by Brian Andrews

In January 1984, Bonnie Tyler released the classic hit “Holding On For A Hero.” It appeared on the Footloose movie soundtrack and instantly climbed the charts. If you don’t remember the song (or weren’t born yet) check out the iconic lyrics HERE.

In case you’re wondering why I’m referencing song lyrics from a forty-year-old song to open this blog post it’s because I think Tyler’s song succinctly strikes at the heart of what readers are craving in the books they buy. The battlecry of “I NEED A HERO!” is eternal. It doesn’t matter which genre you’re writing for, readers crave a “larger than life” protagonist who checks important boxes so that they feel inspired. Here are some tips to think about when you try to level up your protagonist from zero to hero!


Heroes Fight for Right

Heroes do not run from conflict. They stand up for themselves, their principles, and for others who cannot fight back or choose not to. Physical violence is their weapon of last resort. Complex heroes try to outrun, outmaneuver, and outsmart their adversaries.

Heroes Inspire

Readers want to be inspired. They want a hero who says the things they cannot say and does the things they cannot do. Heroes inspire when they are driven, brave, empathetic, noble, creative, & selfless. They should inspire by their words, thoughts, and actions.

Heroes Must Have Heart

Heroes are empathetic. They recognize injustice, inequity, and injury. They protect those they care about and also those who are unable to protect themselves. Heroes perform acts of self-sacrifice, not for personal gain, but because they have a hero’s heart.

Heroes Are Driven

Tenacity can’t be taught, it resides in a hero’s DNA. Taking initiative is the secret sauce separating heroes from the herd. When heroes fall, they get up. When heroes fail, they try again. When the world says “no,” a hero says “hell yes.”


Heroes are Problem Solvers

Check your Deus Ex Machina at the door. Admirable heroes do not win by luck, circumstance, or by letting others fight their battles. Intriguing heroes use their knowledge and experience to find creative solutions to their problems and to defeat their foes.

Heroes seek Allies

Today’s savvy readers are looking for complex and realistic heroes. To quote Sansa Stark: “The lone wolf dies, but the pack survives.” Your hero must lead the charge, but she is not omnipotent. Heroes seek allies to learn from, lean on, and leverage during their journey.

Heroes Climb Mountains

“He was the fastest, so he won the gold medal” is not a compelling story. Every hero worth reading about must go on a journey and the journey must be difficult, dangerous and have numerous opportunities to fail. Mount Everest is your plot, now make your hero climb.


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