Creating a Hero: The substitution from necessity…

Creating a Hero: The substitution from necessity…

I’ve always thought, the best heroes are those that don’t want the job. They’re the ones you can relate to. We all have the image of the quintessential hero burned into our brains: six-foot-three, built like a tank, square-jawed and morally grounded. But I love the five-foot-six computer nerd with a Red Bull addiction, who knows how to break the alien code, just in time to save the planet from exploding. We all love that kid. But why is that?

Because he’s the underdog; he’s not expected to win. The standard hero—sure, he’ll be able to do it, that’s a given, and it gets boring—but the underdog: the waitress working three jobs to support her two children, who becomes the mistaken target of the CIA because she exchanged phones with a friend she didn’t know was a spy, and then proceeds to dismantle their entire operation. That’s magic, and that’s what we want.

But how do you create an underdog? The easiest way (not the only way), and the one most used is a substitution from necessity. Here’s how it works…

Jack (the expected hero) is headed into the center of the asteroid to plant the charges, when his leg is caught in a crevasse and space-worms begin to eat his flesh. Erin, the guy everyone thought was crazy (and they’ve been giving him shit the whole time), when he said he’d found an asteroid headed for Earth, picks up the charges, as Jack yells, “Go! It’s up to you!”, which puts an ENORMOUS burden on our would-be hero (dramatic tension). But he plants the charges, after fighting with the worms; he finds Jack’s half-eaten body on the way out, and they blow the asteroid and save all of us ignorant creatures.

Underdogs. We all love them. You should use them.