Hero Worship

James Bond. Batman. Robin Hood. Every reader longs for a hero, and it’s not just a girl thing. Men admire champions as well. This means that as a writer who wants to gain readership, creating a heroic protagonist isn’t just a good idea.

It’s crucial.

But what makes a great hero? Six-pack abs? Bulging biceps? A smile that makes every woman within a 5 mile radius sit up and beg?

No. Even villains can look like Michelangelo’s David can still be rotten to the core.

So, outward appearances aside, what goes in to writing a heart-stirring fella that makes you want to whip out some pom-poms and cheer until your throat burns?

I’ve given serious thought about the ultimate hero I can use for a model. King Arthur wins hands-down for chivalry, but Atticus Finch trumps with social justice. After much consideration, I finally came up with one all-time, can’t-argue-with-this heroic figure…

Jesus.

I know. I know. To some it might seem sacrilegious to be so presumptuous as to try to create a fictional character based on the son of God. Far be it from me to think I can infuse divine qualities into a pen and ink creation.

But, hey, it’s worth a shot. So here’s a list of attributes to infuse superhuman memorable traits into your hero that will stir the heart of any reader.

Determination

This is the dude who never gives up. He’s got a mission, and nothing will stop him from completing it. Readers admire a hero who takes hardships on the chin, all in the name of carrying out his responsibilities.

Strength

I’m not talking merely physical might. A hero must be able to withstand any number of blows, from mental to spiritual. Notice I didn’t say he doesn’t stumble or get hurt. Strength has an undertone of perseverance.

Compassion

A leading character must be able to look beyond an outward situation, zero in on the heart, then respond with love—even if it’s tough love.

Defender

Any memorable hero is going to stick up for the underdog. There’s a time and place for righteous anger over injustice, and this character is willing to take action to do something about it

Confident

Who doesn’t admire a person that knows exactly who they are? Just remember there’s a razor-thin line between confidence and conceit.

Sacrificial

Giving for the good of others is an irresistible attribute that inspires awe and loyalty—not just from the other characters, but from your reader as well.

Those are just a few. I’m sure you can think of more. Obviously, there is only one, Jesus, so there’s no way a ‘real life’ fictional character could embody all these traits and still be believable. Don’t overdo it, and keep in mind that your hero still needs to have a flaw or two.

There you have it. Now that your character is super on the inside, go ahead…slap on some bulging biceps, and you’re good to go.

So, what traits are you working on incorporating within your protagonist? Or, on a lighter note, who was your childhood hero/heroine?

And for the procrastinators among us, which superhero are you?

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About Michelle Griep

I hear voices. Loud. Incessant. And very real. Which basically gives me two options: choke back massive amounts of Prozac or write fiction. I chose the latter. Way cheaper. I've been writing since I discovered blank wall space and Crayolas. I seek to glorify God in all that I write...except for that graffiti phase I went through as a teenager. Oops. Did I say that out loud?

16 thoughts on “Hero Worship

  1. John and Roy from Emergency! were my heroes. Does anyone else remember this show? It must have meant that ER nursing was in my blood because I can remember being 4 or 5 and watching those two men save lives instead of watching cartoons. Loved them.

  2. I agree, Jesus is the ultimate hero, but Paul/Saul comes to mind. He spread the Word obediently, faced many trials and also resolutely headed to his destiny. I am grateful for his example for he messed up earlier in his life, presuming to kill Christians, then had that dramatic conversion. Since I messed up big time in my life, I’m grateful to know God can still use me. Secular heroes were Dr. Kildare and Ben Casey – I wanted them to intervene in my life so much. And I loved the Man from UNCLE. Sigh, Illya.

  3. Great post, Michelle. Thanks for sharing.

    Personally, I find myself connecting to novels where the heroes/heroines are well written, books in which the authors really understand their characters. My favorite book hero=Atticus Finch. 🙂

  4. What a great post! I really like the analogy of what makes a great hero. You’re absolutely correct, Christ is the perfect example.

    My childhood hero is my dad. When other fathers were out having fun together, he was spending time with us. We were never wealthy, but I had the richest upbringing. He took us to forty-nine states (can’t drive to Hawaii!), Canada and Mexico. He bought me books, lots and lots of books. He taught me to work when exhausted, love when frustrated, and persevere when the chips were down.

  5. Although I don’t write fiction (yet), I think these characteristics would also be a great way to brainstorm when trying to describe a real person for creative nonfiction. Thanks for the prompts! Btw, my dad was my hero, too. He seemed to always be the stabilizing force in our household–a real peacemaker. And he could fix anything. Plus, he was the most godly man I knew as a child–maybe that I’ve ever known. And I’m so sorry that my children never had the opportunity to meet him.

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