Created By: NoirGrimoir on October 20, 2011 Last Edited By: Morgenthaler on May 23, 2013

Protagonist and Hero Tropes

Tropes that have to do with Protagonists and Heroes.

Name Space:
Page Type:

We already have a Hero Tropes and Heroes Index, both of which seem both woefully lacking in tropes and completely useless. I think something should be done but the TRS is full so lets just make something better/more useful here and possibly the other indexes can be deleted or revised later or something.

This index/helpful notes page is still under construction, and considering it's massiveness, free to edit! (within reason, should you want to make huge changes in structure, please consult with others in the comments) Feel free to give suggestions and missed tropes (there are tons of them) as well as edit out type-os!

The Protagonist, (also usually The Hero), is the Main Character of the story, the person we are supposed to sympathize with as they go through this journey which we are taking time from our lives to read or watch or play through. But just like people aren't all the same, protagonists aren't all the same. And that's definitely a good thing: if you don't like one type of hero, you can always try another!

Protagonists Versus Heroes

While The Protagonist and The Hero are usually the same person and therefore treated as synonyms, they actually refer to two separate things. The Hero and its respective opponent, The Villain, are designated by their Morality while the terms The Protagonist and its respective opponent, The Antagonist, refer to the characters' Role In The Story. Most protagonists are 'good' because society values these traits, but Protagonists can fall anywhere on the morality spectrum.

By Morality

  • The Hero: This is the generic hero who is on the side of good and righteousness. While this character may stumble, in general he is a good person who tries is best to fight against the forces of evil.
    • The Ideal Hero: This character is as good as good can get and we admire him for that. Though sometimes his dedication to goodness and justice can be, frankly, difficult to believe or relate to.
    • Designated Hero: This character is presented to audience as a generic, good hero, but this portrayal seems at odds with what is actually happening in the plot.
  • The Anti-Hero: This type of hero isn't squeaky clean by any means and has some questionable traits and behaviors which disqualify him from being a straight Hero. While he usually still fights for good, his methods can sometimes be pretty evil.
  • The Villain: He's a bad guy, no question about it. His actions are cruel and without sympathy, his goals horrifying. He is against the forces of good and revels in doing evil. While it's rare he is all bad all the time, it's also rare that he is redeemable.
    • Designated Villain: This character is presented to audience as a generic, evil villain, but this portrayal seems at odds with what he actually does.
  • The Anti-Villain: This type of Villain isn't completely evil, like the typical villain with no redeeming qualities. No, we feel some empathy for him. He may have a worthy goal just achieve it in terrible ways, or show a side to him that is admirable and even heroic.

By Role in the Story:

  • The Protagonist: The main character of the story. Usually the viewpoint character and person we are supposed to sympathize with.
    • Deuteragonist: If two characters share the spotlight equally then one is this. There are also names for third and more characters who do this. A particular type is The Aragorn.
    • Non-P.O.V. Protagonist: A main protagonist who isn't given a viewpoint.
    • Decoy Protagonist: We thought he was going to be the protagonist but...well, he's not.
    • Designated Protagonist Syndrome: The protagonist becomes overshadowed by other characters with more interesting storylines.
    • Supporting Protagonist: Someone is the hero, but it's not this guy. No, he routinely gives the spotlight up to other characters who actually do things as he experiences the story unfolding around him.
    • Pinball Protagonist: He might be the main character, but he is not driving this ship. He doesn't have any influence on what happens in the story at all, things happen to him, and he just reacts.
    • Useless Protagonist: He literally cannot do anything to advance the plot himself, he just watches other characters do it. He might as well not even be there.
  • The Antagonist: The character who puts obstacles in the way of the main character, and usually we aren't supposed to like him. Still, without him the story would be pretty short.
    • No Antagonist: The obstacle in the story isn't represented by a character, but is probably abstract, non-sentient or conceptual, like a natural disaster or internal struggle. Removing even this from the story simply creates a total absence of Conflict, which would make it barely qualify as a story at all.

Possible Mixes:

  • Hero Protagonist: When the The Hero and The Protagonist are the same person. This is pretty much the default, since in general we like our viewpoint characters to be good guys.
  • Villain Antagonist: When The Villain and The Antagonist are the same person. Also the default, since we usually only like to imagine bad guys could get in the way of good people.
  • Villain Protagonist: When the Villain and The Protagonist are the same person. This character isn't on the side of good in the least but we are seeing the story through his perspective. He will happily perform evil actions and in fact his story usually follows him in the process of trying to do something bad, or at least illegal, things to a good character.
  • Hero Antagonist: When the The Hero and The Antagonist are the same person. He's the hero fighting for the forces of good, doing his duty to protect citizens and whatnot from villains. It just so happens that he is against our rather villainous main characters.
  • Rogue Protagonist: A protagonist that was once a hero is a villain and antagonist in the sequel.

Additional Tropes: Consequences of a Character being a Protagonist

What They Do And How They Do It

There's no point having characters if they don't do anything, and many heroes (from this point on 'hero' will refer to both to a 'good character' and a 'protagonist') are defined by their actions within the story and how they advance through the plot. This can include how heroes effect the methods they use to achieve their goals and arrive at the climax of the story. Most heroes use a number of methods, but usually one or two will stand out as their go-to solution for solving problems.

By Actions

By Method of Goal Fulfillment

  • Action Hero: This character uses physical combat in order to achieve their goals. They are usually Badass fighters by their climaxes, if they don't start out that way from the beginning, and more often then not a Final Battle is involved in achieving their goal.
  • Guile Hero: This character uses cleverness, trickery and manipulation in order to achieve their goals. They are usually chessmasters and tricksters who outsmart their opponents with subtle cunning, letting others do the work for them.
  • Science Hero: This character uses scientific knowledge and new inventions in order to achieve their goals. They are usually scientists and rationalists that subvert Science Is Bad. Usually an invention or application of their scientific knowledge is what saves the day.
  • CompassionHero (AKA The Messiah): This character uses love, friendship and compassion in order to achieve their goals. They use The Power of Friendship and The Power of Love to get opponents to back down and join their side. They tend to perform (or try to perform) Heroic Sacrifices to save the day.
  • Terror Hero: This character uses psychological intimidation and fear in order to achieve their goals. In all probability, he's an antihero.

And Then What Happened?

We like it when characters do things, but nobody is fully in control of their world. The same goes for protagonists, who are as interesting for what happens to them as what they choose to do themselves. These heroes are defined by what their role in the plot does to them, and how their stories play out. A very common storyline is The Hero's Journey.

By Plot and Events

The Tropes make the Character

By Physical Attributes

By Personality

By Other Attributes

By Abilities

Related Hero tropes

Still Under Construction

Community Feedback Replies: 13
  • October 21, 2011
    I like this a lot.

    I think Plot Armor should go under "Additional Tropes: Consequences of a Character being a Protagonist". We can't have the protagonist killed off too soon, now can we?
  • October 21, 2011
    I'm going to go ahead and open this up for anyone to to edit as much as they want (as long as they do so intelligently). Since this is such a huge project and a lot of work. I doubt I have more than about half of the tropes that should really be on there and some people are probably more witty and succinct than I am at one liners explaining tropes. Not to mention the type-os.
  • October 21, 2011
    Hey, where did the "Additional Tropes: Consequences of a Character being a Protagonist" section go?
  • October 21, 2011
    Woah, like tons of stuff got deleted, (My internet was being wonky earlier and deleting stuff from what I edited) shall fix.
  • October 23, 2011
    Where would Scrap Heap Hero fit in?
  • October 23, 2011
    In the What They Do And How They Do It section.
  • November 27, 2011
    Rescued this from the graveyard. Added Scrap Heap Hero and fixed a few typos.
  • November 28, 2011
    I don't like that this YKTTW was basically a way to get around the TRS backlog, but oh well.
  • April 19, 2012
  • April 20, 2012
    Idiot Hero- A hero who may be an idiot, but is often the strongest fighter.

    under Personality(?).
  • March 25, 2013
    Harem Hero is a deleted trope, so I removed it.

    I recently created the YKKTW Protagonist Tropes with the same idea, except I was later told that it was a Search Generated Index.

    Are we still interested in having this one?

    EDIT: Sliding Scale Of Anti Heroes has also been moved to Analysis.Anti Hero.
  • March 27, 2013
  • May 21, 2013
    Under "Role in the story" it seems. Added it.

    I'll reiterate my question: Can this (admittedly pretty detailed) index still be of use to the wiki? It's a pretty large addition considering this is such an Omnipresent Trope.