November 18, 2018, 07:17:42 PM

Author Topic: A Hero Character is a Convergence  (Read 379 times)

Offline The Gem Cutter

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A Hero Character is a Convergence
« on: April 24, 2018, 05:48:10 AM »
Just a rambling series of thoughts that I am wrestling with as I contemplate protagonists. We'll see if I arrive at the lofty destination suggested by this post's title.

I watched an interesting analysis of the character Batman/Bruce Wayne (as envisioned by Christopher Nolan) by JustWrite, and will not replicate the analysis here except in part; the video is informative and speaks for itself.

What I will do is share my observations, building upon Batman's status as a hybrid-hero with a multifaceted pedigree of Classical (powerful but internally flawed), Tragic (self-destructing or victimized beyond whatever is deserved), Romantic (isolated, brooding, introspective & melancholic), Rebel (in conflict with society and norms of heroism for their time and setting).

What I realized is that these primary well-established types of heroes are each rooted in different primary elements of writing, which I consider to be plot, setting, character, and theme as primaries, with description, dialogue, exposition, and narration as the lesser elements. I call them lesser not because they are less important, but because they are prisms through which the primaries are communicated by the writer and experienced by the reader - so not lesser due to importance, only due to distance from the conceptual nature of the story, as opposed to the telling of the tale - where they are really all there is. The point, if I have one, is that the way these elements converge determines the kind of hero, or rather, how the audience will experience the hero.

This is important, because most poor writers I know (myself included) visualize a certain type of protagonist in a certain kind of story - but don't actually achieve that pairing, or achieving it, fail to sustain it.

For example, it occurs to me that Classical Heroes (Samson, Hercules, Achilles, etc.), are closely tied to setting more than anything else. They war with the primary elements of the setting - not a bad guy but a whole rival kingdom, misbehaving gods (metaphors for the natural world and the most dangerous aspects of humanity), etc. They usually are or become powerful and prominent enough in their world to actually be a major part of the setting. They have gods for parents with powers and relationships that literally warp the world around them. Interestingly, as mentioned in the video, they tend to be powerful enough that the things that brings them down are their internal flaws. So to deliver a Classical Hero, one should attend first to the setting to ensure the roots of the hero will fit and anchor him or her well.

Tragic heroes are tied most closely to plot; outcomes and reveals shape our perception of the hero as tragic more than anything else. Outcomes most simply include unintended negative consequences, costs to themselves and others, etc., but reveals can also contribute to the perception of the hero as tragic - the slain foe turns out to be a kinsman, for example.

Romantic Heroes seem to be the archetype most closely linked to Character; it is their outlook and personality that define them, although it must be mentioned that how they relate to the setting is also critical. A Romantic Hero in a society of other romantics would be ... nothing, just as a well-adjusted, team-player in society can be many things, but not a Romantic Hero.

Rebel / Anti-heroes seem to be a reversal of the Romantic. They seemed defined as having one foot in character with absences of Romantic notions, and the other in their relationship to their setting and the society they are in (or that the reader is in, I am not sure), which is very similar to a Romantic hero's layout. The older versions of Rebels have more involved plots than their modern, shallower versions, and accordingly, perhaps have a third foot in plot, for if they're not fighting society or at least in conflict with it, they're just unusual/atypical 'vanilla' protagonists.

Which brings me to my first theory/conclusion: mixing things to avoid all of these will result in a vanilla protagonist that will not strike chords so strongly with the audience. We know the archetypes of Edmund Dantes and Hercules the moment we see them, and when we encounter a protagonist that does not strum these chords, they do not have access to the cultural momentum the archetypes possess. This is not to say that cannot be compelling, only that they won't be viewed in heroic terms as such.

My final theory is delivering a particular type of hero is not accomplished by conceiving the hero, but by carefully shaping the convergence of plot, setting, and character elements that the archetype depends upon. More simply said, calling a character tragic and adding a negative outcome do not necessarily deliver a tragic hero. It requires more care, just as thinking of a dish with a particular flavor does not impact the flavor - it is the use of ingredients and specific cooking techniques that result in the desired flavor and texture of food.
« Last Edit: April 24, 2018, 05:52:24 AM by The Gem Cutter »
The Gem Cutter
"Each time, there is the same problem: do I dare? And then if you do dare, the dangers are there, and the help also, and the fulfillment or the fiasco. There's always the possibility of a fiasco. But there's also the possibility of bliss." - Joseph Campbell

Offline xiagan

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Re: A Hero Character is a Convergence
« Reply #1 on: April 24, 2018, 07:18:46 PM »
I think you should read the Malazan book of the Fallen by Steven Erikson (first book: Gardens of the Moon). :)
"Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis." (Laplace)