep reading.
What is your hero trying to prove?
He wants something. We all want something. It is seemingly written in the male dna to want to prove himself. So, what is your hero trying to prove…and to who. His need to show himself capable will be the driving force behind his actions. Seeking his father’s attention will probably call for some type of public show of masculinity. Chasing after a woman will probably mean showing typical male ideology like being a provider, a great lover, and eventually emotional availability. Distancing himself from his past could mean revamping his routine and editing his habits.
Sure, you want your hero to stand out above the other heroes. You want him to be strong, and available and totally in tune with your heroine’s needs. There is room to create that in him, but you need to know his motivations beyond the girl ( or guy). What he has to prove will not only tell you what he is working toward, but give you insight into what he is working against. What does your hero need to prove in order to become his truest self?
When must this be completed?
A looming deadline creates agency. It allows your hero to further invest in a positive outcome for what he is trying to prove. The dedication it requires to complete a task is directly influenced by how low long it will take to complete. Your hero needs a deadline.
There is flexibility in when your deadline takes affect. You can do the obvious thing and establish a true to the story time table (in six months our champion must marry or forfeit his inheritance) or you can make it a bit ambiguous (hero must convince heroine she loves him before she leaves town for good). All of these things have an end date, but how you show them is what drives the plot forward.
It is important that your completion date has an obvious wanted result for your hero. It is also important that the deadline be difficult, but at least minimally attainable. If your readers decide at the fore front your hero can never accomplish the task in front of him, they will lose interest in your book. If you want your hero’s challenge to be obvious give him something to prove with a borderline impossible completion date. Keep in mind, you will write interruptions into your story. Something will happen to push the deadline and make it seem even more unattainable. Don’t be afraid to challenge your champion, even if you aren’t sure he won’t fail.
Where will your hero’s journey lead?
Let me state the obvious, your hero’s where does not have to be a physical place. It is more likely a mental or relationship state reached in the aftermath of what he was proving and the challenges he faced doing so. It is important to know where you expect his hard-work to lead him. At a minimum, a general idea of what he will learn and become should be written here. After all, what is written here will likely become your ending.
Everything you want for your hero will culminate here. You may not have the specifics for how the final scene comes together, and that is okay. But, if you hero is after the girl, it helps to know if he gets her. Where the journey leads your champion answers the questions asked about him. Does he impress his father? Does he save his troubled kid brother, beat his gambling habit, change for his lover. Your reader has been riding the waves of this question since opening your book. Your answer here should be true to your plot, all twist included, and satisfy your reader as well as complete your character arc.
How will the hero’s journey change everything?
So, you hero has accomplished his task. He’s gotten the girl. Your hero has proven his father wrong, saved his sibling from a life of crime. Now what? What does this do for your hero? How was he changed in the process and what does his life look like now?
The details you write here can be used a number of ways. For starters, it can come together as an epilogue, a sort of closing credits. Maybe its just a paragraph that says they live happily ever after. What matters is that you know how your hero’s journey has changed things for him, and you somehow illustrate that for your readers.
Your readers want to know how all the challenges your champion has faced make life better (or worse) for him. They want to envision his life going on after they close the book, and do so with some certainty that they know what happens next. You are the one who orchestrates your hero’s life. It is your job to show your readers that your hero is not the same as he was when they started the journey with him.
Finally, does your hero want to be a hero?
Truly? Is he one of those guys who dashes into a burning building for the fame of it or because it was something he was compelled to do? Does your hero have an innate desire to be a savior? There are no right answers here. It is just a question that feeds your hero’s journey. If he is a reluctant hero then he may push against any circumstances that propel him to the front of the class or cast him as a good guy. If he needs to be a hero, then he will do the opposite. You’ll see it in the risks he takes as he tries to accomplish hero status. Maybe he dives in after a drowning woman without actually knowing how to swim. Or, he stages a kitten rescue during a busy time of day where many people will see him. His feelings toward heroism will choose his actions for you.
You can show his reluctance or his drive for heroism through minor actions. Maybe he won’t read the write up in the paper about how he saved some little old lady from a run away car, or donated millions to some foster home mom. Maybe he sends in soundbites for the reporter to use in the paper. Have fun. Show us who he is and whether or not he accepts his role. When or if that changes show us that too. Your characters will grow. The earlier your readers can identify who they are, the easier it will be for them to see the transitions your champion makes.
Don’t take for granted that your readers will just “get” who your hero is. They are just meeting him through your writing, so do him justice. Schedule time between crafting your premise and creating your outline to work on character development. Your characters have lives, don’t neglect to get to know them. Learn what your hero and heroine’s needs are and then use your antagonists to challenge how badly they want it. A great hero will give you everything you ask for, but first you must know what propels him. Use these questions to create an overview of your champion and his journey will be richer for it.
Who are some authors whose heroes stand out to you? Comment below.