Hero means “protector” or “defender” so the first thing to establish (in your mind) is what your heroic character will be required to protect or defend in your story. Without this approach, your champion protagonist has no role in the narrative! So deal with this first:
- Who or what needs to be defended? (deserves preserving, upholding?)
- Who or what needs to be protected? (deserves shielding, safeguarding?)
Another way to look at this is to flip the equation… if a hero didn’t exist (if you didn’t use a hero in your story) what would be fundamentally lost or damaged in the world you create? What evil or threat would exist or what damage would be caused without someone, a hero, there to block it?
Heroes, of course, are often depicted as honorable warriors… but does your champion protagonist have to literally fight with a tangible sword & shield to oppose injustice and defend the weak? Didn’t Erin Brockovich (above) — an unemployed single mother of three children and former beauty queen — take on the ‘establishment’ and win a lawsuit for many survivors and sufferers… did she need swords and shields when she fought for justice? Did she need a lightsaber?
Perhaps those weapons were allegorical? Perhaps your champrotagonist is, above all, a peace-loving and thoughtful person, yet is called to fight. Perhaps your peace-loving protagonist is reluctant to get involved, but it’s the only way to save or protect an idea, a spirit, a lifestyle, a livelihood, a notion or a weaker person.
So will you be able to tick-off these requisite qualities for your champion protagonist?
Sense of moral justice ✓
Think about planning a chapter for each of those qualities (ha ha, there are fourteen chapters right there, half your book is already written!) That way you’ll expand your character (without having to resort to backstory and info dumping) and you and your readers will learn a lot more about what she can and can’t do (the limits and weaknesses of your champion, her strengths and stamina). You’ll learn things as your story progresses and you expand her character.
Calculate, when establishing your plot, what will be the main “tests” for your champion protagonist:
- Her most important victories
- The greatest dangers she faces
- The internal (and external) ways in which she will be tested
- When she demonstrates most courage
- What she risks in order to get results
- The biggest struggles she faces every day
- What she must do to prove herself a hero
Remember, strength and courage doesn’t have to be linked to fitness, endurance, athleticism, or physical endurance. Some heroes have been meek and unimpressive (perhaps even unspectacular) yet they have been relentless in their missions. Think of: Samwise Gamgee, Mother Teresa, Minnie Vautrin, Alan Turing, or Mohandas Gandhi (my personal hero is Frida Kahlo, above, an artist who spent much of her creative life in bed, staring at the ceiling! Yet how strong, courageous, fearless, and intrepid she was!)
Good luck with your champrotagonist creation… … tell me how it goes!
Comment below or tweet me @neilmach
Words: @neilmach 2020 ©
The English novelist Neil Mach has gained widespread recognition for the creation of strong female characters and for compelling stories that often revolve around the themes of loyalty and duty.