As I am writing this post, I am watching my boyfriend, Michael, play a tabletop game called Warhammer. From my understanding, it’s like Dungeons and Dragons.
Watching this miniature war unfold, It’s got me thinking about heroes and villains and the importance of a good conflict. I have this pet peeve of protagonist being perfect and over powered and overcoming obstacles with little effort, very convenient. Then you’ve got villains who are evil for no reason other than the fact that they are completely rotten to the core. Literally cringing while writing these pet peeves right now.
Real characters, like actual human beings, aren’t so black and white.
Let’s start with protagonists. Here are some key things to keep in mind when constructing a hero.
- Goal: What is the hero’s motivation? Why are they doing what they are doing? Having a purpose gives your character, and the over all plot, a direction. Also it throws fuel onto the conflict fire (if that makes sense).
- Be Real: Being realistic means having flaws. Don’t make your character too cookie cutter perfect. Readers relate to imperfections. We want to read stories with characters who have positive and negative traits, who face obstacles with some struggle.
- Growth: Over the course of a story arch, the character at the beginning of the must be different in some way to the same character at the end. Think of us, as people. We grow, we evolve, we change, and we learn things. Fictional characters must do the same.
There’s been a “tragic” dice roll.
I suppose that’s a good enough transition to writing antagonists.
- Goal: Like your protagonist, the antagonist needs solid motivation. Have them act with purpose, not just because their evil. If your villain wants to destroy a city, it shouldn’t be because they just want to ruin someone’s day.
- Be Real: Even an antagonist can have positive traits. No one can be completely bad. As I said before, things aren’t simply black and white. However, your antagonist should have an intimidating presence, to the hero and the audience. There are some villains we just love to hate.
- Integrity: Put up a worthy adversary against your hero. The villain should put up a fight and carry out every threat made. When Darth Vader said he was going to blow up a planet, he blew up a planet. If at the end of the story, the antagonist loses and cries “Curses! Foiled again!” then just melts into a wimpy puddle, you may want to reevaluate things.
And here’s a question; does the hero have to win every battle?
Take note of some of your favorite hero and villain characters and really think about what makes them great.
Write with heart,