Make Every Character a Mirror of the Hero

Every story is about resolving a single problem. In “Soul,” that question is what is a soul’s purpose? In “Titanic,” that question is how do you want to live your life? To solve that question, the hero must overcome challenges and change to become a better person.

For the hero to change, he or she must see alternate versions of themselves through the following characters:

  • Villain
  • Mentor
  • Ally

The villain is the evil version of the hero, who the hero could be if he or she chooses to be selfish, arrogant, and greedy. That’s why Darth Vader is Luke’s father and Hans the villain in “Die Hard” is a smart and clever man just like John McClane, the hero.

Imagine the hero with power but evil and that’s your villain. In action thrillers like James Bond movies or “Die Hard,” it’s easy to see how the villain is an evil version of the hero, but in other movies, there isn’t a single villain who opposes the hero. Instead, the evil version of the hero must be personified through another character who may not be the villain.

In “The Phantom of the Open,” a man who has never played golf in his life decides to compete in the British Open. Since he’s such a beginner, he’s horrible and sets a world’s record for the worst score ever in the British Open.

While the British Open officials try to convince him to quit and then ban him from the tournament, the personification of the villain is actually his son who has gotten a respectable executive job at the shipyard where the hero works. To maintain his appearance, this son tries to distance himself from the hero (his father) because he’s embarrassed by his lower class background. This essentially is an evil version of the hero because the son tries to deny who the hero is.

While the villain is the evil version of the hero, the mentor is the good version of the villain. The mentor helps the hero by providing emotional and physical support. The mentor is also a role model for the hero and represents who the hero could become.

In “The Phantom of the Open,” the hero’s son personifies the villain by trying to distance himself from the hero’s lower class background. Yet the hero’s other two sons act like mentors by pursuing their dreams of becoming competitive disco dancers. Although their future as disco dancers is minimal, they help show the hero that they reached their goals just like he can reach his goal of playing golf.

Finally, every hero needs an ally who can help the hero. This ally is often someone who has nearly identical goals as the hero. In “The Phantom of the Open,” the hero has dreams of playing golf but his wife (his ally) once had dreams of working in the theater until she got pregnant.

In “Star Wars,” Luke needs to learn to trust himself while Han Solo (his ally) needs to learn to pursue ideals beyond just making money, so their goals are similar.

So whoever your hero is, your villain is the evil version of the hero, your mentor is the good version of the villain and someone the hero aspires to become, and the ally is someone with a similar problem as the hero.

By making the villain, mentor, and ally reflect the hero, you can create a more focused and unified story. To see unfocused stories that introduce characters who play little role in influencing the hero, just watch the latest Marvel movies “Thor: Love and Thunder” or “Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.”

Both movies lack the focus of making every character reflect the hero, which makes both movies weaker as a result.

So make your hero see him or herself in the villain, the mentor, and the ally. By making all these major characters reflect the hero, you can write a stronger, more focused story.

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