A guest post by Jennifer Blanchard
In my work as a writing coach, I come across a lot of stories where the hero isn’t being heroic. Either the hero is being saved by someone else or there’s not enough conflict to force the hero to actually step up and earn the title.
That’s a serious problem. Take note of this fact, because it will save your fiction writing career: the hero must be heroic. (I call this “Hero Fact.”)
Or your story won’t work.
While it might seem nice to have a story where the protagonist (aka: hero) gets rescued by someone else, you can’t do it. Not if you want a story that’s publishable.
In a story that works, the hero must go on a journey.
First he’s just trudging along, enjoying (or not) life. But then something happens (the First Plot Point), and he’s thrust into a journey that’s conflicted and full of stakes. Now he must work through all the demons (inner and outer) in order to come to a resolution of some kind.
Pretty basic stuff, but you’d be amazed how often people get it wrong.
No matter what story you choose to deconstruct, you’ll always find the hero being heroic. He has to be. That’s what it means when Larry says the hero has to be the “Martyr” in part four of the story.
And even when you think the hero isn’t truly the hero, if you dig deeper you’ll see that he is.
Hero Fact In Action
The example I love to give in my story planning workshops is from the movie, Twilight: Eclipse. This is the third film in the Twilight series. Regardless of whether you love or hate the movie, you can’t deny the fact that it (and all the Twilight movies) follows, to a T, the 4-part story structure Larry teaches here on StoryFix.
The hero in the Twilight series is Bella Swann (played by Kristen Stewart on the big screen). Now, she has a lot of help in the series (the Cullen Clan, Edward, Jacob, etc), but ultimately she is the hero. Even when there are two (or more) protagonists in a story, one of them still has to step up to be the main hero.
So in Eclipse, Bella and Edward have a final showdown with the vampire who has been after them since the first movie (or book). It has been argued with me that Edward is actually the hero in this movie, not Bella, because he is the one who kills the vampire. Bella kind of just stands there the whole time.
Or does she?
In the showdown scene, Edward is fighting with the main antagonist, a vampire named Victoria, and her crony, a vampire named Riley. At the end of this scene, Riley is killed, and then Edward kills Victoria.
Which is why it’s easy to think he’s the hero. But step back a little, and you’ll see that it’s really Bella.
Around mid-scene, Riley and Victoria have Edward in a headlock (and if you’ve seen the movies, you know that a headlock is the kiss of death for a vampire). That’s when Bella grabs a sharp rock and cuts her arm, which draws blood, thus distracting the vampires long enough for Edward to break out of the headlock and keep fighting.
If Bella hadn’t done this courageous act, Edward would be killed and she would be next. She is the true hero of the story. It is because of her that Edward was able to defeat Victoria.
What’s even better to prove she’s the hero, is the fact that the cutting of her arm was set up earlier in the movie, when she is told a story about a vampire who nearly destroyed the Quileute tribe, and one brave Indian woman saved everyone. She stabbed herself in the stomach, drawing blood, which distracted the vampire long enough for the Elder Chief to kill it.
Of course, the Indian woman paid the price for it. But that wouldn’t happen to Bella because she’s the hero (and nine times out of 10 the hero doesn’t die), and she has to live to be in the sequel.
Bella never would have gotten the idea to cut herself in order to distract the vampires from killing Edward, unless she was told that story about the Indian woman earlier (don’t you just love foreshadowing?).
Hopefully now you can see that, even when it doesn’t seem like it, the hero is still the hero (Hero Fact). He (or she) has to be. Otherwise it won’t work.
About the Author: Jennifer Blanchard believes we’re all born creative beings, and that everyone has a story to tell. She works with writers on taking their stories from idea to draft, so they can publish and gain a readership, without fear, distractions or disorganization. Grab her free 7-day email workshop to un-stick your stuck words.
Do you have a writing website?
Or any kind of website, for that matter, that “readers” engage with?
If so, I have an offer for you. (“I” being Larry.)
As you may know, I have a new novel out, “Deadly Faux,” my first in six years. If you have an established website, I”m offering you a FREE copy with the hope that you’ll review it there. I’m not asking for a positive review, just an honest one (and because I believe in the book, and have some endorsements that validate that belief, this is a risk I’m willing to take).
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Send a link to your site, with some sense of your subscriber/traffic volume. And, your preference relative to paperback or digital (Kindle). No strings. Thanks for considering.