Hero of One’s Own Story

Hero of One’s Own Story

I once heard an interview on NPR in which the woman who was being interviewed had been held hostage in Afghanistan. She talked about dignity as your sense of self. Dignity as meaning a person did not want to do anything they might look back on and think to themselves that they had embarrassed themselves. Or that they had acted in a way their children would find embarrassing. Everyone is a Hero of One’s Own Story.

This thought is sticking with me this morning. A friend once told me everyone is the hero of their own story and that when writing characters for fiction a person should keep this in mind. Further, when writing stories one should keep this particularly in mind in regards to the villains in a story. Flat villains suck.

I have been thinking about the composition of characters for the last couple of days. In my opinion interesting characters have ambiguities and inconsistencies. For instance, light resides amongst the darkness. The best villains are fleshed out real people with motivations that are real and consistent. Their personalities make sense and are consistent. Darkness blends amongst the light. The best heroes feel like a friend, neighbor, or relative with thoughts, feelings, and understandings that are fractious, inconsistent, and ambiguous. But whether the characters are heroes or villains they should act not from a sense of what the author feels is simply crucial for the plot, but rather they should take on an almost life of their own. Somehow they should touch something universal in the human condition.