In this final part about how to write a convincing good guy, we’ll look at some of the other interesting components that go towards creating an interesting main character, and a convincing one at that.
As writers, we have to find ways of drawing the reader into the story and getting them to like, understand and follow the good guy right to the end of the story. We have to make the good guys as real as possible, so that they are not only believable in what they do, but people want would like to be.
Give the Good Guy a Weakness
As mentioned before, good guys are not perfect; they come with all sorts of flaws, foibles and weaknesses. But why give them weaknesses?
Weakness is one of the things that make them human, and it’s these things that readers completely understand. Weaknesses endear the reader to your main character like no other facet, because we all have weaknesses. No one is perfect.
Weakness also brings out strength in the most amazing ways. In other words, whatever the good guy’s weakness, exploit it at every key moments, make him or her suffer. Suffering makes the reader empathise. Empathy evokes the responsiveness of emotions, and readers love to see the good guy overcoming their weakness to become stronger.
Make them Change
The thing about good guys is that they have the ability to change and learn something about themselves or the world around them (whereas an antagonist, the bad guy, won’t want to). The main character won’t be the same at the end of the story as he or she was at the beginning. That’s because the story happened to affect change; their experiences help them. Again this is something that readers identify with – life itself is a learning curve, after all.
The protagonist might change steadily over the course of the story or he or she will change rather suddenly, perhaps because of dramatic or traumatic event or incident. We all change, hopefully for the better.
Give them a Heroic Moment (or two)
We all love a hero. We also like those people who do something extraordinary. Readers are no different – they want to see the good guy do something extraordinary or heroic. The affinity it creates brings the reader closer to your main character, because we all want to see human nature at its very best. Whatever that awesome moment is – maybe beating the odds or finally standing up to a bully or perhaps saving a puppy from a river – the selfless in others makes us smile, it makes us feel good.
There are plenty of ingredients that writers shouldn’t ignore when they create their good guys. Effective good guys should create a sense of affinity, immediacy and emotional connection with readers, and to do that means incorporating so many facets.
Universally recognised good guy traits:-
They retain a sense of positivity even when the situation seems so dire.
They care about others, even strangers.
They follow their moral code.
They are determined.
They change and become a better person.
They will learn a valuable lesson.
They will do anything to protect those they love most.
They will turn weaknesses into strengths.
They will do extraordinary things.
They will make sacrifices.
They succeed against all the odds.
You can see from this list that there are so many factors that make a good guy, so many things that make him or her memorable, things that the reader likes about your main character, things that make them care. A well written good guy helps the reader see themselves in that character.
Above all, make your good guys as real as possible – they are ordinary people doing something extraordinary. That’s their journey.
Next week: Can poor word choice kill a story?