Deciding between two character types

by sam

Hey, so I have a question regarding my main character.

The story is that his kingdom of nords was once a powerful and great nation until a huge dragon came and laid waste to their lands. Now they are scattered around the land in little villages. And without the manpower or weapons to stop them, the land becomes overrun with other dragons and orcs. When the story begins, it's been so long since the dragon attack, not many people even remember it or even believe that their ancestors were once part of a great nation.

The hero lives in one of the villages, and I'm just torn between two options for his character.

Option 1:
The hero is a bit of a dreamer who wants nothing more than to put an end to their destitute situation and restore the land back to the glory that it was during their ancestors' time. His best friend is one of the hopeless doubter who sees him as kind of immature.

Option 2:
The hero is a doubter who thinks this life of hardship is all they have known and ever will know. However, this time, his best friend is the dreamer and believes in the legends of glory.

The inciting incident that kicks the hero into action is that, while on a hunting trip with his best friend, they get attacked by a rogue dragon, his best friend is killed and the hero returns back to the village. He makes up his mind that he's going to put an end to the torment their people suffer.

If I go with option 1 for the hero, then his motivations will be because he really wants to change the situation, and his friend's death was the last straw. But if I go with option 2, then his motivations will mostly be revenge and not because he wants to actually change his situation.

But with option 2, I feel like the hero would have more of an arc. Starting out as a hopeless unbeliever and then in the end he unites the villagers and changes their bad situation. With option 1, his arc won't be as strong, but he will have more opposition and challenge because no one believes him, yet he still wants to change their situation.

I don't know if this all makes sense. It's kind of a hard question to put into words without having to explain a ton of things. But I hope you get what I mean with all of this.

Anyway, thanks Glen!

Answer: Your question makes perfect sense and speaks to the heart of the matter on which this type of story succeeds or fails.

To wit: Some heroes seek adventure or at least take on the task willingly. Others have to be forced into it by circumstances.

Sometimes you want a hero readers can look up to, because of their admirable traits. Other times you want one they can relate to because his flaws and failings remind the readers of themselves.

Usually in an adventure story you want the hero to be a man of action. But it can also be interesting to see a be-er thrust into a do-er role, rather like a fish out of water.

I can't tell you which choice you should make, but there are a couple of considerations you might take into account when making your decision.

1. Which character interests you? Which one do you relate to on an emotional level? As the writer, you have to be able to fall in love with your character in order to write about him passionately. So don't pick a character you find boring.

2. Who will your readers relate to? Obviously, you're writing partly to fans of fantasy fiction, so you can't completely disappoint their expectations. On the other hand, you don't want your hero to be a carbon copy of the protagonists from the last ten books they read. Whenever something starts to feel too familiar, that can be a sign readers are getting hungry for something different. You might look for a character who embodies whatever has been overlooked and demands attention.

Incidentally, regardless which choice you make, both the characters you describe have something in common. They take the death of their friend as a call to arms. Either character could just have easily taken such an event as proof that nothing can be done about their situation. The option 1 guy could have decided that his dreams were just childish wishing. Option 2 could have taken his friend's death as proof there's nothing that could be done.

Instead, your protagonist (1 or 2) decides to leap into action. How a character responds to tragedy says something important about his nature.

Best of luck.

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