Authors’ Roundtable: What Makes a Memorable Hero? with Rye James

7 Oct

Rye James

What makes a memorable hero? In order to be remembered the character will need to have impressed upon the reader in a positive fashion. In trying to narrow down the criteria there are certain characteristics that flow to the top. These characteristics represent values that most people desire such as strength, bravery, kindness, superior fighting skills, and is committed to overcoming any amount of odds that stands in his way. A hero fights for justice, while protecting the innocent, and beating evil.

A hero is someone you want on your side when things get rough, when hope seems lost. A hero isn’t just some robotic fighting maching besting wave after wave of bad guys though. He can also be kind, loving, thoughtful, unsure of himself and his abilities. He can give the impression of being a reluctant hero. He has fears and problems. He doesn’t want to be the one everyone relies on to save them. But there he is in the end, carrying everyone on his back, beating insurmountable odds, saving the day. These are realistic qualities that endear them to the audience. A hero may not always do the right thing but always has the best of intentions at heart.

It should be noted that heroes are not a one-fits-all approach. I delved into general qualities which may or may not be present in your fictional material. Some heroes may be void of some or all of the redeeming qualities mentioned above. They skirt on the outside of the law and general accepted practices but as the story unfolds you grow to like them. You understand the reason behind their behavior and know that underneath a rough exterior is goodness that’s waiting for the right situation to shine through.

Rye James writes in both the western and mystery/thriller genres. To learn more about him and his work, visit him at

Dave’s turn:

I particularly agree with Rye’s point that a hero is not a fighting machine plowing through waves of bad guys. How many action heroes are too perfect, lacking a single frailty or failing? One of my favorite scenes from the Indiana Jones movies takes place in The Last Crusade, when Indy is captured in the process of trying to save his father. The bad guy demands that Indy hand over his father’s Grail Diary. Indy’s father scoffs (I’m paraphrasing here), “My son isn’t stupid enough to bring the diary back here after I went to all the trouble of sending it all the way to America.” The look on Indy’s face is priceless. He’s heroic, but he’s fallible, which adds to the suspense. An imperfect hero adds suspense, drama, and humor to the story, and I think the reader is that much happier when the hero wins out in the end.

One thought on “Authors’ Roundtable: What Makes a Memorable Hero? with Rye James

  1. Great insight, explaining what is sometimes hard to put your finger on. I especially felt “A hero is someone you want on your side when things get rough, when hope seems lost” was right on.

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