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Article - 'The Rise and Fall of a Hero' by Xanqui

An item about Plots/Characters posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

Sympathy and Empathy 2! Only this time, Xanqui gets a little more specific.

Body

I was originally going to write an article about tragic heroes, because someone suggested it to me, but as I did some research on it, I realized that it wasn’t something I felt like writing about. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy Shakespeare and such, but tragic heroes aren’t something I feel like writing about.

Anyway, it inspired the idea of writing about “The Rise and Fall” of your hero, and how to get the sympathy out of your audience (you know, make ‘em cry). In the previous Sympathy and Empathy article I wrote, I explained several types of what I call “lovables”. This will focus on the Pathetic “lovables.” I’m not implying that your hero is pathetic, but in this case, he is falling into that particular category.

From “Sympathy and Empathy for the Characters”
Pathetic - This character is always unlucky, yet never gives up. The player looks forward to this character finally succeeding at one point.

The Rise
Your hero doesn’t have to necessarily be unlucky. In fact, he will start out quite lucky. There are two different ways for your character to start out lucky. He could either be A) Friggin’ Wealthy and Famous, or B) Living a wonderful life with a wonderful family.

For choice A, there are many different paths to begin with. He could be rich and famous, but not very happy with what he has. He could want more, because he’s a greedy jerk (this is great for character development, by the way). Or he could be a nice man who gives to the poor and takes care of homeless children or whatever. The point is: he’s rich, and he’s not suffering all that much, if at all.

For choice B, your options are a little more limited. He’s not necessarily wealthy, but he’s happy with his life. Perhaps he is running a successful farm, or a store where the atmosphere is friendly. He loves his family, his job, and despite not being very rich, he’s the happiest he could possibly be.

So, either way, the hero is living a pretty good life. But living a good life isn’t very good for a story now, is it? It’s time to give this guy an adventure of some sort! But how do you get him to leave his home?


The Fall
There are many ways to screw up a character’s life. But this is where sympathy comes in. Obviously, no one is really going to sympathize with a total jerk who has all the money in the world. So take that from him. Take away their families, give them a few beatings, and now you have your vengeful adventurer! But don’t worry, you still have control over him. He can’t hurt you.

As the hero progresses through the story, trying to save his family or whatever, or maybe he’s getting revenge, he is going to need to develop as a character. Let’s go back to our choices.

Choice A (the wealthy guy): The player probably thought the hero deserved to be deprived of his money, because he’s such a jerk. But now, poor and probably sick of life, the hero will not give up until he has completed his task, whatever that may be. Learning how to live without possessions, treating people kindly in order to gain their trust, and transforming into a new kind of person does not only help with sympathy, but it is exactly what character development is. Also, it gives the story of the hero a nice little moral.

Choice B (the happy guy/nice wealthy guy): The player starts right off sympathizing for the hero. “He didn’t deserve that,” the player will think. But like the jerk, this hero will need to develop as well. He must learn to adapt to his new surroundings in order to achieve his goal. Instead of learning how to develop his personality, he must grow stronger, both mentally and physically.

Not all character development deals with personality. In this particular case, the last thing you would really want to focus on character-development-wise would be personality. Some people would go insane, lost in a jungle, not knowing whether his or her family is alive or not. But this character will learn to face these hardships and get his or her family safe, or complete whatever goal he or she is trying to achieve.

But don’t rule out the jerk wealthy guy. Most wealthy people are actually quite weak, mentally and physically. So focusing on both personality and strengths would be a good idea for this character. Of course, that’s just a suggestion.

As for tragic heroes, the heroes who fall because of a flaw (hey that kinda rhymed), the hero must overcome this flaw in order to achieve his or her goal. In many tragedies, the hero will again fail, and the story will have a rather sad ending. But a happy ending isn’t always bad either. I honestly don’t know much (or care, for that matter) about tragic heroes, so this is as far as I’m going with them. Maybe I’ll save that for Sympathy and Empathy 3.

Anyway, to summarize: hero has a good life, hero gets screwed over, hero overcomes fears or personality, and the hero either completes his task or doesn’t complete it. It’s all very simple, but following this basic formula will at least help you create depth to your character. There are many different plots that will allow you to use this formula, and your possibilities are endless. Using it does NOT make your story cliché; it is simply using a basic character design to enrich your plot.

I’d like to thank a friend of mine, who isn’t a member of GamingWorld, but is in my school, whose name is Hunter for commenting about tragic heroes a week ago, which in turn sparked the idea for this article. Sure, it was indirect…but meh. I hope this article helped, because it took me three days to write (my new record!).