Writing Reference Book Review: Write Your Hero by Lewis Jorstad
Full title: Write Your Hero: How to Create Fan-Favorite Protagonists, from Heroines to Anti-Heroes and More, by Lewis Jorstad
This is a really handy guide for fiction writers at any stage of their career. The author explains many concepts from first principles without going into excruciating detail (such as a thumbnail sketch of the Three Act Plot Structure) and provides some handy references at the end if you do want to get more detail. I particularly like the way he used a very diverse range of movies (movie plots are quicker to summarize than novel plots) to illustrate his examples, from Schindler’s List and Casablanca to Moana, the Star Wars prequel trilogy and Studio Ghibli’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind.
If you don’t already understand that a well-written hero (called the hero for simplicity but more clearly defined as the protagonist) is the difference between a memorable story beloved by readers and one that’s instantly forgettable, you will by the end of this book, and you’ll understand those hard-to-define traits that make a hero unforgettable.
Jorstad carefully breaks down what a hero is and how to build a great one in a series of short chapters, each one ending with a few questions, and in my opinion, if you read this with a notebook and answer each question as you go through, by the end of the book you’ll have not only a character guide, but also a character-driven blurb, a synopsis and a full plot for your novel, with an understanding of exactly who your protagonist(s) are, what they want, what lessons they are going to learn and why exactly they are the only person who can bring a satisfactory resolution to the story.
Helpfully, at the end of the book Jorstad puts all these questions into a summary chapter. I’m actually planning to put them into a spreadsheet and then I can complete one column per character - as I do think that in romance you often have more than one protagonist and therefore you need to plot it out twice.
In summary: whether you’ve got a completed draft and you know there’s SOMETHING not quite there about your protagonist(s) or you just have the germ of an idea you haven’t started writing yet, I think using the guidelines here will really help you create a memorable character driving the plot of your story. This is a well-written, excellent guide, and I’d highly recommend it to any fiction writer at any stage of their journey.