You’re probably thinking, I already know the difference between a hero and a villain; one is a good guy and the other is the bad guy. Duh! Yes, technically that’s true, but if it’s as cut-and-dry for your readers as that, there’s a good chance you might need to improve the way you write your characters.
The best characters, at least in my opinion, are those who blur the line between hero and villain—making it a bit more difficult for the reader to decide who they’re rooting for throughout the story. Of course, you’ll always want those over-the-top evil villains and easy to root for heroes depending on what kind of story you’re telling. But that’s not always the best way to approach how you create your characters. So, I’ve decided to go through some of the different types of heroes and villains in literature and other media to discuss what makes them different or similar from each other. We’ll start with the…
The Boy Scout
This is the type of hero who follows the rules and does the right thing no matter what, under any circumstances. This is used a lot when it comes to characters with a high moral background in stories where good always triumphs over evil. These types of heroes give the readers hope that the greater good will always come out on top.
These heroes are your Superman type characters. We root for Superman because he represents the good in all of us. But you must be careful when using this type of hero in your story because they can get boring. It’s hard to cause drama for a person who is essentially morally perfect. This is why many people prefer Batman over Superman. Batman is a flawed hero who comes off as a lot more relatable to the average reader.
The easy-going heroes are the ones who save the day simply for the thrill of it or just because they can. They have no real calling or obligation for the things they do. It’s more about the fact that they can do something which motivates them. It’s almost like they are just looking for something to do.
These types of heroes aren’t particularly interesting as they generally have lame motivations for saving the day. But if used correctly they can be effective in telling a good story. A popular example would be a character like Ash from the Evil Dead franchise. His character arc pretty much stays the same throughout the series of movies and the TV show. He’s highly entertaining but he doesn’t really grow or develop much as a character. He just does what he wants. Which so happens to involve killing Deadites.
The Guilt-Ridden Hero
This is when the hero of the story feels they have an obligation to do the things they are doing. It might stem from personal tragedy or trying to make up for a mistake they made in the past. Whatever their reasons, these characters are driven by a more emotional motivation. This usually leads to distinct character growth and a final personal resolution at or after the climax of the story.
Batman is a great example of this type of hero. Everyone knows his story: his parents were shot in front of him when he was a child. He partially blamed himself and this led to his long journey to becoming the Dark Knight. All of his motivations for his actions stem from that one night. It’s his guilt that drives him to save others.
This is probably the most common and frequently used type of hero. This is the hero who doesn’t necessarily always do the right thing. It might mean they kill a bad guy so they don’t have to worry about them causing trouble in the future or simply making the hard decisions others can’t. This seems to be one of the more popular types of hero in literature and other entertainment mediums.
These kinds of heroes are usually ripe for character development as the story progresses. Think of Han Solo as an example. When we are introduced to the character he had no obligation or real desire to help anyone but himself. Hell, his motivations for helping were strictly selfish and had nothing to do with altering the outcome of the story. But as the story progressed, so did his character. His character grew and he befriended those he cared very little about at the start. And even though he often did the selfish or wrong things, he always acted like a hero when it counted the most.