Writing a Short Story Hero Takes Into Account Character Traits

David and Goliath

Every story needs a hero. In writing a short story hero, he must have qualities that relate to the reader. Heroes inspire ordinary people. This inspiration gives them courage in battles. 

We read about heroes and watch them on television. It’s what we want to see. It’s what good stories are made of. Let’s take a closer look at his qualities.

Over time, the concept of a hero has come to mean “an extraordinary man or woman who overcame great obstacles, who often sacrificed him- or herself for a cause,  who displayed courage when facing the story’s problems, and who held moral and exemplary traits” (Morrell 55).


In keeping with having to overcome external obstacles, the hero must do so despite having internal obstacles or flaws as well. The flaw or weakness or disadvantage can be physical, mental, psychological, or emotional. Take for instance the biblical story of David and Goliath.

David needed to move, along with his people, into a promised land. But there was an obstacle, of course, because all stories need conflict. In David’s story, a giant stood in the way, forbidding David and his people to enter. David’s flaw was that he was an underdog and a modest shepherd boy inexperienced in combat.


Heroes need to be liked. David, an ordinary boy, exhibited uncommon bravery. He chose to challenge Goliath, the fearsome giant. David’s resourcefulness, cleverness, and humanity shone through his flaw. His audacity in the face of imminent danger showed his commitment to protecting his people.


David seemingly faced a certain death. A common shepherd boy was willing to place his life on the line for his people. He did not have conventional weapons, being armed only with a makeshift sling and five smooth stones. But his valour and dedication led him to strike Goliath with a well-aimed stone, which slew the giant, thereby ending the opposition.

In writing a short story hero, we can use the story of David and Goliath as a model. It triggers the reader’s emotions. The reader becomes invested. She wants to be among the crowd of David’s people cheering him on! She wants to leap to her feet and reach for a megaphone to shout her praises. (I don’t think they had megaphones in David’s time, though.)

In Writing a Short Story Hero,
Look for the Character Arc 

Shepherd boy

The hero experiences personal growth. This means that he has accomplished his goal through maturation by learning strength,  whether physical, emotional, spiritual or a combination of these.

MasterClass tells us that a “character arc is the path a character takes over the course of a story. A character’s arc involves adversity and challenges, as well as some changes to the character, and ultimately leads to resolution.” 

There are other types of character arcs, some negative. But for a hero, it is a positive one. For more on the types of character arcs, check out MasterClass.

How to Write a Captivating Character Arc

Think back in your own life where through evolution, you solved a problem. You learn through maturation. We have all worn the hero hat at some point. 

When my daughter was learning to ride a bike, I watched her tumble off it time and again. The bike she practiced on was too big for her. Despite having a wound on her leg from the falls, she wanted to continue trying, which she did with little success. The next day, I took her to preschool. There, they had bicycles for the kids to practice. When I went to pick up my daughter at the end of the day, a child was riding a bike effortlessly and confidently over the grounds.

Girl riding bike

It was my child! She wore the smile of a hero. The next week, the owner of the preschool said the other kids looked up to my daughter and that she was teaching them how to ride a bike. We are all heroes at some point in the stories of our lives.

David may have had a modicum of doubt as to his ability to accomplish his goal. Doubt isn’t the real issue. David withdrew his life force from doubt and ascribed it to his insightful journey. Bravery is being vulnerable enough to forge through the veils of doubt.

The takeaway from writing a short story hero is that it gives us a chance to connect with our own heroic narratives. Yes, good triumphs over evil. Yes, ordinary people do defeat giants.

Here’s a salute to all the heroes, of which we are all one!

Images created with Dream by Wombo.

Morrell, Jessica Page. Bullies, Bastards & Bitches: How to Write the Bad Guys of Fiction. Writer’s Digest Books, 2008.

MasterClass. How to Write a Captivating Character Arc, 30 Aug. 2021, www.masterclass.com/articles/how-to-write-a-captivating-character-arc.