The Main Character Who Wasn’t A Hero

One of my characters is very much like this guy, perhaps even based on his stereotype, but was written purely for satirical purposes.

Whether you’re a reader or a writer, you see a lot of the same themes in most fiction books. One of the biggest things is that the book is almost always centered around the person who ends up being the hero. They might have their flaws, they might not appear to be any more than the average joe, but there’s always something special about them, and in the end they are the deciding factor in the story’s progression. The idea is that if they didn’t exist the story would have a sad ending rather than a happy ending.

Yawn.

Okay, okay. There’s nothing particularly wrong with it. I mean, if we centered our stories around the people in the background who contributed nothing, how much cooler could that be? Sure, it’s nice for the occasional different piece, but wouldn’t work in the mainstream. But the main character being the hero is so overdone. It’s basic fiction, I know. Story meets hero, conflict meets hero, hero overcomes conflict, hooray. I’d like to talk about doing something different, and why it’s fun.

Completely by accident, one of my books turned on that overused idea. I had this guy who was cool and he was the main character and he was set to do everything. But then out of nowhere some minor characters came and stole the show. They ended up doing most of the work while my main character tagged along and helped. He did a good job, but he wasn’t the focal point. It still had him involved, and he helped, but there was much more to it than just him.

One of my main characters is kind of a ditz. She’s incredibly booksmart, but doesn’t play a huge role in the way the plot goes. If she weren’t there, the plot wouldn’t change too much. And you know what? That’s okay. If you have a character who’s just there to enjoy themselves or tag along, but they don’t have any extra super special awesome powers, I think that’s fine. I don’t think stories have to focus on just the people who are there to change the world. It’s often asked, what of their friends? What of the normal people, what do they do? Welp, it’s okay to include them and answer those questions yourself.

Essentially, I like stories that break the mold just a little bit. Stories that don’t follow the same old plots where the main character has to be the one true hero. He can still be special in some way, but why does he always have to be the hot shot? In my story where a few new characters end up being the smartest and most talented (and also voted readers’ favorites by large margins) I had a lot of fun. It goes to show that anyone can be the hero and you can take different focal points and still make it work.

Do you like stories that do something different, providing they do it right? Do you have any examples of books that did this well?

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5 thoughts on “The Main Character Who Wasn’t A Hero

  1. I agree with you that it’s fun to break the mold. You know I always try to find books by new authors to see what I might end up with (even if it’s bad sometimes… okay, most of the time). As for examples… hmm. Nothing really comes to mind right now. =C

  2. Daniel, this is another really good post. “But then out of nowhere some minor characters came and stole the show.” <—- I love that. I think I swerved into some of this in my writing. When I had my main character go to Vegas, I had her meet a hockey player on the airplane. He then stuck around for the entire book. I dragged her parents to Vegas, her best guyfriend showed up, and his friend showed up at the end of the week. Her boyfriend came mid-week. The hero ended up being someone else completely. I think this book was the most fun with so many people stomping around in it.

    1. I like that too. It’s not only something different, it’s also a surprise! It can be a nice twist when it doesn’t turn out the same way as everything else. =D

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