“Be not afraid of greatness; some are born great, some achieve greatness, and others have greatness thrust upon them.” The Bard
As an exercise in writer’s craft, the quote goes a long way to outlining character. Take “some are born great” for example. It may be that “born great” actually refers to the birth of the hero, but I was kinda thinking of it in terms of the hero’s introduction to the story. Lots of heroes in paranormal romance are already great—great with power, great with authority, great lovers. Their character arcs take a different form, perhaps humility or sacrifice. Then there are those who belong in the second group, who are pouring their blood and sweat into attempting to achieve something. I love these guys—they’re the stuff of the American Dream—which promises that if you work hard enough, you can achieve whatever you set your mind to. I love to see them work out their dreams in stories so that I can have the immediate gratification of their efforts, while my dreams are still works in progress, slogging through one day at a time.
The third variety is the kind of hero or heroine that would rather be watching a movie or canoodling than kicking butt, but circumstances require them to act, to fight and to reach beyond what they (and the reader) ever thought possible. These kinds of protagonists, forced into greatness, are I think closest to the average person, you and me. We live our lives, surf the web, eat too much chocolate—but we hope that if ever there is a moment when we have to step up and do the brave thing, that we will have the mettle and presence of mind to do it. I get a thrill every time I read a story online of some random, regular person being the hero of the day. Recently I saw a yahoo video of a boy jumping up to drive a school bus when the driver lost control. And once—it still makes me want to cry—I saw an online security video of a parent wrapping themselves around an infant as a car crashed into them. They both survived, the adult with two broken legs, the baby unharmed. There are a million examples, and most of them make me want to weep and/or cheer.
I’ve written all three kinds of protagonists, but the third is by far my favorite.
What about you? Think of a favorite book… What kind of hero or heroine does it feature?