As an avid reader, some of my favourite stories involve underdogs; someone we want to root for, because we feel for their plight. We don’t necessarily want them to become a hero, but if they do then we want them to be the best hero they can be. We don’t want them to immediately win – And no hero, no matter how great, should immediately win unless it’s a parody. Following on from Creating The Monster from a few weeks back, this is how you can have the Hero Fight The Monster.
Heroes and heroics are two things which are entirely different; a hero is someone who effectively is brave enough to deal with a problem, whereas heroics are effectively brave feats. This is an important distinction, because there are many books I’ve picked up where we’re told the protagonist is a hero who has seen and done much. They’re known the world over, they’re strong, they’re able – They’re just ideal!
The problem with this type of hero is that it’s not believable when they meet the Monster, as we’ve been told so much about the hero! We know our hero is ideal to topple the monster, so why should we think the Monster is going to be a threat? Sure, you can just write “and then the Monster wins”, but that’s not good storytelling. That’s lazy, uninspired and overall just unimpressive. It belittles our hero, regardless of the feats they’ve accomplished.
We’re going to come up with a narrative for our hero, so go with me here.
Our hero is Kynthia (Ky-in-thee-a), a Halfling Rogue who is known in her small village of Pennygard as nothing more than a mugger; a knave! Little did she know, her dastardly ways would lead her down an epic quest to retrieve the long lost amulet, The Lunafall. It is said that The Lunafall would bestow untold riches upon the land, providing the surrounding areas with lucious, ever perfect crops. For a small village, this would make her a heroine – and so Kynthia sets out to find the Lunafall.
Upon reaching The Deep, where the Lunafell was said to reside, Kynthia felt her knees tremble. She heard a loud, booming echo, which seemed to scream out:
“I’m not finished with you!”
Startled, Kynthia freezes up in fear, as The Deep begins to rumble. Suddenly, she looks up and sees… an ambulance being flung at her! Unable to react in time, Kynthia is knocked down the ravine, tumbling the whole way down, losing consciousness as soon as her head hits the heavy ground below.
Rebuilding Our Hero
Night turns back to day as Kynthia slowly reawakens. She feels groggy, genuinely confused as to why an ambulance was in there is and how on Gaia was something so strong that it was able to throw one at her? She begins to nurse her wounds, using some cloth straps as makeshift bandages, whilst she considers her options. Returning to The Deep was far too terrifying, but she knew she had to do it.
She remembered that deep, booming voice screaming at her. The very thought of it sent shivers down her spine. She was a Rogue, not a Paladin! This was clearly a job for a Paladin, as those holy crusaders were so heavily armoured that they could easily withstand an ambulance, surely? Perhaps she should just give up.
“What a lame thing to think.” A nearby cricket chirps out at her. This took Kynthia by shock.
“Excuse me? You’re a crock, you bloody cricket!” Kynthia bleats out. The cricket laughs, before morphing into a wise old man, through a metamorphosis so extreme, we really shouldn’t detail it here*.
Kynthia was in absolute shock, when she realised the cricket was actually a wise old man, who she immediately bowed down to. The man laughed a loud, powerful laugh, before turning to her and simply saying “Rise. We have much to discuss.”
Kynthia trained under the wise old man’s tutelage for the next week. After the week was up, at sunset, the wise old man smiled to her. “You have trained hard, Kynthia. Now, it is time for you to face destiny head on.”
“Thanks, Crocket.” Kynthia had come to affectionately call him Crocket, an incredibly smart combination of ‘crock’ and ‘cricket’. The wise old man seemingly didn’t have a name, as he was just a cricket after all. “I will make you proud! You must come visit Pennygard next week!”
“I am looking forward to it. For now though… I must metamorph back to my cricket self. Uh, p-please, look away my child–”
Suddenly, Crocket realised that Kynthia was already rushing back up towards The Deep.
“Right. See ya then, Kynthia, you ungrateful cad! I hope you meet that Monster and d-”**
Kynthia was primed and ready to go; her extensive training with Crocket has led her to be a lot less afraid of loud voices. As she approached The Deep, she came up with a solid plan – She was going to fight the Monster and beat it at its own game.
So similar to the last encounter, she approached The Deep and heard a loud booming voice, shouting out how it wasn’t finished with her. She knew this was coming, so stepped out of the way as this time a whole stage was thrown out of The Deep. Naturally, as Kynthia wasn’t in the way, she wasn’t hit this time. She then stepped back into the passageway of The Deep, took a deep breath and triumphantly screamed…
“… Ha, ha, you missed, loser!” Kynthia was never known for her class.
Suddenly and without warning, the Monster itself had awoken. A giant of a man came storming out, with anger and destruction in its eyes. Unfortunately, Kynthia’s training had only taken her so far, so the Monster reached for her to throw her back into the ravine below. Shocked and in fear for her life, Kynthia did the one and only thing she could think of.
She kicked the Monster right in between the legs. The monster keeled over, with a loud “Oww!”, before she booted the Monsters backside, making him tumble to the ravine below. Finally triumphant over the Monster, Kynthia headed into The Deep to find the Lunafell.
Naturally, this was a humorous story to serve a purpose and is certainly never going to win an award, but I hope you get the point. If you’re writing a hero, do not write them to win automatically. Indeed, let insurmountable odds appear to be tricky. Let the hero fall (in this case, quite literally). Let the hero make mistakes. Let the hero be relatable. We all get knocked down from time to time, but what makes or breaks us is whether or not we get back up again. You’re never going to keep Kynthia down.
As ever though, share your thoughts in the comments below, or over on Facebook or Twitter. What are your favourite heroes? Are underdogs good stories, or do you just want a hero that is immediately a hero from stage one?
*Okay, so here’s the metamorphosis procedure! First the cricket rubbed its legs together, which made the cricket scream in agony, as the friction of the legs rubbing together makes it set itself on fire. It then slowly started to burn away, revealing bone, which agonisingly begun to bond flesh to it. The skeleton and flesh begun to stretch, causing a cracking, pulling sound, similar to the sound of pulling rubber. When the wise old man finally was there in the flesh, he quickly had to reach for some leaves to hide his modesty. Kynthia was too polite to stare during this horrible metamorphosis.
**You didn’t think we’d leave you not knowing what Crocket said, did you? He said “Right. See ya then, Kynthia, you ungrateful cad! I hope you meet that Monster and destroy the ambulance he throws at you, but I hope you’re somewhat humbled, you little git! Don’t come back whilst I’m metamorphing, or I’ll give you a damn good thrashing! I’m miffed right now that you’d just leave me like that. Oh… I’m lonely.”