The Transformation of the Hero

One of the best books about writing I ever read was David Gerrold’s Worlds of Wonder. It’s a how-to for writing science fiction and fantasy, but it’s applicable to all writers since, in the end, we are all creating worlds of wonder.

The aspect of the book I would like to discuss is the transformation of the hero. In the beginning, the situation is introduced and the hero discovers she has a problem. She attempts action and, though she gives it all she has, she is beaten by the problem. She gains a deeper understanding of the problem, then tries again, exhausting all possibilities she knows. All that is left is what she doesn’t know. Finally, because some event occurs or some person says something that triggers the hero’s realization of what she has to do, the hero goes through a shift in being, a reinvention of herself, and confronts the problem directly.

This transformation of the character is the reason you’re telling the story. A story is an account of how a particular person who started out like that ended up like this.

Most problems are about not handling the problem. By choosing to make the situation the problem, the hero creates herself as the source of the problem. Until she recognizes her own authorship of the dilemma, she cannot create herself as the source of the resolution. She has to give up whatever investment she has in not solving the problem. The hero has to be awakened to the possibility that there is another way to think about this. Another way to be.

So transformation is not only the re-creation of the hero as the owner of the situation, it is self-empowerment as well.

In science fiction and fantasy, this transformation is not metaphysical but real. In the process of transformation, not only is the hero changed, but the world in which he exists is also transformed.

In all other fictions, this transformation is more internal, but still real.

I have been thinking about transformation lately as pertaining to my real life. In order to become one of those rare writers who can support herself with sales of her books, I need to transform myself into an “Author,” to recreate myself as if I were a character in one of my books. Don’t know how to do it, and the only reason I’m mentioning it is to show the validity of the hero’s transformation.

So, what problems confront your heroes? How do they attempt to solve them? How are they thwarted? And finally, how do they recreate themselves to solve the problems?

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3 Responses to “The Transformation of the Hero”

  1. Suzanne Francis Says:

    I quite like my heroes to be seriously flawed–selfish, demanding, unethical, messy eaters–whatever. They learn things on their journeys, but never become perfect people. My heroes have to make difficult choices when there is no clear cut right or wrong way. The point comes when they have to choose, and then they must live with the consequences.

    I can’t stand books with stock “good” and/or “bad” characters. So boring, so predictable.

    To become an author, one simply has to write and promote to the utmost of one’s abilities. After that, the universe decides.

  2. Sheila Deeth Says:

    I like my heroes to transform from victims of the past into active creators of their own past present and future.

  3. Amber Says:

    Kal Bashir’s got this explained really well at http://www.clickok.co.uk/index4.html – a transformation that is induced as a result of journey.


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