There are two types of heroes, our perfect heroes and our flawed heroes.
We all have our childhood heroes that have made us what we are today. From some it is their mother, a caring and nurturing figure that shows them how to be compassionate in a world that just doesn’t give a damn anymore. For others it’s their father, a strong figure that shows them how to be tough and a protector of those who need it. Maybe it is even a sibiling, a cousin, or a grandparent. Maybe it was even a hero from a book, a movie or a cartoon. The point being, we all had someone or something that we looked up to as a kid that we strived to emulate. These heroes are perfect heroes. Perfect heroes don’t exist except in the eyes of children. For children, and I’m sure you can relate when you were a child, your hero was ten feet tall, stronger than Superman, smarter than Einstein, and more handy than MacGyver. Those heroes aspire us to be great and do something great with our lives.
At some point in our lives we move on from child and into adult and our perspectives change. Our lives go from imaginary worlds of fantastic castles in the sky to grim reality of the city full of skyscrapers that can’t quite reach the clouds. There comes a point that we are forced to
be grounded in reality, whether we like it or not. When that change comes, so does our perspective of what makes a hero. The shiny suit gets a little darker and the flawless hair gets more ruffled. They become flawed heroes, changing as we change with life. As an adult, we start to see things as they truly are; life is never perfect as their is always a flaw or a flipside. We start to disbelieve in perfection, seeing it as fake and unattainable. These heroes still aspire us to strive for something better, but with a more gritty and realistic perspective. Sometimes you have to do something less than good in order to achieve the better result. The ends justify the means. Though our inner child screams in protest at taking a darker role, the reality of the world forces it upon us.
When we write stories, our heroes take on many aspects of how we hold heroes in our minds. Were we one of the few adults that were able to hold onto their childhood hero or are we one of the many that have a more darker hero, one that still does good, but is jaded and grounded by reality. Neither version is wrong as long as you stay true to the type of hero that you are writing and be aware of your target audience. Those reading and expecting a dark hero like Batman, but end up with Superman, will probably have a problem finishing your story.
Personally, I like the middle ground between the two. A hero that has some flaws, but isn’t overly cynical of the world around them. Though I do love the occasional anti-hero (Riddick is a wonderful example of one), I think the middle ground provides a much more complex and relatable hero. Each side of the coin can find something they like in your hero which will hook them to your story. Heroes with flaws make them all the more human, making them all the more enjoyable to read about and resonate with as a reader.
So add a little quirk or flaw to your hero the next time you start writing. You might find your perfectly flawed hero opening doors to a whole new world of writing.