Heroes: Plot Devices with Moral Compasses

A great villain is the source of tremendous conflict. They bring about havoc, sewing the seeds of destruction and chaos everywhere they go. Naturally, there exist such people who only desire to thwart such nefarious folks in their plotting and scheming. Such scoundrels range from the ignoble bound for redemption to nobles who must first fall from grace before finding their true purpose.

I’m talking about heroes in their many forms, and how they tend to ruin everything.

Heroes come in all shapes and sizes, and though they may be little more than plot devices bolstered by a strong need to do good and right…I have to admit they are an essential part of storytelling. Without them, who would give help give villains better reasons to make use of their laser death rays? My disdain for the heroic aside, I must say that a good hero makes for a good story. That was painful to type, so I’ll just jump into some of the most beloved varieties of daring do-gooders before I start to really regret this post.

Every hero has a journey, and that journey in turn plays a role in defining the hero who undertakes it. Not every hero undertakes the same journey, but there are plenty of similar themes along the way that help forge similar heroes.

The One with Humble Beginnings

This type of hero usually starts off with a pretty bland, boring life, until one day Fate decides to toss a few murdered parents or destroyed villages into the mix. Heroes who follow this story oftentimes do so out of revenge, seeking to avenge their whatever. However, not all heroes who are thrown into a life of saving the day are out to right some wrong against themselves. Sometimes they are simply unlucky enough to have been born according to a prophecy. Ultimately, these heroes save the day so they can go back to some sense of normalcy, much like the next entry.

The Reluctant Hero

Sometimes, even when Fate, an entire kingdom, or maybe even the whole world, give someone a push toward doing the righteous thing by bringing justice to the wicked, that lucky chosen man or woman says “No, not interested” before shutting the door. Reluctant heroes never signed up for being different or special, but almost always possess some special feature (a power, a birthright, a previously-unknown royal ancestor, whatever) that damns them to saving the day. They certainly don’t want to, but they end up doing so anyway if only for the peace and quiet affords.

The One with Ignoble Beginnings 

Once in a while, every so often, the best person to save the day also happens to be the easiest to locate as they happen to be serving out a serious jail/dungeon sentence for not being the most morally upright of sorts. Once they find what drives them to do good, it isn’t always with the least dubious methods. These former rogues often become some of the most lovable sorts of heroic-types, putting themselves in the path of danger for the sake of others. They’re also the most likely to rob a dragon blind and blame it on someone else, so that’s probably not entirely good.

The Ones Who Fall from Grace

Not all knights know what they’re doing. The road to Hell is paved with cliches, and by cliches I mean good intentions. There are some heroes who end up being unwitting accomplices to an evildoer’s no-good scheming. Perhaps they just happen to make the wrong enemies at the wrong time, and find themselves outcasts from the very society they love. These heroes always seem to have more to prove, whether it’s that they have always had the moral high-ground or that they’re not the crooked creeps society has labeled them after their recent or not-so-recent mistakes. Maybe they’re just out to do what’s right. Either way, these heroes are a force to be reckoned with.

No story can progress without good character growth, and heroes show audiences some of the best possible character growth there is (fixing their problems, fixing other people’s problems, and generally making the world suck less). Without a good hero, even the best villain would find themselves bored into an irreversible stupor, and so it’s important–nay, essential–that the balance of power between good and evil at least be moderately decent. Even if I’d prefer odds to be stacked in the favor of evil.

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