Writing fiction – Heroes and Characters

pencil, notebook, Pixabay

Here are a couple of central ideas from some of the recommended books on creative writing.

A hero is not Spiderman or the fireman who saves a child, or your favorite football player.

A hero, in storytelling, is the story’s central character, who goes on a real life – or mental, or spiritual – journey, and passes various milestones, to become a changed person at the end.


The Hero’s Journey has specified stages or turning points, and they can be identified in stories by writers as different as Shakespeare, Jane Austin and JK Rowling.

Note, that caricature characters like James Bond do not follow the journey, and do not change as a result of their adventures.

Another aspect of writing is the characters.

Like the Hero’s Journey, the possible distinct characters have been studied and written about. Not all the books and magazine articles agree on the details! Read them and decide for yourself.

More to the point, become an observer of people in real life.

Even if you are writing non-fiction—say the story of your family—it will come alive if you slip in vivid details of how people really behave. Put an expression on great grandpa’s face, give a voice to your great-great grandmother. Give the uncle who died in foreign combat a handshake, a way of nodding when he listens; put sunlight or the shadow of a leafy branch across his face as he talks.

Give your characters a background, a childhood, a personal history, whether it appears in the story or not.

Think about your own childhood, and the childhood experiences of other people you know well. What makes your created characters timid, bullying, dishonest, caring, the clown of the class, hard-driving, patient, idealistic? See them, hear them, and let your readers hear and see them, because you have developed a skill in observing people in real life. Of course, don’t overdo it. Keep your touch light.

 Google The Hero’s Journey and The Hero with a Thousand Faces, and see what you come up with.


You can easily buy both these books online

A word that writers often encounter is genre. This means categories of writing, especially novels. So we have the historical novel, romance, biography, thrillers, young adult, family saga, crime, westerns, war, horror and so on. Many writers keep to one genre. Others don’t.

Ask yourself what you like to read. That is probably what you should try to write.

Enjoy, and good luck!



Published by Julia Archer

Julia is a world traveler, a writer of adult and teen fiction, and a keen photographer and reader.

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