How to make your character HEROIC

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Is your protagonist always getting saved by someone (most commonly, it's the female protagonist getting saved by the male lead all the time), which turns them into a damsel in distress?

Here's a post I saw on tumblr. It's about depression, but switch out the word "depression" with "enemy":

I don't like the phrase "a cry for help." I just don't like how it sounds. When somebody says to me, "I'm thinking about suicide, I have a plan; I just need a reason not to do it," the last thing I see is helplessness.

I think: your depression has been beating you up for years. It's called you ugly, and stupid, and pathetic, and a failure, for so long that you've forgotten that it's wrong. You don't see any good in yourself, and you don't have any hope.

Still, here you are; you've come over to me, banged on my door, and said, "HEY! Staying alive is REALLY HARD right now! Just give me something to fight with! I don't care if it's a stick! Give me a stick and I can stay alive!"

How is that helpless? I think that's incredible. You're like a marine: trapped for years behind enemy lines, your gun has been taken away, you're out of ammo, you're malnourished, and you've probably caught some kind of jungle virus that's making you hallucinate giant spiders.

And you're still going, "GIVE ME A STICK. I'M NOT DYING OUT  HERE."

"A cry for help" makes it sound like I'm supposed to take pity on you. But you don't need my pity. This isn't pathetic. This is the will to survive. This is how humans lived long enough to become the dominant species.

With NO hope, running on NOTHING, you're ready to cut through a hundred miles of hostile jungle with nothing but a stick, if that's what it takes to get to safety.

All I'm doing is handing out sticks.

You're the one staying alive.

Moral of the story: if your character is in trouble, don't just blindly make the hero character swoop in and save them. Make the hero give the victim a stick and tell them to fight back, because they're just as capable of it as s/he is. That's a hero I'd look up to.

Think The Amazing Spiderman, when that car was dangling off the bridge, about to fall, with a little kid trapped inside (highlights of that scene in the sidebar!). Peter was trying to pull him out, but the kid was TERRIFIED and wouldn't cooperate. You know what Peter did? He gave the kid his Spidey mask and told him he was strong, and the kid climbed out. In that moment, Peter became a hero. He didn't save the kid. He showed the kid how to save himself.

Listen: The hero isn't the guy who saves the girl. It's the guy who teaches the girl how to save herself. (likewise, flip/mix-and-match the genders--same thing applies). The effect is phenomenal, and your readers will gain so much more respect for a character like that.

This works beautifully for bromances/sismances/bestfriendships as well, and it'll create a much stronger bond between them.

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