Harry. Matilda. Bilbo. Tris. Katniss.
Unless you’ve been off planet or hiding under a rock for the last 20+ years, you will undoubtedly recognise at least a couple of these fantasy heroes and heroines.
In children’s literature, the fantasy heroes and heroines are many and varied – each with their own personalities and back story – but they all possess certain characteristics that endear them to their readers.
- They’re young and often a little awkward, lonely or insecure – someone the reader can relate to, cheer for, laugh at and long to be like.
- They don’t know much, if anything at all, about their unique abilities and have to learn both control and strength during the course of the story.
- They’re often orphaned or in some way left without the supervision of a responsible adult that would normally prevent them from behaving so recklessly.
- They’re the chosen one – and don’t know it, want it or believe they can be it.
- They evolve proportionate to the amount of trials and challenges they are forced to overcome – be they physical battles and dangerous circumstances, villains and their minions or the fascinating inner conflicts they themselves suffer with.
- They never travel alone – a hero is only ever as good as his animal sidekick, best buddy or mentor, the one person willing to stand by him no matter what, help where help is required and provide some excellent motivation when needed.
When creating the perfect fantasy hero for your book, these characteristics and traits are a great starting point. They outline a character your readers will recognise and be able to relate to – one that adheres to their expectations of a fantasy hero – while still allowing you the freedom to make him or her unique and unlike any other hero they’ve read about before.
This process can’t be rushed. Your hero needs to be as real to you and your readers as any living girl or boy. He needs depth and emotions, motivation, conflicts and a detailed back story. Start small, then fill in more and more detail until he feels real. Take your time and get to know him. And then, when you’re ready, share him with your readers!