NOTE 1: Sorry for my English and any typo I've probably made.
NOTE 2: If I forgot something, please tell me!
NOTE 3: Remember: this is a guide to make good heroes, not a guide to make good characters.
A hero is the character that a shitload of stories and/or genres need in order to exist. But making memorable or even good heroes is increasingly difficult, because as we know, a lot of things have been seen so far.
Don't despair yet. You can still make good heroes.
What a hero essentially is
There are lots of definitions to the concept of 'hero', so it might be a bit confusing.
Usually people refer to the hero as that character in the good side who opposes the Villain and the bad side.
However, this doesn't need to be like this always. Maybe they oppose the villain, but they don't work in the good side.
Anyway, let's see the parts and tips that will help you to make good heroes!
The type of hero
NOTE: This is something you shouldn't (and I recommend you shouldn't) care about UNLESS this is really part of the story or you had it planned all along. If your story can have ANY kind of hero, or you don't care about the kind of hero, skip this part.
There are LOTS of types of heroes, classified varioulsy, like how they manage/their abilities to save the day (Action/Guile/Science Hero) or their alignment in tabletop games (Lawful/Neutral/Chaotic Good).
But we'll classify them using the basic dichotomy as eveybody's used to: Heroes and Anti-Heroes.
- Standard Hero
Standard heroes are usually idealists. They tend to be nice or carefree guys. They usually get to get someone/many people to love them.
This would be Mario, for example.
Anti-Heroes are usually cynical. They tend to be serious or bitter guys. They tend to be alone/isolate themselves.
This would be Wario, for example.
Hey, you'll say, Mario and Wario and more than that!
Of course they are! If you remember, that's the basic dichotomy!
When you are fully aware of which kind of hero you have, you must go to the personality part! There's where Mario and Wario get their shapes!
Virtually everything that makes a good hero falls here. Their personality defines their present and the predictable part of the future.
Usually people thinks of the hero as someone such as Mario: a brave and/or courageous character that doesn't care if they have to help people. Forget about that.
Putting it bluntly, any kind of character can be the hero. The only problem is how do you manage to do so. You can see Luigi, the cowardly sidekick being the hero in two games (let's forget about Mario is Missing, okay?).
The main point of this is: Don't make a hero- make a character that happens to be the hero.
Let's take an example: Lucas from MOTHER 3.
Yes, he IS the hero of the game, but he doesn't follow the description of the standard hero (he's a complete introvert) and all the events that surrounded him led him to be the hero.
Another example, easier to grasp: Kirby.
Kirby is usually led to be the hero because something happens to him at the start of the game, but he only thinks of himself. In Squeak Squad/Mouse Attack, he started his adventure just because the Squeaks stole his cake! In Mass Attack, he was divided into 10 little Kirbys, so he had to go to retrieve his original form.
As you can see, you wouldn't believe they are the heroes of their games if you just knew their personalities, but they happen to be the heroes.
What happens if you decided the type of hero before? You'll have to fit most of their personality to the type of hero. But you don't need it to match 100%, that would make your character pretty cliché.
This is the most delicate part of a hero, because if you don't do it well, you can ruin a good character.
You must be aware that the background defines how a person is nowadays. Also, it can say why the characters are where they are. It's not a device to make your audience/readers mind/pity your character or an excuse to make your character to think or complain about it, specially in tragic backgrounds.
- About tragic backgrounds
These backgrounds are the hardest to do, because if you do it wrong you might create a Sue/Stu.
The key question is Why a tragic/traumatic past? Harry Potter's parents weren't killed just because (the reason is a huge spoiler). Don't put a tragic/traumatic BG just because.
Overdoing the drama in the BG can also give your character the status of Sue/Stu.
If you wanted to put a trauma or a tragedy, you can put it in the storyline rather than in the background (Lucas from MOTHER 3 experiences a tragedy in the storyline, and this tragedy triggers a series of events. His background is pretty happy).
Further reading: springhole.net/writing/better-…
The mission and the goals
A hero has a mission to accomplish and, some of them, their own goals.
First of all, remember that their goals don't need to be related to their mission. A goal and a mission are two completely different things. A goal can be, for example, to be an astronaut, and a mission can be, for example, to save the world (the most common one XD). Goals are something you want to achieve, and a mission is something people tend to ask/force you to do for the good. The mission is what usually matters in the plot, while goals are just character development.
- Who can complete the mission?
A mission is done so the hero can be the only one who can complete it. If the mission you've set can be completed by anyone, why they chose your hero? Think about a good reason to this.
- Choosen ones
Ah, the choosen ones. That's the easiest reason of why your hero is the only one to complete the mission.
The question you must answer is: Why a choosen one? You must have a good reason to put a choosen one, because if you put one with no reason, you might end with something bad and/or cliché.
Don't put choosen ones if you don't need them.
Example: In MOTHER2/EarthBound, the main characters are the choosen ones (called the Choosen Four). Why? The villain received the prediction that the main characters are the ones who would spoil its plans in the future.
Further reading: springhole.net/writing/write-b…
- The reaction of your hero and their mission
Your hero's mission can be something easy to something very important. But how they'll react to it?
For example, you can make them to resist at the beginning (Remember Card Captor Sakura when Sakura didn't want to be a card captor?), or get completely happy about it (Doremi in Ojamajo Doremi was happy as hell because she was going to learn how to be a witch).
Usually something easy is easy to accept, while something that comes great responsibility is harder to accept due to reasons (one of the most common is because they can die in the process).
- When the goals and the mission contact
Your hero's goals (if they have any) can get in touch with the mission at some point. How? Maybe they realize their goals can't be achieved if they complete their mission. That can give some obstacles the hero must overcome and therefore, more plot.
Watch out! Don't make it to take place for a long time unless their goals are important nor overdo/exaggerate it.
- When they acomplish the mission
Your hero has just completed that important task they had. But what about that? How they feel when they end it?
Usually, when it was an easy mission, they just keep living their lives as if nothing happened, but with a good experience. The problem comes when it was an important mission. Do they learn something from it? Have they changed in some aspect? They worry about it? Take this into account. The answer to those questions are also related to the development of the plot: a simple plot wouldn't make the mission completion a big thing; a plot with some rough times and hazards can make it more considerable.
Something you must know: The reason of your character to complete the mission is not because it's their mission. Unless they're in some kind of service (such as military service), that can't be your hero's reason. They must have a good reason to do that. But if they're forced to do so, don't make their mind go 100% about the mission. Their goals are way more meaningful to them than the mission.
Usually the hero has some abilities, powers or qualities that make them to be perfect to complete the mission. The problem comes when you make your character to have lots of abilities. That's Mary Sueing/Gary Stuing them. What do we do then?
If the reason why they're the hero it's because of the ability, I recommend you to put one ability or power that they know to do greatly/they have and can be useful in the storyline (This applies specially when it's a team of heroes). It's usually due to only one ability/power, but you can add more if you have a reason.
If the reason why they're the hero it's not due to abilities, you can choose if they have an ability/power or not. Since the mission didn't require that ability/power, you don't need to force something special into them.
That's it. These are the main points that you must have covered in order to have a good hero, but don't go and spoil everything with a bad plot, 'kay?
I hope this is useful to someone.