When crafting your fantasy novel, you need to take into account many essential aspects. In the beginning, you have some main characters in mind, then you’re trying to capture the world and put it into words. From there, you go into the intricacies of the plot and completely forget about what has come to be the essential characters in many fantasy novels. The characters that help tell the story and create a deeper sense of immersion.
From the most important to the least, let’s go through the essential characters in fantasy!
The hero can come in two flavours.
Flavour one, the vanilla hero, is merely a figure-head in the novel. Yes, they have some sense of morality and have a conflict with the big, bad villain, but they lack the personality of flavour two. These heroes aren’t so bland, but they are the most common flavour in fantasy, the vanilla ice-cream of fantasy.
Flavour two, rocky-road, is very much a well-developed character, similar to the side characters that dot your novel. These heroes have a believable personality, but not a docile one either. These heroes have their faults and fears. These are the heroes that continuously develop throughout their story, are broken down by the bad moments and built up by the good. By the end, they aren’t as smooth as vanilla, but are filled with nuggets of character, the rocky-road ice-cream of fantasy.
Finally, there are characters which aren’t as developed as flavour two or as common as flavour one, but they certainly lean in one direction if not the other. The hero is a symbol, a force of good or justice or both. In more realistic novels, the hero can be morally grey, but still be the hero that fights evil. It is the most essential character in any fantasy novel and as such, deserves the most attention.
Now, let’s do a U-turn and talk about the villain.
If there is a push, there is a pull. If there is a positive, there is a negative. Light cannot exist without darkness. These opposites complement each other, they emphasise each other. Both become beautiful when compared to each other, which is why you can’t have a hero without a villain.
The villain is the polar opposite of the hero. The villain need not be as evil as a monster from another dimension, but they can be. You can throw a force of otherworldly evil at your hero or a simple murderer. A villain who will fight the hero, directly or indirectly. The villain can be just as likeable, perhaps even more so, as the hero.
In short, the villain is the second most important character in your fantasy, but if you’re writing them properly, they are just as important as the hero. A great hero needs a great adversary, so if you want to tell the story of a mighty knight overcoming an army of evil, you best have the villain as the evil emperor who controls said army.
Finally, when writing your villain, be sure to consider what made them who they are. Your hero has been developed by the events before and during your novel, your villain needs the same amount of development. A great villain can make your novel something big!
The Sidekicks and Henchmen
Sidekicks and henchmen are a step above side-characters. Sidekicks and henchmen develop your heroes and villains as much as the events of the story, influencing their decisions in good and bad ways.
A growing bond between hero/villain and sidekick/henchmen can create a weakness for the hero/villain. Let’s suppose the villain builds a relationship with such a character, it could be a friendship or a romantic relationship. That character then becomes the villains greatest strength and greatest weakness. That character becomes someone that inspires the villain, but also holds them back. If that character betrays the villain, it can be a powerful swing in the favour of good. Their reaction could be despondent or chaotic, which leaves them open to an attack from the hero.
With a few sentences we have developed an idea that can add so much depth to not only the plot, but the villain.
The sidekicks have the same effect on the hero. You can use sidekicks to develop heroes further and even influence the plot in a grand way. In essence, these characters are tools to the writer. The sidekicks/henchmen not only add to the variety of personalities and substories in your novel, but they also shape it in wonderful and even unique ways.
While not as important as the two opposing forces, sidekicks/henchmen are certainly essential.
You’ve seen it in every major fantasy.
A character, wiser and older, who has helped develop the main character in some way. A character the hero looks up to. It can be the grey wizard who took them on a journey, a family member who makes them laugh and helps them make the tough decisions. It can be a figure that the hero loves, respects or both.
The mentor has never been as essential as the previously mentioned characters, but they are certainly popular. These characters often show the most logical thinking during the plot of the novel, or have a likeable personality that readers are fond of.
Unfortunately, these characters often have a way of being killed off to give the hero drive. Better yet, they might turn out to be the true villain, twisting the emotions of both the hero and the reader. Whatever you decide to use them for, the mentor is certainly a character type that can work to your advantage.
The Love Interest
Finally, the last essential character in fantasy, the love interest. Romance often plays a role in fantasy, love being one of the purest emotions a character can show in a novel. For that reason, love can influence the story for the better, or make a character more human or likeable.
Typically, the hero is the one with the love interest, but it can apply to sidekicks, villains or henchmen. The most basic relationship types are between the morally good characters in the story, but relationships between the villains and the heroes can also create an interesting story. Everyone knows the story of Romeo and Juliette!
A love interest gives a character something to fight for and as I mentioned before, it can also give them a weakness if that love interest were to be harmed.
All these characters and their uses depend on the story you want to tell. You can use many of one and less of another, you can create conflicts and relationships between any of these characters. Perhaps there are certain character types that your novel lacks and from these summaries you have a better understanding of what characters would fit your novel.
Good day, goodnight and happy writing!
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Matthew Dewey, Writer
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