This had been on my mind for quite a while, seeing as a lot of books I rated low often happened to favour heroism over character. And books that did not favoured was vice versa.
I liked being able to relate to the characters, for all their flaws, the strengths, their quirks, rather than their deeds, the admiration others have for them. I relate to them through the emotions and experiences they have went through.
Which brings me to this? Does our protagonist needs to be a hero? I say no, I have seen villains. But to me, I prefer them human first before I even decide their allegiance. Even then, I still let the character work out their own back stories and moral compasses on their own.
My characters are principled, rarely good but never fully evil. They can be a villain as much as they are a hero, they can play a role that heroes rarely do. And I embrace their human side, their quirks and let their deeds be choices they made at the end, and mistakes to be the same.
For fantasy, especially epic there is a lot which favours heroism over character. Which is a major issue why I eventually read lesser of it, because I’m rather tired of the same old, same old. Rather, I wanted to explore the human mind and emotions, which was why I might have favoured historical fiction for their ability to do character study, controversial characters by nature, and kings who have both good and evil.
A protagonist that has both inner conflict and outer conflict. Where their circumstances force them to be who they are and at the same time it is also their nature which affects them. Because I have a strong belief that circumstances and personality form the most of us, shaped by experiences, but having a certain temperament from birth.
People can have common experiences but turn out so different, and vice versa. Which is why I weigh this two together and thus is where I get most of my characters from.
Perhaps it’s just me, but my characters are always human first and heroes at times not always.