Characters not Superheroes

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Stories need characters not superheroes. I know that chafes a few comic fans, but I never got the appeal of Superman. He’s indestructible and can do anything. I don’t even get the appeal of Bruce Wayne’s and his billions. Where in real life does all that altruism exist?

Superheroes can’t be hurt or the story is centered around their one weakness. I find those stories flat – non-human. We all know, in the end, the superhero is going to get right in his/her head and smash the bad guys. It’s an appealing fantasy, but one that is difficult to relate to a normal life.

We know it is not true.

I like characters – flawed and real. Heroes and villains with real dreams, and real goals. The flaws are exactly what attract us to them. We can relate to Sam Gamgee’s struggle and the immense obstacles before him. Contrast that with Aragorn’s fearlessness or Gandalf’s omniscience, and Sam is the real hero.

Heroism is facing those struggles and fears like a real person. We are all afraid, but a character faces those emotions and struggles forward. They grow. They hope and dream like us. Success and failure are secondary for the story – but we want them to succeed.

A good story will have both good and bad characters that grow. That growth is the story. The tasks they face and the obstacles before them are the garnish that draws us in. We equate their journey to the obstacles in our lives and it evokes emotion – connection even.

Sometimes characters fail. Sometimes they win, but the struggle mirrors our existence. That’s what hooks a reader. It is life and that’s something we can all recognize in ourselves.

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