In almost any story, the hero will fit into an archetype in some way or another. \r\n\r\nUsing character archetypes doesn\u2019t mean the story isn\u2019t creative, though! Archetypes are simply tools for writers to use and play with.\r\n\r\nA story outline (like the three-act structure, for example) can be a good scaffolding for us build our story around. A character outline can be a good scaffolding for us to build a hero around.\r\n\r\nAs readers, we can train ourselves to spot these archetypes. As writers, we can utilise established archetypes to give a character more depth. Analysing archetypes is a great activity for a writer to do.\u00a0\r\n\r\nWe can consider archetypes when trying to understand more about the heroes we\u2019ve already written. We can use them when planning a story to create the best character for the narrative and the world.\u00a0\r\n\r\nWhatever the stage of your writing, knowing the different types of literary heroes can help you write better protagonists. Let's dive in and take a look at nine common examples.\r\nHero type #1: Epic hero\r\nWhat is an epic hero?\r\nThe epic hero is the first archetype that comes to mind when we think of heroes.\u00a0 They are called to adventure, they face trials, they save the day.\r\n\r\nThey will begin their story at a point of stability and they will usually return to stability, only now they have been changed in some way. \r\n\r\nFor some, this means they have gained power(s) through their journey. For others, it means they now know more about the world at large.\r\nWhat are some examples of epic heroes?\r\nEpic heroes are classic heroes, and it doesn\u2019t get more classic than Odysseus from Homer\u2019s Odyssey.\r\n\r\nOdysseus is challenged to complete trials; he shows courage, loyalty and smarts. Eventually he succeeds in his quest and returns to a period of stasis.\r\n\r\nA more recent example of an epic hero could be Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings. \r\n\r\nAragorn was born noble, but at the beginning of the story he is in a humble state. Then he is challenged, and eventually becomes the king his people need him to be.\r\n\r\nTo go even more recent, we can consider Rapunzel from Tangled. Rapunzel begins her story at a point of stasis, but finds adventure when she becomes bored of her limited life. \r\n\r\nShe is keen to explore, which she does, facing trials along the way. Finally she ends the story as the returned princess.\r\nHow to write an epic hero\r\nWhile many epic heroes are admirable or at least interesting characters, that\u2019s not their primary function. \r\n\r\nAn epic hero doesn\u2019t have to have as much depth and inner turmoil as some other types of literary heroes. Writing an epic hero can be more straightforward.\r\n\r\nAn epic hero will often be destined for greatness of some kind. That could mean they\u2019re the long-lost child of royalty or even gods.\u00a0\r\n\r\nOnce you have your epic hero\u2019s backstory, you can put them on the traditional heroic path, like Campbell\u2019s Hero\u2019s Journey, and they will complete their quest, save the day and return\u00a0to a point of stability. \r\n\r\nIf they were long-lost royalty, their new stability could be happily ruling their kingdom. Maybe they return to the exact same point they started from, happy with their original, humble life.\r\n\r\nHowever they finish their quest, the final point in writing an epic hero is giving them their (happily) ever after.\r\n\r\nImage via Unsplash\r\nHero type #2: Iconic hero\r\nWhat is an iconic hero?\r\nThe iconic hero is often bundled in with the epic hero, but they aren\u2019t quite the same.\u00a0\r\n\r\nBoth the iconic and the epic hero are classically heroic. They are courageous, loyal and clever. \r\n\r\nThe difference is that the epic hero goes through a journey and comes out the other end changed in some way. The iconic hero is eternal and does not change.\r\n\r\nIt can be easy to think that this type of literary hero isn\u2019t interesting, but that isn\u2019t true. As readers, we like these characters. They can feel familiar and even safe. We know that they won\u2019t change.\r\n\r\nAn iconic hero won\u2019t die in their own story. The story's other characters could change, die or simply leave, but the iconic hero is always what we expect and need them to be.\r\nWhat are some examples of an iconic hero?\r\nLiterature is littered with iconic heroes. They\u2019re especially popular in comic books. \r\n\r\nConsider Batman, Superman, Hulk, Wolverine, Professor X, Captain America. These characters are defined by their respective traits. They may experience a character arc, but Batman is always Batman.\r\n\r\nThe comic book iconic hero works well because readers often jump into comics at random, not always starting with the very first issue. \r\n\r\nThe iconic hero archetype means we know what to expect when we pick up the next Batman comic, even if we\u2019ve missed the last 100 or so. \r\n\r\nThis is also why writers can reboot these stories and franchises so frequently.\u00a0\r\n\r\nThe iconic hero is also popular among detective characters. Agatha Christie\u2019s Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, and even Nancy Drew are all iconic heroes. \r\n\r\nThey hunger for truth, and they come out the other end the same way they went in. James Bond and even Geralt from the Witcher series fit this character type as well.\u00a0\r\nHow to write an iconic hero\r\nLooking at the above examples, there\u2019s something that links these heroes: they\u2019re all stars of multi-volume series. \r\n\r\nTo write an iconic hero, your character must appear in many stories. Otherwise, they\u2019re just a regular old hero, not an iconic one.\r\n\r\nStart by getting to know your character. Understand them as best you can, because they aren\u2019t changing. \r\n\r\nYou might feel that you need to change them to progress the story along. For example, the detective getting better at detecting in order to solve the crime. \r\n\r\nBut the detective doesn\u2019t really need to get any smarter; they just find the next clue.\r\n\r\nYou can change the environment around your hero, however. You can have some fun with an established iconic hero by putting them in a new and foreign situation and exploring what they do. \r\n\r\nHow does Batman react when he\u2019s suddenly forced to live in a submarine? (He probably just broods.)\r\n\r\nImage via Unsplash\r\nHero type #3: Anti-hero\r\nWhat is an anti-hero?\r\nThe anti-hero has become increasingly popular over the past decade. The key feature of an anti-hero is their lack of typical heroic attributes. \r\n\r\nWhile a typical hero is courageous and idealistic, and follows a moral code, an anti-hero does none of these things.\r\n\r\nAnti-heroes may perform actions that are morally 'correct' according to the laws of their universe, but they don\u2019t perform these actions for moral reasons. Often, they act for selfish reasons.\r\n\r\nAnti-heroes do what needs to be done and don\u2019t particularly care who they hurt along the way.\r\nWhat are some examples of anti-heroes?\r\nFor a lot of people, the first anti-hero that comes to mind is everyone\u2019s favourite science teacher, Walter White from Breaking Bad.\u00a0\r\n\r\nWalter White is the hero of the story. He takes to a life of crime to save his family from financial ruin. But as he continues on his path, he makes more and more questionable decisions. \r\n\r\nHis antagonists are undoubtedly villains, but he is by no means a good guy.\r\n\r\nFor another example, we can look at the early version of Han Solo from the Star Wars franchise.\u00a0\r\n\r\nHardcore fans will always tell you that 'Han shot first', referencing a gun fight in the 1977 film, where Han shot Greedo first. In re-releases, this was edited so that Greedo shot first and Han simply retaliated. \r\n\r\nWhy is the distinction so important? If Han shot first, it\u2019s an example of his moral ambiguity. He shoots first, asks questions later (or never).\r\n\r\nWe later see Han become more of a typical hero, where he makes moral and just choices, but throughout the first Star Wars film, he is only motivated by his own interests: he wants to get paid for his work.\r\n\r\n He is a hero by his actions, but an anti-hero by his justifications.\r\nHow to write an anti-hero\r\nWriting an anti-hero can mean writing a heroic path for your character to follow, and then writing a character who is not at all interested in that path. \r\n\r\nThey\u2019ll go along for the ride if it benefits them, but they aren\u2019t interested in acting without (mostly material) reward.\r\n\r\nAn anti-hero isn\u2019t a reluctant hero (we\u2019ll come to that archetype soon); they\u2019re just someone who will only perform heroic deeds if they are benefited by those deeds (or who achieves good outcomes through not-so-good means).\r\nHero type #4: Reluctant hero\r\nWhat is a reluctant hero?\r\nA reluctant hero has a lot of similarities to an anti-hero. Neither of them really want to be there; they\u2019re just forced to be there.\u00a0\r\n\r\nHowever, while the anti-hero is there because of personal gain, the reluctant hero is forced to be there because to do anything else would go against their moral compass.\r\nWhat are some examples of a reluctant hero?\r\nThere\u2019s no better example of a reluctant hero than Shrek. He grows and shows his vulnerability and eventually makes heroic choices that don\u2019t directly benefit him.\r\n\r\nThroughout the original Shrek film, we are shown that he is rude because he is insecure, and expects people to leave him. Once he lets people into his life, he is loyal to them. \r\n\r\nHe saves Donkey from assumed death at the dragon\u2019s tower because it\u2019s the right thing to do. Leaving Donkey to die would distract the dragon, which would benefit Shrek. \r\n\r\nHe makes personal sacrifices to do what\u2019s right, even though he doesn\u2019t want to.\u00a0\r\n\r\nAnother great reluctant hero is John McClane from Die Hard. He just wants to go on a holiday, but he\u2019s stuck in a building filled with terrorists. \r\n\r\nHe\u2019s a hero because his conscience tells him that he has to do something about that, even if he\u2019d really rather not.\r\nHow to write a reluctant hero\r\nWriting a reluctant hero is similar to writing an anti-hero. You create a heroic path for your character, and then a character who does not want to travel that path.\u00a0\r\n\r\nA reluctant hero can require a bit more character development than an anti-hero and often some backstory to go with it. \r\n\r\nThey have to have inner turmoil. They don\u2019t want to do this, but because of who they are as a person, they are compelled to. Reluctant heroes can be very dynamic and engaging to read and write.\u00a0\r\n\r\nImage via Unsplash\r\nHero type #5: Liminal hero\r\nWhat is a liminal hero?\r\nA liminal hero is a hero who is in between states or spaces. They might cross over with some other types of heroes, but this type of hero has some unique characteristics.\r\n\r\n'Liminal' indicates a space, a state, a feeling that\u2019s between two established elements. \r\n\r\nBeing a teenager is existing in a liminal state. A teenager isn\u2019t quite a child, but they\u2019re also not an adult yet either. Because of this, a lot of YA stories feature liminal heroes.\r\n\r\nYou don\u2019t have to write YA to write liminal heroes, though, because teenagehood isn\u2019t the only liminal state available to you. \r\n\r\nA ghost is in a liminal state. They\u2019re dead, but they\u2019re still on this plane of existence.\u00a0\r\n\r\nA liminal hero is a hero going through their own form of change and transition. This affects their story, their interactions with others, and their character arc.\r\nWhat are some examples of liminal heroes?\r\nMany liminal characters exist in the YA space because their transition to adulthood and their transition through another liminal space can reflect each other.\u00a0\r\n\r\nStephenie Meyer\u2019s Twilight is such a great example of a liminal hero, she even named the book to reflect that state \u2013 twilight\u00a0is a transition between day and night. \r\n\r\nMeanwhile, Bella (our liminal hero) is in her own transition period. Bella is a teenager, transitioning into adulthood. Later she\u2019s a human, transitioning into a vampire. \r\n\r\nIt\u2019s not until the end of the saga that the transitions are completed and the liminal hero\u2019s story is over.\r\n\r\nAnother great liminal hero is Spiderman. Peter Parker\/Miles Morales\/your preferred Spiderman is another teen trying to become a mature adult.\u00a0In the midst of that, he has to be a superhero. \r\n\r\nHe can never be 100% himself (a teenager) or 100% Spiderman (a superhero); he always exists somewhere between those states.\r\n\r\nZoraida C\u00f3rdova\u2019s Labyrinth Lost (the first in the Brooklyn Brujas series) sees the hero, Alex, in a liminal space: the space between life and death. \r\n\r\nAlex doesn\u2019t fit in with her family, and she\u2019s a bruja with magic, but she hates magic.\u00a0She goes on an adventure to save her family after she made a terrible, magic-based mistake. \r\n\r\nAlex remains in a state of flux for her entire story and only exits her liminal space when her journey is completed.\r\n\r\nRemember, though: just because liminal characters often exist in YA literature, that doesn\u2019t limit you as a writer. You can write whatever you want. (You\u2019re in your own liminal space.)\r\nHow to write a liminal hero\r\nLiminal heroes are inherently uncertain. They don\u2019t really know what they want yet. They\u2019re in-between. \r\n\r\nFor some, this means being in a literal liminal space (like life vs. death or normal vs. superhero). For others, it can simply be a transition time in their life.\u00a0\r\n\r\nLiminal characters exist between the spaces of certainty. But uncertainty is a character trait as well. If\u00a0you\u2019re not sure where to begin writing a liminal hero, remember how you felt in key transition times of your life. \r\n\r\nEver-changing characters are dynamic and engaging. That\u2019s why we love liminal heroes (and part of why YA literature is so popular).\r\n\r\nImage via Unsplash\r\nHero type #6: Everyman hero\r\nWhat is an everyman hero?\r\nThe everyman hero is an ordinary person, with no special abilities, who acts heroically. They\u2019re not Superman; they\u2019re just the person who\u2019s here.\r\n\r\nThe everyman hero is almost an audience insert. The archetype is designed to represent the average person. \r\n\r\nIt can be hard to empathise with a superpowered hero of the story, but easy to connect to a regular person \u2013 an everyman.\r\n\r\nThe name 'everyman' is gendered, but this heroic archetype isn\u2019t limited to men. Any character can represent the average person and complete heroic tasks. \r\n\r\nEven characters made of plastic... (See below.)\r\nWhat are some examples of an everyman hero?\r\nOne of the best examples of an everyman hero is in The Lego Movie. The hero of the story, Emmet, is nothing special. In fact, the film directly tells us that he is ordinary. \r\n\r\nEmmet still acts heroically and saves the day, despite not being 'special'.\r\n\r\nEllen Ripley from Alien is also an everyman hero. Ripley possesses no 'special' abilities besides her determination, and she still manages to overcome the Xenomorph and survive.\r\n\r\nAnd who could forget Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee? These two heroes are just regular hobbits who find themselves on an epic quest to save the world. \r\n\r\nTheir compassion for others and determination allow these 'everyhobbit' heroes to complete their monumental task.\r\nHow to write an everyman hero\r\nThe everyman hero is a normal person, who finds themselves in abnormal circumstances. They face extraordinary challenges.\r\n\r\nThey may think themselves to be special in some way (the way that Emmet does), but the power of this archetype is that they are just like us.\r\n\r\nTo write an everyman hero, you need to write a character who cares and who will do the right thing. \r\n\r\nIf anything makes this type of character special, it\u2019s their compassion, determination and willingness to sacrifice for others.\r\nHero type #7: Romantic hero\r\nWhat is a Romantic hero?\r\nThe name 'Romantic hero' doesn\u2019t refer to a hero who has romantic relationships. Instead it refers to the Romantic period of literature.\r\n\r\nThe defining features of a Romantic hero are their constant rejection of established norms and their sense of self-importance. They reject authority and rules and are often introverted and isolated.\r\n\r\nIt\u2019s important to note that while these concepts may have negative connotations, they are not necessarily character flaws in a Romantic hero.\r\n\r\nThe heroic archetype of 'misfit hero' is a modern example of a Romantic hero.\r\nWhat are some examples of Romantic heroes?\r\nA hero who doesn\u2019t conform to societal expectations and is self-important and moody? There\u2019s no better example than Mr Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.\r\n\r\nDarcy doesn\u2019t act how we (and how Elizabeth) expect someone in his position to act. In the beginning, at least, he\u2019s somewhat rude and doesn\u2019t particularly care what other people think of him. \r\n\r\nThis is in direct opposition to a lot of the other characters who are caught up in the many rules of Regency society.\r\n\r\nKatniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games series can also be seen as a Romantic hero. Katniss doesn\u2019t follow the rules of society, and she is better for that. \r\n\r\nShe tends to isolate or distance herself, but she thinks outside the box because of her isolation, and can succeed in her many trials because of her unique way of seeing the world.\r\nHow to write a Romantic hero\r\nThe way to write a Romantic hero is to give them lots of inner turmoil, broody behaviour and (occasionally unearned) confidence.\r\n\r\nRomantic heroes know that they do not fit in, and they do not care. To write a Romantic hero (or Byronic hero \u2013 see below), you need to know what established norms they will reject. \r\n\r\nAnd, importantly, you need to know why those rejections make them interesting and heroic.\u00a0\r\n\r\nKatniss is heroic because her rejection of her society means she is able to (spoiler!) lead a rebellion. Darcy\u2019s rejection means he is able to (spoiler?) stand out as a romantic partner to Elizabeth.\u00a0\r\n\r\nImage via Unsplash\r\nHero type #8: Byronic hero\r\nWhat is a Byronic hero?\r\nLord Byron, never satisfied with established archetypes, invented a twist on the Romantic hero: the Byronic hero. \r\n\r\nThe Byronic hero is a sub-category of the Romantic hero. The key difference between them is that while Romantic heroes are better off because of their rejection of societal rules, the Byronic hero has been hurt and rejected by society. \r\n\r\nIn their isolation, they become apathetic or even dangerous to themselves and to others.\r\nWhat are some examples of a Byronic hero?\r\nThe best example of a Byronic hero is Lord Byron himself. He was overly obsessed with himself and his own work and everywhere he went, he left a trail of broken hearts in his wake. \r\n\r\nWe can also see this archetype in Bojack (Bojack Horseman), Loki (the Marvel Cinematic Universe), Mr Rochester (Jane Eyre) and Heathcliff (Wuthering Heights).\r\nHow to write a Byronic hero\r\nWriting a Byronic hero is similar to writing a Romantic hero. They both live with inner turmoil, and as the writer, you\u2019ll spend a lot of time in your character\u2019s head.\r\n\r\nTo write a Byronic hero, you first need to know why they were rejected from society. What crime, sin or difference set them apart from their peers?\u00a0\r\n\r\nOnce your hero has settled down, isolated from society, how will they twist and change into someone who wilfully eschews tradition?\u00a0\r\n\r\nYou also need to know if your hero would return to society, if society would have them. For some Byronic heroes, returning to the group that rejected them is their ultimate goal.\r\n\r\nFinally, you need to decide if your Byronic hero will change their behaviour and stop being a danger to themselves and others. Or will they embrace their fatal flaw, their story resulting in tragedy?\r\nHero type #9: Tragic hero\r\nWhat is a tragic hero?\r\nThe tragic hero was first defined by Aristotle, and they are the central player in most tragic stories.\u00a0\r\n\r\nAristotle argued that any good tragic story needed emotional investment from the audience. We need to be sympathetic to the hero and feel catharsis at the end of their story (which was most commonly their defeat in some way).\r\n\r\nA tragic hero is someone who is flawed in a major way and though doing their best, they still meet tragedy at the end of the story. \r\n\r\nThey may make poor decisions or do bad things. But at their heart, they are (or at least want to be) good. That\u2019s why their downfall is so tragic.\r\nWhat are some examples of tragic heroes?\r\nCan you get any more tragic than Romeo and Juliet? Romeo is passionate, excited, in love. He would do anything for his love. He\u2019s reckless, but that\u2019s because he\u2019s so passionate. \r\n\r\nHis recklessness is also what leads to his and his lover\u2019s deaths. If not for that trait, both he and Juliet may have avoided death.\r\n\r\nTo switch to a contemporary example, what about Game of Thrones? (Spoilers for the last season of GoT. Scroll past the paragraphs between the stars to avoid.)\r\n\r\n*\r\n\r\n*\r\n\r\n*\r\n\r\nWe watched Daenerys Targaryen survive many hardships throughout the run of GoT, only to see her end turn tragic.\r\n\r\nDany\u2019s whole journey was to become the ruler of the seven kingdoms. Her single-minded desire for the Iron Throne became her fatal flaw, and she ultimately died because of her actions. \r\n\r\nNed Stark also suffered a tragic fate where his downfall was his own moral code. \r\n\r\n(He is perhaps an even better example of a tragic hero than Daenerys, who could arguably have been called a 'villain' rather than a hero in the end.)\r\n\r\n*\r\n\r\n*\r\n\r\n*\r\n\r\nJay Gatsby from The Great Gatsby is another tragic hero. Throughout the novel, we seem him constantly searching for more. For the American dream. For Daisy. For a sense of satisfaction that he will never find.\r\n\r\nGatsby is near-delusional, obsessed with the dream of the perfect life with the perfect wife. Because of his inability to accept the truth of life, to see beyond his idealism, he meets his tragic end.\r\nHow to write a tragic hero\r\nWriting a tragic hero is hard! They have to be flawed and meet their tragic downfall because of those flaws. But at the same time, the audience has to care about them.\r\n\r\nKeep in mind that a tragic hero must be virtuous as well as flawed, suffer a reversal of fortune, have the sympathy of the audience and (despite their best efforts or intentions) cause harm or come to ruin. \r\n\r\nShould be simple, right?\r\n\r\nAristotle broke it down a bit for us:\r\n\r\n \tHamartia is the hero\u2019s tragic flaw that leads to their downfall.\u00a0\r\n \tHubris is the hero\u2019s excessive or unreasonable pride.\u00a0\r\n \tPeripeteia is the sudden change or reversal of fortune.\u00a0\r\n \tAnagnorisis means \u2018recognition\u2019 and is where the hero learns something important about themselves or the world.\u00a0\r\n \tNemesis is the unavoidable punishment for the hero.\u00a0\r\n \tCatharsis is the hero\u2019s inevitable downfall and where the audience can release their built-up emotions. It may also bring renewal or some positive change to the hero\u2019s world.\r\n\r\nThis iconic structure is still present in today's fiction, though many authors manage to create a tragic hero without all these elements. (Nemesis, for example, is often omitted in contemporary stories.)\r\n\r\nThese moments in a tragic hero\u2019s story can help us plot out an emotionally moving narrative and character.\r\n\r\nImage via Unsplash\r\nBonus: Combination heroes\r\nAbove are the key archetypes of literary heroes, but don\u2019t feel limited to using just one type. And if you\u2019ve already started writing a character, but they don\u2019t neatly fit into one of these types, that\u2019s fine.\r\n\r\nSome of the most engaging characters are those that are a combination of different archetypes. \r\n\r\nThe reluctant everyman hero. The liminal Romantic hero. The iconic anti-hero. Or any other combination that suits your writing style and your story.\r\n\r\nAs a reader, you might not be able to categorise each hero you read as one of these archetypes. However, each hero will partially fit into at least one archetype. \r\n\r\nLet these types of literary heroes inspire your writing. Maybe you'll be the first to use a new archetype combination in your story.