I am writing a novel which is about a naive, good-for-nothing boy who is also suffering from low self-esteem. One day, due to some events, he gets some special powers and is unwillingly forced into a war which he never wants to fight in, and faces many dark and harsh aspects of today's world (as I want story to be pretty dark).

While in difficult situations, he always seeks an easy way to escape, doesn't bother to face them, and is not willing to sacrifice himself for others, but at same time he can't stand the guilt of not saving others when he's able to do so.

I am also planning to make him fight with his sister, who is totally opposite to him, but he loves her more than anything - same with his sister, who also loves her brother more than anything. And his hero work is also shattering his own personal and professional life (he also realizes how dangerous he is and is harming his own health while becoming a hero), and he faces a severe emotional breakdown that he doesn't want to become a hero.

I am a bit confused about how to develop him with these events, because these things may push him down. Will the urge to gain respect and guilt of not saving people be enough, or should I add something extra, like a sense of responsibility towards his family or a desire to protect them? I want him to sacrifice his life for others.

What do you think I should do to develop him as a character? Should it be a single moment of realization, or a chain of events that changes his personality?

And how do I make him more likable? Should his end personality be serious but calm (which I think will be more suitable with his original personality), or a bit casual or funny with the same serious and mysterious personality when needed?

  • 3
    Welcome to Writing.SE! I think this is verging on too broad - you may want to focus on the central question of how to develop your hero in a way that he becomes willing to sacrifice himself, and remove the questions in the final paragraph. We can only help with one thing at a time.
    – F1Krazy
    Commented Dec 17, 2019 at 10:32

2 Answers 2


He loves his sister more than anything. She's the opposite of him, so she's brave, she faces her problems, and she gets into more trouble than she can handle. If he doesn't fight to save HER, he isn't going to fight to save anybody.

So he does. He's convinced (invent a way) that his sister will die if he doesn't risk his life, rebel against his own fear and find a way to rescue her.

But here's your twist: Yes, she's trapped and her danger is real. But she won't be rescued without the people she came to save. She won't give up. He forces her against her will, whisks her away, but at the first chance she's back into the fight, she is going to save her people come hell or high water.

She gets caught again. He has to make a choice, if he loves his sister, he has to help her accomplish her goal, or she is going to die trying to achieve it. He has to be the hero that works with her to achieve justice. So he saves BOTH her and the people she came to save.

And those people are grateful, they love him for rescuing them, and his sister loves him for rescuing them. That's his moment of transformation, his reward for taking the risks. Hearing about their renewed hopes and dreams, what the children will do, and he understands that is WHY his sister does what she does, she loves people and they love her back.

He knows he rescued those people out of necessity, he knows he was going to abandon them, the first time when he rescued his sister alone. She knows it. He feels guilty that they think he's a hero, but she tells him it doesn't matter, he still saved them, intentionally, so he WAS a hero.

And for her next mission, with him by her side from the start, he will have nothing to feel guilty about.

  • I think u took it wrong he has to fight against his sister who is on opposite side due to her personal reasons Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 10:05
  • If he loves her more than anything else, he isn't going to let her die. If they are on opposite sides, he will betray his side to save her. Who does he love more? His sister, or his politics? The only way to make a coward become a hero is to give him something devastating to lose if he doesn't act with courage. Something he can't imagine living without, and you have already identified, in your story, that is his sister. Either that, or give him a romantic love interest.
    – Amadeus
    Commented Dec 18, 2019 at 11:04

Generally, there are two options, which are explained in TV tropes:

  1. I Just Want to Be Normal - the superpowers are "regular", but they interfere with character's way of life.

  2. It Sucks to Be the Chosen One - the superpowers may not be so "super", but they are exceptional, and come with greater responsibility. The stakes are higher. Entire world may depend on character's success, and he or she may die in the process.

There are other ways to show the character as a reluctant hero, like Han Solo, who is a morally ambiguous antihero at first, but I think they are less applicable in your case.

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