Writing Theory: Making your Heroes more Believable and less Flat

    One thing that often happens when writing heroes is they often appear more flatter and less developed than they should be. A flat hero leads to an alienated audience who will likely not vibe with the hero. Disclaimer: this is not about the flat character trope itself but characters who do not come to life. The hero can never be flat.

    What makes your hero seems flat?

  • Flat characters are sometimes confused with Mary Sues, they are nearly always perfect with just a hint of imprefection thrown in. That hint sits on the character like a dollop of cream, never truly mixing in with your character. It doesn't effect the character in any way.
  • They have no complexity. They are very simple when stripped down to their bare bones.
  • They possess no traits or flaws that are in direct conflict with their outward persona.
  • They are mostly passive even when in conflict.
  • There is no development in them from beginning to end, they learn nothing and they pass through the story unblemished.
  • Combatting Flatness in your Heroes

  • Heroes must be flawed. They must make bad choices or have some kind of imperfection. And the flaw must impact their choices and they way rhevellook at the world. Heroes are not wholly perfect, no person is. Readers do not like perfect characters, they cannot fathom them or even understand them. For example, Harry Potter is incredibly flawed. He is an ardent procrastinator and can sometimes be quite lazy. During the Triwizard Cup, he does not attempt to work out the clue to the second task until the last minute which leaves him very unready and a little all over the place.
  • Heroes must have an arc. They have to change throughout the story. They cannot be the same fresh faced dew drop they were before you got your mits on them. They have to grow and change, be affected by the story. For example, Daenerys Targaryen grows from a quiet child bride into a fierce dragon riding Queen campaigning for justice.
  • Make your Heroes complex. Allow them conflicting traits and attitudes. Complexity lends a believability to your character by allowing them to have inner conflict. For example, Kaz Brekker of Six of Crows is both a ruthless gangster capable of cruelty but is also incredibly vulnerable and insecure.
  • Make them less stereotypical. Stereotypical characters are the death of any novel for me. Stereotypes make a character flat without the writer even trying. It makes them predictable and bland. The reader knows what your character is about in a few lines. Make them less predictable, allow them to contradict their stereotypes. For example, Liesel Meminger is a child growing up in Nazi Germany, involved in Hitler Youth. We expect her to be the stereotypical Nazi supporter, close minded and prejudiced but instead, she is open minded and accepting to Max, the Jewish refugee in her basement.