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Elements of Fantasy – Heroes and Heroines

Without heroes and heroines, fantasy worlds fall flat. Heroes put the oomph into enchanted settings and heighten emotions in everyday relationships. Men and women build stories, but what qualities create a heroic figure?

Gladiator VS Lion by MiguelCoimbraThe hero evolved hundreds of years ago, well before stories of survival were written down. Initial storylines portrayed heroes with superhuman characteristics capable of overpowering the gods. As storytelling progressed, the hero became humanized. His special quality became his courage to confront danger. His personal sacrifices aided mankind. Over time, heroes expanded from possessing exceptional combat skills to holding high morals. Military leaders and politicians represented heroic geniuses who improved civilizations.

Fantasy heroes speak for the reader and respond on behalf of the reader. Therefore, the hero’s persona resembles a regular, down-to-earth guy, yet, he holds a unique outlook on life with extraordinary abilities. Heroes are attractive and sensitive to other’s feelings. Readers prefer heroes wise enough to accumulate and manage wealth.

In the opening chapters of a story, heroes reveal their strengths and reasons for going out into the world. Even if they begin their journey for personal reasons, heroes realize all of mankind rely upon them. Readers respond to heroes with special skills and outstanding inner-strength capable of overcoming negative odds.

Valiant Guard by Chris RahnEventually, the hero’s strengths bring about his weaknesses. The hero acts inappropriately but then rectifies his behavior after completing his purpose. His fatal flaws inspire introspection while his strengths prevent him from becoming overpowered by emotional pain.

No hero can survive without a cast of characters. Fantasies must supply civilians to save and enemies to fight. Relationships with others establish the hero’s character. His survival depends upon his interactions with others.

The main purpose of a hero in the fantastical world is to fight evil forces. Heroes must overcome their fears in order to acquire empowerment. Readers relate to the hero’s universal fear of suffering as a result of making sacrifices to gain divine knowledge.

A critical element of a hero is his separation from his tribe. Abandoning his tribe grants him the opportunity to explore his inner self and discover life’s truth.

Readers yearn to watch heroes evolve spiritually. On his journey, the hero’s intelligence awakens and he develops wisdom. Doubting his abilities and questioning the concept of a higher source of power, the hero confronts his demons alone. His recurring flaws surface throughout the story until he overcomes his defect. The hero returns to his tribe to share his new gifts of truth and expanded awareness.

Critical to fantasies, heroes represent mankind’s desire to find unconditional love. The hero persistently destroys forces in opposition to mankind experiencing love, regardless of what he loses in the process.

Heroes instill hope for the reader that the gods haven’t abandoned mankind. Like the hero, man must learn to listen to his inner voice and rely upon his intuition when making life decisions. Discovering personal power prevents man from being vulnerable to life’s influences. Through the hero, the reader awakens an inner knowing and spiritual power wherein he realizes his true purpose and improves his life. Heroes and heroines reveal the ultimate life lesson for readers.



  1. Avatar Jeff Blackmer says:

    Excellent thoughts on the hero character. I agree wholeheartedly! You give me hope that I’m doing it right with my hero!
    Thanks Janie,


  2. Great article and like Jeff said, it’s great to know you are writing a character that fits the genre.

  3. Avatar Janie Bill says:


    More often that I prefer, I find myself reassessing my characters as they develop in my novels. Feedback helps, as does relying on established methods for developing heroes or heroines. How mythological our portrayal of their traits definitely is impacted by the genre we write.

    I was just watching an overview about Star Wars where they showed the mix of comic book heroes with Greek legends incorporated by George Lucas. Also, Rick Riordan explains in his website bio that he reread classic hero stories multiple times before picking up the pen.

    Have a wonderful character development.


  4. […] Elements of Fantasy – Heroes and Heroines – This is a nice article about the heroes of a fantasy story and the things that make it classified as a fantasy. […]

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