A great story has a great hero – someone who discovers they are hero along that way.
Acts of Heroism are those character-change actions that take your character from an everyday Joe to a Hero.
It’s not the grand gestures, the great sacrifices…Acts of Heroism are the everyday acts of our character that push him beyond himself. Ideally in a story, every choice your character makes and every step beyond his comfort zone that he or she takes, is going to push your character farther and farther from the person he starts as, until finally he becomes a full- fledged hero.
Let’s go back to two of my favorite movies – Eagle Eye and Cellular
Eagle Eye is the story of an everyday guy faced with the accusation that he’s a terrorist. He has to figure out how to stay alive – with someone else controlling his life, and of course, prove his innocence. It’s a breathtaking movie. Jerry Shaw is not very heroic at the beginning. He’s actually kind of a shyster, which we see when he cons his friend out of cash at a poker game. However, he turns into a full-out hero by the end of the book. Actually being willing to sacrifice his life for his country.
In Cellular, another thriller, an everyday young man with issues of laziness and irresponsibility is pulled into a kidnapping/hostage situation when he receives a random call on his cell phone from a woman being held captive. Step by step he’s pulled into danger, as he tries to rescue this woman, each choice causing him to be more heroic until finally he puts his life on the line to save someone he doesn’t even know.
How do these two everyday Joes turn into heroes?
Acts of Heroism.
And not just any heroic acts, but the type that move your character from Primal Instincts to Noble Sacrifice
What are Primal Instincts?
Power, love, survival – These are the basic instincts, the primal instincts, of nearly everyone.
Less primal are things like revenge, greed, and comfort.
Most characters begin their journeys fueled by primal instincts. We all act out of a basic emotion – however, some are more noble than the next. As your hero moves along the spectrum, he’ll have opportunities to choose increasingly more noble options, and each option will make him more heroic.
For example, Consider Jerry Shaw in Eagle Eye. The first heroic thing he does is to stay with the woman instead of leaving her in Chicago, even though he wants to. He doesn’t do it for her son, but rather his own survival. Then, his next choice, he has to rob a bank. He doesn’t want to – but this time, he does it to save the woman. And, after that, his subsequent choices are made to save the woman’s son – and ultimately his country. As his primal instinct choices become more noble, his heroism becomes more clear.
As your hero proceeds on his journey, make each choice he makes more noble, and he will become more heroic until finally he must make a Noble Sacrifice to save the day.
And who doesn’t love a character who makes a Noble Sacrifice?
Next week we’ll talk about that sacrifice and how it makes a powerful story.
Thanks for reading!