For over seven years we have talked about character, characters in writing and building our own inner character in real life. We’ve talked about heroism and how to deal with the haters, or villains, in our lives. Finally we talked about what it takes to be a great supporting character.
Today, I’d like us to review what we learned over the years about creating characters, both fictional and non-fictional.
Creating A Great Hero
These days it’s challenging to be a hero, but I say, keep at it, no matter how hard it seems.
Why keep at it?
Because the world needs heroes. Not the kind that goes and saves “damsels in distress” or the kind that becomes a martyr by living a life of pain and suffering for others, but the true, real life kind of hero: the kind that is willing to take a risk, be courageous, push the envelope a bit, lead us all in the direction of what’s possible and not just what’s probable.
Being a real life hero also means sometimes being flawed, screwing up, making mistakes, disappointing people and yes very much getting lost.
Being a hero means having people doubt you, having people leave you, having people sometimes even crush you but still carrying on.
You see, the hero part comes from the willingness to acknowledge and improve those flaws, making up for the screw ups, learning from you mistakes, and accepting the fact that no matter what you do or how truly hard you try not everyone is gonna love you, or understand you, or respect you, or see you as their equal.
Being a hero means opening your heart, not shutting it, after tragedy. And that’s hard – super hard.
Being a hero means opening that heart to heal and help others and accepting that means the risk of getting hurt. And you may well get hurt, even by the people whom you once healed.
Being hero is accepting that that fact truly sucks, but being a hero means getting up and doing it again the next day because that’s what you came here to do, and it’s what people need, and the world may not appreciate you for it or recognize you for it, but gosh darn it–it’s the right thing to do.
Why keep at it?
Not because it’s easy and not because it’s perfect, and not because they’ll always recognize you for it, but because the world needs heroes.
Humanity needs you to show it that IT IS capable of radical love.
Even if they don’t see it, know that they, and the rest of us, will feel it.
Being a hero is standing up for the right to be yourself, being a hero is following your calling no matter the doubters the haters and the conventional old school cats.
Being hero means being on the cutting edge, seeing the next big thing before everyone else does, leading us to a better way.
Being a hero means travesing the unknown, the uncharted, the off map places of the soul and coming back to tell us where to go and where not to go, it’s being a trailblazer, a voyager, an adventurer.
Being a hero means being exhausted after that journey into the abyss, and coming home to rest, but once you get revitalized, being a hero is going back out there again to tread new ground.
Being a hero means standing for something and wanting to be a someone.
Being hero is not about glamour, it’s about being a man or woman of great principle.
Vanquishing The “Villian”
And what of the villains in your life?
Don’t “thank” them, don’t see them as a “gift,”
That’s what I say.
Reserve your gratitude to those who supported you and who have loved you all the way.
Thanks and blessings are for those who healed you, and held you, and consoled you in your hour of pain.
These people have earned and deserve your appreciation.
Your haters have not earned your gratitude or praise, don’t give it to them.
It doesn’t mean you have to hate them back, no, I’m not saying that:
Forgive the haters, release them, yes, but don’t thank them.
As a hero, your job is not to thank your villains, your job is to hold your villains to account.
What your villains require of you is you holding them to account. Shining the light on them. Demanding that they be seen for who and what they are.
So they can change, and be better people, and stop hurting the next person.
That’s the healing we can provide every villain.
Thanking them lets them off the hook and helps no one.
No, we don’t help the villain in our story by hating them or dehumanizing them.
But we also don’t help them by thanking them… even if it is true that on some higher plane they are secretly on our side.
I think we help our villains by bringing them to the light. And in the light, we can hope and pray that they can see the error of their ways–but if we let them off the hook, in other words, if all we do is forgive and forget but don’t hold them to account, we don’t help them.
They–the villains–leave our side only to continue the cycle of hurt with another.
Forgive your villains, let them go.
But please don’t thank them, hold them accountable for their actions instead–not to punish them, not out of spite or vengeance, but to encourage their growth so they don’t go forward hurting you or anyone else again.
And this is when The Reconciliation can finally happen… if the Villain in your story can grow, if he can accept that he hurt you, apologize and work to make it right, then there is a true opportunity for recompense in the form of redemption.
You see, some villains can become heroes, but only if you hold them to account, the opportunity fades if you let them off the hook.
Forgiveness is a journey, it has many stops to make before it gets to its final conclusion.
And accountability is a very important stop that must not be skipped.
Forgive all those who hurt you today, release them, but also hold them accountable for their actions.
Don’t let them off the hook.
And maybe, just maybe, your Villain can become a hero redeemed, converted into something new. A rare occurrence no doubt but quite possible – and it has happened before.
In truth, at the end of all time and space the paradox becomes that all villains and heroes must come together to reconcile, to air their grievances, to forgive and forget, to offer redemption – because, there, we all do become one.
The Villain is the one who forgot we were one, the Hero is the one who remembers, and the battle to be fought is over their collective awakening. But both must play their roles carefully.
The Hero must keep the light on the villains darkness, and the villain must humble himself completely, and take up the opportunity to change and redeem himself.
The battle is lost when the hero refuses to hold a Villain a accountable, but it’s also lost if the Villain refuses to take up his opportunity for redemption – in which case the hero must abandon the pursuit and move on.
Finally – let us speak of the sidekicks in your life.
Every hero needs a sidekick, but sometimes you are the sidekick, the witness, the watcher as the miracle of someone else’s life unfolds.
Can you be there for your heroes, to shower them with praise and cheers of adulation in their moments of triumph, and can you be there when tragedy strikes and they need a shoulder to cry on?
Witty banter is not all a sidekick is there for: we have learned over the years that supporting characters are vital to our collective growth but that sometimes we are called to be that supporting character ourselves.
Our human story doesn’t always cast you as the main character, sometimes you’re offered a different role.
Sometimes you get the sidekick role at a time in your life when you really don’t want it, or perhaps weren’t looking for it, but you’re needed just the same, so can you get over yourself and just be there for another? Can you rise to the occasion and humbly serve the story arc of another persons epic tale?
I promise you, being a sidekick is sometimes far more rewarding than playing the hero.
How can you tell when you need to be the sidekick and not the hero?
Look where the spotlight is pointing today.
Is it on another?
If it is, then can you sit in the audience, clap and cheer as the story demands?
Or will you try to hog the show, and spoil the fun of all of us, ruining the chance for all of us to play the lead at least once?
Some of the greatest heroes of all time none of us will ever know, they changed history but without much fanfare and its because they chose a supporting role when the timing was right, but a role no less important.
Which Character Are You?
Hero, villain, sideckick. Which one are you today?
Are you helping or hurting? Leading or supporting? Witnessing or basking in the spotlight?
We each play these roles during our lifetime, the key is to learn the lesson each role is here to teach us.
Villains can be redeemed, but only if they humble themselves, own up to their actions, ask for forgiveness and make up for their wrongs.
Heroes have to be pushing the envelope, leading the pack, breaking new ground and all of this can be exhausting, risky work. Weary is the hero often and weary is he from the villains he must confront in that pursuit.
Sidekicks are tasked to be of witness, the advisor, often the healer, mentor and teacher. Their challenge is not to hold the heroes hand: to be of service but not to be a crutch, to be a fan but not a sycophant or a “yes”man–to be backstage, a stagehand, making sure the curtain opens and closes at just the right time, while the audience assumes everything is being done by magic or machine.
Hero, villain, sidekick. Which role are you playing today? And what lesson is it teaching you? Can you rise up to the task?
And can you shed the mask of the role once you’ve mastered the part?
Much hero love,