The first character ever created was a hero. The first story ever told was the story of a hero’s journey. The main reason audiences have been watching and reading stories ever since is because the hero’s story is the story we all imagine we are living. It is the story we dream.
What all heroic characters have in common is a mission to save. Even independent dramas about characters struggling to relate are peopled with every day, emotionally flawed heroic characters trying to save someone or something. It is their overriding characteristic. It dictates how every moment in every scene is played.
Heroic characters on camera are always thinking about a bigger story than the one on the page. They carry the weight of the entire story on their shoulders and in their hearts, minds and imaginations every moment they are on screen. This is how a heroic character’s story works its magic on an audience because that’s the way an audience experiences the story. It’s why and how the audience identifies with the heroic character, roots for the character, and dreams of handling life the way the character would if they were ever to find themselves in her or his situation.
The most dangerous villain a heroic character faces lies within. It can take the form of a past mistake that haunts the heroic character and that she or he is always endeavoring to rectify. It can take the form of a character flaw that has the power to undermine the heroic character and which she or he must overcome to succeed. It can take the form of an emotional void created by a missing parent or lost love that threatens to confuse the heart of the heroic character causing a miscalculation that could destroy everything.