How much baggage does your hero carry around?


In Money is Thicker than Blood, my hero Shot Glass Reynolds is anything but perfect.
In Money is Thicker than Blood, my hero Shot Glass Reynolds is anything but perfect.

THE QUICK ANSWER to the question I raised in the title is that a hero without baggage is no hero at all.

Why is  that?

Two reasons.

First, the hero’s baggage establishes her relationship to readers.

The person reading this blog who has no personal baggage can drop out now.

Still reading?

That’s what I thought.

Our baggage, mistakes we made, twists of fate that caught us in their cross hairs, unexpected results from what we believed were well-thought out decisions, are the things that haunt us day and day out, in our waking and sleeping.

Without baggage a hero is not human.

Second is the fact that without baggage our hero is incapable of acting heroically.

If she stands at a sheer cliff and knows she must scale it, our hero first must have a ball and change locked to her ankle, an impediment that renders the task ahead impossible.

What makes her heroic is that she undertakes the journey in spite of the ball and chain.

If this be true, then an author must early on let her readers see her hero’s shackles.

She shouldn’t spring the impediment on her readers on page 250 when the hero comes to the sheer face of the cliff.

Rather in chapter one, or soon thereafter, the reader must hear the ball and change clanking as the hero shuffles along.

That ball and chain can be physical, psychological or natural. Maybe the hero has a prosthesis. Maybe she is haunted by the demons of childhood sexual abuse.  Maybe there is a hurricane approaching, a hurricane that reminds her of the one that swept away her parents.

Regardless of the nature of the baggage, the hero must carry it with her wherever she goes in the story.

Just like we do in our own personal stories.

In real life we don’t celebrate people’s accomplishments easily achieved.

We only applaud them if they overcame impossible odds.

Our fictional characters are no different.

Fist the reader must identify with them.

Then he must root for them.

Just as he wishes he would do something others would find worth rooting for.

Pile the baggage on your hero if you want anyone to give a damn about her.

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