How to Write Heroes 101

Hey-oh guys! We’ve got hero questions today! I did my best to answer all of them…I had to bring in an expert on question 2. So, the lovely Grace A. Johnson was kind enough to lend her romance expertise to that question!

I hope you guys enjoy this post…you need a comfy chair, and something to drink and eat because this thing is almost 3,000 words!!! Let’s dive right in and get going!!!

How do you write a hero who’s not the main character, but their sidekick is?

That’s an interesting question, and I think Jaidie touched on this last week by pointing you towards reading Sherlock Holmes. I’ve never done this myself, but one tip I have is to make the SK think of how brave or heroic the hero is, make them think they could never be what the hero is, and then…let them find out the hero isn’t as put together as they think. 😉

How do you write a conflicted hero who’s fallen in love?

Gracie here! *waves* I have been summoned on behalf of Sisters Three because I am more romantically inclined, shall we say, than they are. XD 

This is a strangely specific yet oddly vague question. I’m assuming you’ve tacked on the “in love” part because you intend for it to directly impact the hero and that’s what you’re most interested in learning more about, so we’ll focus on that part!

First of all, my number one tip for anyone and anything when it comes to romance is to treat the characters and their relationship normally, just like you would any other character or relationship. Giving them special treatment or trying to check all the boxes on the Perfect Romance list is gonna make your story seem inauthentic. 

Second, use the conflicted aspect of your poor hero as a wedge between him and his love interest. Whatever is causing conflict for him on a personal level will bleed into all his relationships and make him tread lightly, especially around those he loves and doesn’t want to see harmed. In fact, he may distance himself from his love interest and wait to declare his love until he feels like everything is settled in his life.

Third, most conflicted heroes are reluctant heroes…and his love interest can play into that. She can either motivate him to complete his mission and save the world, or he may want to stay away from the fight to be with her and keep her safe. Falling in love is kinda like the refining fire for this guy; it determines who he really is and how he’ll respond to the responsibility of loving another person!

I could go on, but I’ll leave it at this for now! Hopefully, that helps you some! If you have any more questions, just leave them in the comments and I’ll be glad to answer them! Thanks, Kayti, Rissy, and Jaidie, for letting me contribute some of my advice! *grins*

How they deal with petty fears. Family life.

This is going to vary from hero to hero. What’s the personality type of the hero? What’s his family like? What classifies as petty fears for him? Spiders might be a petty fear for Jessica and a phobia for Tim, so having your character’s backstory figured out will let you know how he will react to these situations. Filling out a simple character profile can be very handy when it comes to these things.

Designing flaws for heroes, personality traits, etc.

 I’m going to point you back to creating a character profile so you can write all these things down. But as for flaws and personality traits…What are your flaws? What’s your personality like? What about the flaws and personalities around you? In movies? Family? At church? Youth group? You are surrounded by the perfect examples of how unique people can be, so study them (though not openly, that tends to creep people out…lol…) keep a notebook handy to jot your findings down on so you don’t forget.

Or you can be like me and keep mental notes. 😉

Creating heroes that people can easily relate to / How to make the readers relate with the hero/heroine.

Flaws are the key here…flawed characters are relatable and thus your reader will enjoy them, or they should, provided they are sane human beings…haha…Having your MC have a flaw, pain in their past, or experience something hurtful makes them way more relatable than if you just had a character who never had anything happen to them.

Think about it…. How many things have happened to you? Even if it’s just an argument with a sibling or friend…we’ve all had moments that weren’t pleasant, that have affected us as people, we all have flaws…so your hero should too!

How to express a hero’s fears/weaknesses in writing

That’s definitely a tricky one. We want them to have believable fears and weaknesses, but we don’t want them to be unlikable. It’s got to be written enough that they feel valid, but so much so that it makes the reader wish the hero would just get over it.

My advice would be not to do more than 3-5 fear/weakness-focused sentences at a time…to have your hero dealing with an inner battle between the bravery he wants and the fear he is consumed by. Not overdoing is the key.

How do you balance the heroic skills your character has along with being a broken and flawed being without making it seem either always winning a fight or always getting beat down? / How do you ensure that they don’t smash so-and-so into the pavement in one scene and struggle to fend for themselves against the same guy an hour later?

This is a good story structure question and mainly has to do with you making sure your pacing is not too slow or fast. We want the hero to win in the end, but that doesn’t mean he can’t be broken. We want him to win, but not always. So, tips.

  1. Have an even balance of winning and losing. Maybe your character wins a physical fight but loses the emotional battle, or vice-versa…keep it interesting.
  2. Don’t make your hero un-hurtable…this gets on my nerves more than anything. When the hero is invincible. So not realistic. So make sure the hero gets hurt or beat.
  3. As for making sure they don’t win one scene and beat the guy in the next scene…work on the pacing. Sounds like you are making the hero mature too quickly, slow the pacing down just a bit. Let the hero train or win that emotional battle that keeps him from unleashing his full physical ability. Or maybe make the hero receive some help in his final battle.

Really, it’s all about remembering what you wrote before and finding balance.

How do you give them reasonable flaws that don’t make you hate them but still make them seem human?

Everyone has flaws. Anyone who hates a character for his flaws apparently hasn’t been around people that much…because we all fall short. Don’t obsess over the flaw, let us know it’s there…but don’t dwell on it in every thought the hero thinks. Just bring it up when it pertains to a scene. Obsessing over the flaw, writing it in too much, or being on the nose about it and not subtle, is usually what gets on people’s nerves. But subtly bringing in the flaw when and only when it truly fits with a scene will help a whole lot.

How do you balance their limits with their skills?

I know I’m bringing up character profiles again…lol…I do mental profiles, so I never write them down, but I have them in my head. The main point is…the thing that has helped me the most with this one is writing down (or making a mental note of) what they can and can’t do. This way you know ahead of time what your hero is and isn’t good at. It’ll help with a more rounded character in the end as well. But also keep you from making your character great at everything.😉

How to depict a hero that suffered from intense trauma and pain in their childhood and how they’re coping later in their adult life

Wow! This one is intense…um, well, is your character made bitter by this childhood trauma/pain? Or has your hero let it make them a better person? Because my answer will differ greatly based on that answer. So, let me give a little about the two.

If your character has become bitter because of their past, you’ll want to show that bitterness in their actions, words, and the way they interact with others. Short answers, clenched fists, grinding out words when they’re mad maybe a tick in their cheek…something that shows the growing turmoil and tension inside. Use flashbacks when appropriate…may be seeing something that reminds them of that event and sets off a rage.

If the hero has let the events mold them into a stronger, better person, perhaps tenderness and kindness, a look that says a thousand words. Touches off easy when praised or ridiculed…. just simple things that will make the character more rounded. Flashbacks, when appropriate, triggering tears, fear, and regrets…just make sure your hero’s reactions line up to how that experience has affected and made them.

You can also mix both together… which makes it kind of deeper and more interesting sometimes.

How to depict a hero that was once a villain

Hands down regret and humility are key here. Letting the hero be haunted by the things he has done adds a nice layer. Or having a hero who is unwilling to accept praise for his actions because he is only doing them to make up for the mistakes and pain he caused in his past.

How to write odd/unconventional heroes like grannies or dogs?

I can honestly say I have never considered this…lol…well, maybe the dog and I did come up with a children’s book idea about a biscuit, don’t judge. So, unconventional heroes…

A dog is relevantly easy, just read some dog books and watch some movies (heads up they are ALL sad.). You can make the dog narrate the book in his head or even have the owner tell the dog’s story, either way, works.

As for writing a granny, don’t think of it as writing a granny, that’s where you’re gonna go wrong. Because if you think of it as granny, you are automatically gonna get the picture of a gray-haired woman with a cane and lots of wrinkles and wisdom and that’s just going to ruin everything. Think of it as a person. Just another character you are writing and once you get it written…you can go back and add in a few details about granny being old. 😉 Because that’s what they are, they are just normal people like us who have WAY more wisdom…lol…

How do you write heroes who do good things but aren’t necessarily good people and vice-versa?

Oh, I get to tell you to go read my favorite series!!! *Runs around and passes out a copy of said book* Okay, go read The Wars of the Realm Series by Chuck Black! Drew is a perfect example of this!! He’s good, but he’s not necessarily good. Like, I love this! Also, you could watch Aladdin (2019 version is my fav!) or you can read Peter Nimble and his Fantastic Eyes! (Which I haven’t got around to that last book, my sisters recommended that one…it’s such a thick book my dyslexic brain is like, “Uh, no.”) So, go forth and read and watch!

How do you make good heroes not boring? / How to keep them from being unrelatable / How to make a character likable while not perfect

Well, first off…no one is wholly good except Jesus. So, unless your character is Jesus, he’s going to have flaws, maybe even lots of them. What makes a hero boring and unrelatable is when the author forgets to include those human flaws. Nobody, I repeat nobody, likes a goody-toosh-you. So, make sure you incorporate flaws!

Also, for keeping the hero interesting and relatable have some inner struggles. Make them raw. Dig into that hard area, that raw, hurt area and let the reader see the hero’s heart, and trust me…they’ll like him a whole lot better than if you closed them out.

How to not fall into stereotypes

Make a list of the stereotypes you don’t like and then focus on making your character as different from that as possible. The easiest way to avoid stereotypes is to do the exact opposite or do something completely different and out of the left-field!

How to find the balance between a too perfect vs a too weak hero

Honestly, most heroes fall into the too-perfect category. Fixing that is easy, include flaws. Too weak…well, personally a hero can never be too weak because the weaker the hero is the more incredible the feats they accomplish. The Bible tells us that God uses the weak things of the world to put to shame the strong.

1 Corinthians 1:27-29 but God has chosen the foolish things of the world to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to shame the things which are strong, and the base things of the world and the despised God has chosen, the things that are not, so that He may nullify the things that are, so that no man may boast before God.

A weak hero becomes an underdog, and everybody loves the underdog! A too-perfect hero becomes annoying, and nobody likes annoying…so if you must swing one way, go for weak. But, if you find that perfect balance…that perfect hero, let me know because I really need to know how to do that! Lol… (I think that answer went pretty deep…)

Creating a believable character flaw, lie, and goal / How to give them flaws

All three need to be grounded. The character lies because??? The truth always got him hurt growing up. The character is harsh because no one ever showed him kindness. Make sure these line up with the backstory and are believable. If you don’t believe it, your readers most certainly won’t.

The goal needs to be something that seems attainable, like destroying the Ring of Power, but when it comes down to it, it is the hardest thing our heroes ever face! Your hero is going to go through fire and thunder trying to accomplish this goal, his flaw and/or lies getting in the way too. You need to make sure all are strong enough to carry the story!

Do they always have to be heroic?

In short, no.

In a longer answer…if the character is always doing the right thing. Always being heroic, he’s going to be a bit flat. One-sided. So, in my opinion, the hero does not always have to be heroic…he can be just as scared as everyone else and your readers will love him more for his relatability.

How often should they fail?

Many, many times! How often do you fail? Sure, the hero has to win some…you know, you win some you lose some. But a book is supposed to put your character through the literal worst time of their lives and bring them out stronger on the other end…because nobody wants to read a book where nothing happens, and the good guys win every fight. Make them fail because failure is key to ultimate success!

Character development and creating a very likable character among readers / How to make them realistic, true to character, and relatable.

This circles back to relatability. Create a backstory that readers can either relate to, feel sorry for, or appreciate. Make sure that backstory is going to be important to your hero going forward. Is it going to help him? Hinder him? Is it what’s best for this particular hero?

And again, I’m gonna say go write out a character interview or profile. In fact, I’ll even leave a template that my sisters and I put together (and hardly ever use) down below. We do most of our character profile stuff in our heads (at least me and Kayti, Jaidie draws them…lol…).

Heroes are not easy, one of the most important parts of the story…for Pete’s Sake, the story is all about them! But by making sure they have flaws, regrets, and a well-rounded background…you can almost guarantee success!

Did you enjoy this post? What question did you like most? Any more questions? Let me know in the comments! Have a great one folks! And thank you Gracie for your answer to question 2!

Next week will be the last post in this series with all the villain questions! (Also, we just updated the Books in Progress Page if anyone wants to check that out!) 😉

God Bless!


Published by Rissy

Hiya, my name is Marisa Phillips but please call me Rissy. I love writing, music, dragons, phoenixes (Flaming birds? Come on, that's awesome!) lions, foxes, rabbits, dogs (I also like a tons of other animals but don't have room to list them), baking with my mom, teasing my sisters, cuddling with our dog Ruger, and trying to make other people smile!

11 thoughts on “How to Write Heroes 101

  1. YES mental character profiles are the best and literal lifesavers!!!!!! *high fives* This was a FANTASTIC post!!! I loved how it touched on so many important topics about creating heroes. Seriously, all of these answers were A M A Z I N G!!!!! I need to take notes. 🙂 And yep, studying other people works AMAZING when creating all different types of characters. I think sometimes I get *too* much inspiration from people around me. XD

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, great points !
    One thing I hate about common heroes:
    When they’re too unrelatable; like, absolutely too cool or way too messed up. I mean, I know everyone’s messed up, but some seem to only be thinking messed up thoughts, on a messed up day, with a messed up life, and there’s never really any change. There has to be a good balance.
    I like heroes who are really good except in one respect, and that one respect is like a domino effect on their life. Like Anakin in Star Wars, except he ended up bad. For example, a hero who has one problem: fear, and that leads to anger which builds up…and then hopefully he gets better, but I enjoy that tension of, is the hero the hero or not?
    Grace’s answer was awesome! An idea I never thought of: treat it like a normal relationship.
    And the question do they always have to be realistic is a my favorite question, and the answer is so true. Heroes like Thorin are kind of incredible – unless he’s not a hero.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so very much!!!
      Yes, a hero has to be believable. I get that…I like to wonder what the hero is going to do and not just know…lol…
      It was great!
      Glad you enjoyed the post!


  3. “You are surrounded by the perfect examples of how unique people can be, so study them (though not openly, that tends to creep people out…lol…) Lol yes it does tend to creep people out… sadly enough!! But I just absolutely observing people. 😉 😀 Aladdin is a great example of an imperfect hero you still love regardless! All these answers are AWESOME!!! 😍 Thank you for sharing, Rissy!!

    (Oh, and Grace, AMEN to your answer for #2!!!)

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hahaha, me too! But not in a creepy way…lol…I just find human behavior interesting…lol… Eeek, glad you agree and thank you for commenting!!!

      Liked by 1 person

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