Story Elements: Enter The Hero

[Cue strident music]

Hero. Just saying the word sends a happy little chill down my spine. Partially that’s a little neurological excitability problem I have, but that’s beside the point. Stories need heroes like teenage girls need drama. (That one’s going to get me in trouble.)

So, what’s the big deal? Why do we all get so keyed up about a hero swinging in to save the day, defeat evil, and get the girl (or the guy, supposing she’s a heroine…or the heroine could get the girl, cause I don’t want to discriminate)? Jung says we all have an inborn hero archetype, by which he means we all want to be the hero. No, we don’t all get to disarm the nuclear bomb planted somewhere in Los Angeles. Instead, it is in appreciating the heroism of every day life that we find meaning and fulfillment.

Yeah, I’m rambling. What are you going to do about it? (If you’re Kevin, you may fire me from this sweet blogging gig.) Trust me, I’m going somewhere with all of this.

[Music rises to bombastic levels]

Give me heroism! Write the hero you could have been, should have been, would have been…will be some day? Show me what it means to be heroic, whatever that may be. Save the day…from boredom at the very least.

18 comments Posted 2009-06-04 Author: THX 0477


  • Kevin Lawver

    Is the hero really “singing” in to save the day? Have you been watching Pirates of Penzance again?

  • THX 0477

    Yes, he was singing, and yes I have been watching the Pirates of Penzance. So there! Ha ha! Great, now I’m singing, “Oh false one, you have deceived me!” in my head. I’d better change it to swinging, make it a bit more universal, manly, and all that.

  • NinjaChicken

    Ahh yes, the HERO — gret topic!

    Carl Jung said, “The hero is the man or woman who has been able to battle past his or her personal and historical limitations….has died as a modern man; but as eternal man—perfected, unspecific, universal man—he has been reborn. His solemn task is to return to us, transfigured, and teach the lesson he has learned of life renewed.”

    All great stories involve a hero’s journey. Excellent blog & a great topic for us to explore! I recommend your next blog belong to the VILLAIN!

  • g²LaPianistaIrlandesa

    You know, some teenage girls try to stay away from drama; it can simply be too stressful. I’ll just pretend you said, “Stories need heroes like some teenage girls need to read Sherlock Holmes.” Yes, that works fine.

    As much as I’d like to rise valiently to your rallying cry for heroism, I just don’t think I could well enough to be convincing. My philosophy is for people to enter life, stage-left, as they are, and to do what they do, then go from there. Life can be sketched-out frameworked, I think, but most of it’s improv. And if part of that for a particular person is acting the hero, then yippie-doo. That may be my role at some point, but for now I’d just like to allow life to throw me its cues, and I’ll attempt to respond accordingly. And if the response happens to be considered “heroic,” so be it.

    As a side note, I particularly enjoyed the pervasive, unneccesary drama; it’s very amusing first thing in the morning.

  • Vail Indigo

    I dunno. The hero idea is inspiring, but ultimately I think it is…harmful and not all that related to reality.
    But thats just me, I suppose

  • Nancy

    I know some heroes… I have the pleasure of working with one. No, I’m dead serious.

    Oh, and I totally love the teenage girls line and have officially stolen it and will use as my own forever and ever.

  • blusparrow (LoA)

    lolll, no thx you have been spared from getting in trouble. Except I can’t account for g2, she really means what she says when saying she hates drama. I will say I don’t like it either, but I wont get you in trouble for it lol. Nice job at being politically correct thx lol. Thanks for the inspiration!!!

  • THX 0477

    I think that Vail’s and g2’s comments are a reflection of the over-emphasis placed on one type of hero or hero’s journey. The point being made, and beautifully transcribed from the source by Ninja Chicken here (thanks for that), is that being heroic doesn’t have to involve slaying the dragon or battling an evil father figure with a breathing problem. We can relate to those, and they strongly trigger the archetype because of their epic scale. But you read more subtle works, and they are still ultimately about a hero’s struggle, even without the action sequences and fight scenes. My favorite example of this is ‘The Black Tulip’ by Alexandre Duma, though it is a bit of a dark read.

  • g²LaPianistaIrlandesa

    You hit my sentiment/intention on the head (or, at least on the shoulder), THX. I think I just prefer the term “protagonist” as opposed to “hero.” “Hero,” in my mind, implies valiently epic bravery, on a variety of scales, but still epic. “Protagonist” has a bit more of an everyman shading to it, which goes back to my earlier comment: everybody does their own thing, and if something happens to be heroic, then so be it. “Protagonist” doesn’t pin anybody down to one particular stereotype, it’s simply a term for the focus character. I don’t like pigeonholing people/characters, unless it involves poking a bit of fun at said pigeonhole.

  • OrangeOreos (LoA)

    Mmm… Heroism. I think somewhere deep in all of us, we all want to epically, single-handedly slay a dragon with our own strength and wit.

    Or maybe that’s just me…

    But on the other hand, everyday heroism is just as grand, if not grander, than something totally epic like slaying a dragon, because anybody can just go and slay a dragon, but to be an everyday hero, you have to have moral integrity and actually care for others, which, in my opinion, is a much better thing to have.

    There! Now you have my two cents!

  • Melia

    When I think of the word "hero’, if I’m not hungry I won’t think of the sandwich, but the first image that came into my head was a fireman. Could the fireman be considered the epic-type hero or the everyday hero? What about a single parent? Or perhaps someone who sacrifices a dream or two to look after an ill older relative? Or the teacher who inspires?

    I don’t really know where I’m going with this except to say that I think there is heroism in the minutiae, and it’s maybe more heartwarming and meaningful to find the everyday heroism than the Jack Bauers or Batmans.

  • NinjaChicken

    Again, great topic, THX — many days worth of blogs could be dedicated to this topic. I am reminded of Joseph Campbell’s “Hero with a Thousand Faces” when I read this blog. More info. here on wikipedia:

    I would love for you to write blogs about all the character types — hero, villain, relection, love interest — you da’ man!

  • Fyora Cartagan

    I was reminded of the same thing as NinjaChicken. I had two whole semesters, both a Mythology class and a Literature class based around Joseph Campbell’s work. Everything we analyzed had to be looked at through the context of “the Hero’s Journey.”

    I hate it, but I think I hate it because it’s true about just about every story, and makes every story seem like the same story, turning both reading & writing into monotony.

    On a lighter note, the blog was lovely. :D And makes me ponder writing something that follows the “Hero’s Journey” pattern in a very cliche manner….

  • BARomero

    Greek etymology of “Hero” – “To Protect and to Serve.” Also the motto of the LAPD. Fitting or ironic, depending on POV.

    I’d also love to hear more indepth discussion on Hero and other Jungian archetypes as they relate to story, perhaps, the shadow next, followed by the trickster, or shapeshifter?

  • S. Zee

    [Cue music from Footloose]

    I need a hero!

    Anyone? No? K.

    I’m a fan of the “everyday” hero (or anti-hero..I enjoy going there), as opposed to the swashbuckling, dragon slaying hero. I’ll have to explore this one a bit more.

  • Stovohobo

    I couldn’t find the “write” button for this blog entry (if there is one anymore) so this is the link to the ficly it inspired:

  • Kathy Owens

    hahaha I like normal heroes with flaws…

  • Blossom Ruoquen (LoA)

    I can’t believe..shocked into silence.. I just realized..face goes numb.. there is a contorts mouth Blougg. Of course it’s insanity to catch up on every ‘bombastic’ (love that word! man, you made my day checks watch or is it night] with that!) topic and accompanying comment.. But you Shall see my pen name listed on the bloggings to come! exits stage right with flourish of tye-dye cape