Tolkien’s Tips For Writing Complex Heroes
Who’s the “hero” of The Lord of the Rings?
Is it Frodo? Aragorn? Gandalf? Even Sam?
You could make an argument for each of those characters, I think. And they all have a lot of traits in common.
Last year, a blog called Writing is Hard Work broke down Tolkien’s 5 tips for writing complex heroes.
Here they are:
1. Complex Heroes Must Suffer. Readers can relate with people who are going through difficult issues.
2. Complex Heroes are Rewarded for Suffering. For example, Frodo’s passing into the Gray Havens is his reward.
3. Complex Heroes Fail. The beauty of Frodo’s story is that, in the end, he failed at destroying the ring. It was only because of Gollum’s greed that the ring was ultimately destroyed.
4. Complex Heroes Have Fatal Flaws. The above blog quotes several letters from Tolkien in which he said Frodo’s fatal flaw was his unwillingness to kill Gollum. Ultimately, as noted above, that flaw turned out to be what redeemed him, because without Gollum the ring would’ve never been destroyed.
5. Complex Heroes are Ordinary People. Just a regular old hobbit from an area of Middle Earth very few had even heard of. Nothing special about Frodo at all. Reminds me a little of the story of Moses from the Bible.
You can read a lot more about Tolkien’s tips for writing complex heroes over at Writing Is Hard Work.