Character Archetypes Series: #2 Hero

Character Archetypes Series: #2 Hero

In this article of Character Archetypes Series, we talk about Hero.

The Hero is the first of the Characters Archetypes.

Joseph Campbell in his work The Hero with a Thousand Faces talks about it in depth. Campbell’s studies also directly involved Christopher Vogler, a consultant for the Disney screenplays, who in the late 90s wrote a book taking cues from Campbell’s archetypes and his Hero’s Journey also called Monomyth, developing a useful book for the analysis of films and written stories.

So, we see in so many narratives, literary and cinematographic, that the protagonist leaves his “comfort zone” to go to another place to face challenges and inner demons that will lead him to change forever, and then return to his own world, with a different awareness of himself.

Who is the Hero?

The Hero is almost always the protagonist of the narrative. The story and the Hero’s Journey are concentrated around him.

Character Archetypes Series: #2 Hero - Hero's journey.
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Illustration by Valentina Forni @cloudandcowfish

The figure of the Hero is presented in the first part, that of the Ordinary World.  Here we describe the context in which he spends his daily life, what are his bonds, his values.

However, the Hero also has a weakness, defined as “Fatal Flaw“, which can coincide with the affections or with the strong desire to change the condition of his current life.

It is a missing puzzle piece that intrigues him, which makes him stay awake at night like Neo in the Matrix, drawn to the feeling that the world he belongs to is different. Likewise, Harry Potter.

They both feel the lack of something unknown that does not allow them to feel complete.

He is a character with a strong desire, like Pinocchio who wants to grow, transform, and become a child.

You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.


Characteristics of the Hero 

The protagonist has characteristics in which the reader recognizes himself: he has contradictions and has defects that in their own way contribute to making him more attractive in the eyes of those who read his stories as well as making him more “real“. 

Thanks to this strong bond created between the Hero and the public, we want as much as the Hero himself for the Journey to end successfully.

During the story, the Hero grows, reflects, changes, and returns at the end of the Journey as a different Hero from the one who left, with a greater awareness of himself.

Another striking example is Mulan, the protagonist of the Disney cartoon. She’s a young girl who dishonors her family because she does not reflect the characteristics of the perfect woman and wife.

Mulan feels she does not belong to the context that surrounds her. Only when she decides, disguising herself as a man, to take her father’s place in battle, she finds herself and she honors her family.

How the Hero’s Journey begins 

In the second stage, the “Call to Adventure”, an event turns the “Ordinary World” upside down and the Hero understands what his goal is.

It is not obvious, however, that he immediately decides to follow his Journey.

Why should he put his life in danger or risk leaving what he has, what he knows well, for something unknown?

This step is called “Refusal of the Call”. It involves a triggering, dramatic event: the death of a loved one, for example, or the impossibility for the Hero to return to his previous life.

The protagonist lives the situation of the classic straw that breaks the camel’s back and is now able to make the decision to venture into the narrative by finding his own personal motivations.

This is the main difference between the “Call to Adventure” and the “Refusal of the Call”: in the first, his social world has been subverted and the motivation to undertake the Journey is external, while in the second phase the Hero finds an internal and personal motivation. 

The Hero’s Journey in films and books 

Many narratives, be they books or films, take the same path.

Let us take the movie “Star Wars” as an example. George Lucas, the director, admits that the script largely follows Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. 

Think about how the narration of the film begins. Luke Skywalker is a young man who lives in Tatooine, a desert planet of the Outer Rim. He works with his uncles in the fields. Even though he wishes to enroll in the academy, his uncle Owen does everything to keep him out. Here is his “Ordinary World”.

When the two droids, R2-D2 and C-3PO arrive, Luke’s world is turned upside down. This is the time for the “Call to Adventure”. But Luke will initially refuse to get involved, simply trying to retrieve his uncle’s droids and return home, restoring the “Ordinary World”.

The triggering event is the murder of his uncles and so the Hero’s Journey begins.

How does the Journey continue?

The first three phases belong almost exclusively to the Hero and his world.

These are moments in which the public begins to understand who the Hero is, what his characteristics are, and in which world he lives.

In the following stages, however, our Hero will meet other characters who will accompany him on his Journey.

We will talk about these and the other characters in the next articles.

Create your perfect Hero thanks to bibisco

In this article, we have described the initial stages of the Journey that a Hero must face and the characteristics that must belong to his character.

However, it is not so easy to think of structuring a protagonist with such an interesting character to capture the attention of the public from the very first moments.

Thanks to bibisco novel writing software everything will be much easier.

Character Archetypes Series: #2 Hero - bibisco character's interview
bibisco blog | useful resources by your novel writing software
bibisco character’s interview

You can use the interview mode to understand which structure and what behaviors to give to your Hero, thus creating a character that you will not forget!


The Hero is not an infallible character, he is much more human than what the term itself suggests.

Thanks to his flaws, his indecisions, his values ​​he manages to create a particular bond with his audience to the point of passionate and moved him in following the events of his Journey.

The beauty of this character is the evolution that characterizes the life of each of us.

Think about it, what moment of your life was your “Call to Adventure”?

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