Hero Archetype: The Savior
This post is taken from my shiny new website at SeriousPixie.com.
When you need help picking out new shoes, or with your left hook in kickboxing, or with figuring out what your opinion about the new health bill should be, the whole world wants to help. But when you need help the most–when you’re being attacked, robbed, or victim to another agented crime–no one wants to help. In the world’s eyes, the problem is that you have a problem–you are disrupting the field of white picket fences–and you will be held to blame. Like with consumption, it’s a problem of containment. Contain the victim, and your world is most likely to go back to normal the fastest.
That’s when the savior steps in. Saviors help when no one else will. They confront the attacker, give you a safe haven, and stand by your side when you need it most. What’s so funny is that saviors are so often the only ones who don’t care what your opinions are. You are incidental to your need.
That is to say, a savior only cares about correcting what he perceives to be crimes against his world view–not your own. Which means that the savior probably doesn’t care too much about you as a person, and she might not care about other things you would consider crimes. Rather, he cares about you as a representation of a cause he is fighting independently, and he will help you so long as it helps him fight whatever inner demons compel him to work against that particular injustice.
It’s such an old and fascinating concept: the man who will give his life seemingly for you, but doesn’t actually care about you at all. A young woman who is outraged when events do not conform to her expectations and will take the whole world on–and an old man who can’t help but step in even when he knows he’ll lose. Even when both know it doesn’t make a difference to anyone but them. It is the story of a person who serves a higher purpose–her own ideals.
The savior has a tense, if linear, emotional thread, and the savior is easily trolled, which makes him a lot of fun to play with in a story. All you have to do to make her shine is push one of her boundaries, or play with one of her triggers. He can also be a very confusing character for your other characters to deal with, as he’s half operating out of the world in his own head–rather than the world everyone else sees. A world she prefers to reality.
What else can we say about the savior? Clearly, the savior has some control issues. And just as clearly, he is wounded. She likely felt out of control at some point, and it resulted in either herself or those she cared about being hurt. Now some subconscious part of him triggers when he sees similar experiences, and he steps in to make sure the story has a happy ending, rather than the mess of an ending he received. But no matter how many times she fixes it in the present, she cannot change the past. The savior is tragic, and trapped. Compassionate and ironically self-centered. He makes a fantastic complicated hero, and a terrible boyfriend.
A savior is defined by her ideals. In figuring out a savior’s ideals, you can figure out the savior as well as his role in your story. To learn more about savior heroes, try the following exercise. Name one established savior hero and then come up with a name for your own savior hero. Then consider for them the following questions:
1. What are her ideals?
2. Where experience turned him into a savior hero?
3. How far would she go to defend her ideals?
4. What would make him give up being a savior?
5. If she gave up being a savior, what would bring her back?
6. What is the current victim’s relationship to the savior (enemy, child, lover, stranger, etc.)?
7. What is the triggering incident with the current victim?
8. What does the savior do when he sees something that makes him think that his ideals might not be right after all?
9. What is the worst thing you could do to your savior?
10. What is your savior’s ultimate path?