Epic Fantasy Characters Destined to Save the World – WHY Readers Identify

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Posted By: MandeMatthews Posted In: Author's Lounge Date Posted: March 16th, 2012 Comments: 7
Epic Fantasy Characters

Saving the World, One Epic Hero at a Time

 

I am officially throwing down the gauntlet. Nay Sayers, I challenge you! I am tired of hearing from agents, publishers, critics, and other authors that have been brainwashed to believe that a character with a “destiny to save the world” is passé, old hat, and unoriginal. Yes, it’s been done. And yes, it can be done badly.

But there’s a reason why the idea of a person being gifted in such a way, that he and only he, can complete a specific task (i.e. save the world?) resonates with readers.

 

Because it’s archetypal.

 

 

It’s threaded deep into human consciousness. We are all aware that we are born without duplication (even twins) – to be genetically, spiritually, and personally unique. (Please leave out the cloning arguments here. That’s an entirely different discussion.)

 

If anyone has ever seen Joseph Campbell’s series of interviews on PBS with Bill Moyers, you’ll know what I mean. The power of the mind to relate to metaphorical representations about human truths is what story telling is all about. So when you tell me a specific archetype is “passé” based upon current market trends, or because it’s been done before, I say to you, “Boy meets girl has been done. Are we going to nix that from the vault of story-telling ideas simply because someone has been there, and done that?”

 

My argument is that the human mind craves the validation that we are all born special. Readers will always relate to a character with a unique power, or characteristics, that enable him to save the world, because that’s what we do as humans, right? We use our abilities to save our own slice of the world, and the metaphorical portrayal of that premise lies with the epic character, fighting to save his world, or planet, or universe.

 

I am not saying be lazy and rehash old stories. Be creative, original, outlandish even. Bring your own special flare to the stories you write. But why shy away from an archetypal truth just because someone, somewhere, said they’ve “seen too many” of these types of stories?

 

The boy meets girl premise will never go away—it’s human to connect, and we will unfailingly seek that connection through fiction.

 

Consequently, I say readers will always love a good hero saves the world story. We have to. It’s programmed deep within the mythic truths of our minds to validate our specialness through the vicarious adventures of well-drawn characters on heroic journeys to right their worlds in hopes that we too, can right our own reality.

 

 

 


7
Comments

Let the discussion begin!


  • Ciara Ballintyne - March 17, 2012 at 7:33 am - Reply

    I never get tired of these stories, no matter how many I read. And they are always my favourites. And…um… isn’t this the very DEFINITION of epic fantasy? At least I thought it was. Silly me!

    • MandeMatthews - March 17, 2012 at 10:49 pm - Reply

      Exactly! I guess I should have mentioned part of the argument is that epic fantasy itself is dead. And yet I see it cropping up in movies and televisions shows as an alarming rate.

  • Dan Wright - March 17, 2012 at 11:13 am - Reply

    I agree with the points you raised above. As a way of adding onto your arguement about whether characters with a destiny to save the world is unoriginal, my view is “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” So long as the story is exciting and the characters are likeable, who cares if the story is original or not? I don’t really care if a story is original or not – I just want to be entertained, as I’m most readers do.

  • Rhiannon Paille - March 17, 2012 at 9:04 pm - Reply

    Hey, great post, and I want to agree with you but I can’t. Reason being? Yes I want a great hero, but I want a flawed hero too. I don’t want to know that Richard (Wizard’s First Rule) is the chosen one that will kill Darken Rahl, and that his destiny has been set in stone. I don’t want to watch him go through the proverbial hoops, the setbacks and downfalls, until finally, and not surprisingly, he defeats Darken Rahl. I think the main problem with a “hero that will save the world” is the statement of intention. This is a part in the plot where the main character basically says “I’m going to do this!” or the hero is told by others what they’re going to do, and bam, we all know what to expect throughout the rest of the book. I’d rather follow a story about an unlikely hero, an unwilling hero or a variation on the theme. These, “destined to save the world” heroes that always reach their goals, are pretty passe unless there’s some other hook there keeping me reading.

    • MandeMatthews - March 17, 2012 at 10:54 pm - Reply

      But don’t we know what to expect in boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy get girl back? And yet we watch that scenario over and over and enjoy the emotional rollercoaster that comes with the ride. Sure, the ones that get us are the ones with twists, and characters that tug at your heart strings–flaws and all. I’m not saying don’t have flawed, complex and incredibly human character…PLEASE do! I’m saying the epic hero is bound to stay in the hearts of humanity for all time because it’s a universal desire that our minds continue to seek out and validate about our selves.

  • Dean C. Rich - March 21, 2012 at 1:04 pm - Reply

    Great points.

    Fairy Tales are making a comeback with twists on the story, Snow White has a movie. The Hobbit is due out in December. So High Fantasy still has an audience. True the 90′s had a ton of books out from the gaming world, but those books had a following. So a good story will always bubble up to the top.

    Once the hub hub over vampires dies down and the zombies go back to the grave people will be looking for another hero.

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