How do you create the best hero for your story? While there are probably a million different ways to do so, one way is to create your plot first and then determine what type of person would suffer the most to achieve it.
What makes a hero character so appealing is that he (or she) is usually not perfect. We watch the hero struggle to achieve a goal because we want to see that hero overcome his or her flaws. By seeing the hero grow and learn, we as an audience also feel as if we’ve grown and learned.
Think of a movie like “Philadelphia” where Tom Hanks dies of AIDS, but the hero, his lawyer, feels closer to him and all the AIDS victims who have passed away while under discrimination for their illness. In order to demonstrate the maximum amount of change, the hero needs to start off as someone who doesn’t want anything to do with gay people stricken with AIDS.
To make your perfect hero, first ask yourself what your hero needs to learn to defeat the villain. In “Star Wars,” Luke needs to trust the Force, so Luke should naturally be someone who doesn’t trust himself and lacks confidence in his abilities. In any romantic comedy, the heroes need to learn to trust their gut feeling that someone is their true love, and they have to surrender to those emotions.
The characteristic that your hero needs to defeat your villain isn’t a skill like knowing how to shoot a gun. Instead, it’s an emotional flaw that the hero needs to learn. In “Thor,” the hero needs to learn humility to defeat the villain. Learning humility for most people isn’t that hard, but it’s doubly hard for an arrogant man, and that’s exactly the type of hero Thor starts out as because that’s the longest journey and the greatest amount of change.
Your hero must change over the course of your movie, and that change should be as drastic as possible. The less change, the less interesting the story. What’s more interesting? Seeing how a bigot can learn to accept others or seeing how a man who dislikes broccoli can learn to tolerate broccoli once in a while? Seeing a bigot change is far more interesting than seeing someone go from disliking broccoli to tolerating broccoli partly because the change isn’t as drastic and partly because it’s trivial.
In “WALL-E,” WALL-E needs to find love so the opposite of that is a character put in a place where he has no hope of finding love, which is why WALL-E starts off as the only robot left on Earth.
Find the emotional change that your hero must undertake, make that change as drastic as possible, and you know who your perfect hero will be.