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How to be a Hero

Rosanna Griffin lives in the Santa Cruz mountains in California, surrounded by redwoods and imaginary creatures. When she isn't writing she can be found wandering the forest looking for said imaginary creatures with her husband and dog (no, she hasn't seen sasquatch yet...). This is her first published work.

Find yourself a sword. Or, if you are a farmer, you are probably a farmer, find a stick. Whack things. Like trees, not your siblings. You can whack your siblings if you want, just make sure they have sticks too--you want to be a hero. Start this young, like ten or eleven. The hero has a short shelf life. If your adventure hasn't started by time you are sixteen, you are probably not the hero, but you can still be his companion. Yes, him, the hero is always a guy. Oh, you want to bend genre stereotypes and be a female hero? Awesome, you'll be his love interest, the one that is smarter and more competent, and probably rescues him all the time. Why are you with him? He's the hero of course.
Be overly friendly with strangers. You never know which mysterious stranger in the dark cloak will start your adventure. You also don't know which ones might kill you. Some tips: look for old men or women, one of these will be your mentor. They are probably mages, or witches, or the greatest swordsperson in the land. You will surpass them in the skill they have practiced their entire lives in the matter of a couple of months, or just one long training montage. Don't approach: orcs, goblins, or other "bad" creatures. They always work for the bad guy. Always. Sometimes there will be a "good" half-orc or goblin, but they are always the sidekick and will probably die. Also, stay away from other young adventurers who already have mentors. You run the risk of falling into their quest and becoming a beloved sidekick, or perhaps the comic relief.
Don't get too attached to your family. Once you have found your mentor and accepted your quest, the bad guy will send soldiers or assassins to kill your parents/aunt/uncle/siblings in order to dissuade you. Swear vengeance and go with your mentor. You can rely heavily on them at this time.
Start fights in bars. It's time to find the rest of your travel party and a good way to do this is to make friends during a bar fight. Look for people who have skills you don't. We're talking a mage, a warrior, a healer, and anything else that might be helpful. If you want variety, perhaps find a dwarf in power armor. You will need your travel party to help you get through this next series of tests. Expect to do poorly at this point in your quest. You'll do better once you find the right people to help you.
Keep an eye out for your love interest. They will appear early. You will know them because they will be less capable than you, or weirdly more capable, but totally okay with acting helpless so that you can feel like a savior. Look for princesses, they will be helpful later on, I promise. She might have a character arc where she hates you at first but then inexplicably changes her mind and decides she actually likes you. Hang in there.
Search for your quest item. Every quest is different, but you are probably looking for a magic item, like a sword or a ring, or a ritual that will help you defeat the bad guy who is bent on destroying the world. We know he is bent on destroying the world because a bunch of people don't like him, like your mentor, and he generally exhibits behaviors like overtaxing his people, and having a large standing army of "bad" creatures. You will encounter setback after setback. This is normal. Keep going.
Ditch your mentor. You cannot face your hardest challenge with your mentor at your side, you must surpass them, do better than them, stand on your own two feet. Common ways of getting rid of your mentor include letting them face an evil monster without you or letting them take the brunt of an attack so they die. Or let them face the bad guy before you are ready, this will also result in them dying, but you might learn something interesting, like the bad guy is their child.
Don't give up. Now is the hardest part of your quest. You have to face your worst fears and defeat them, possibly literally. Watch out for monsters. The good news is that once you have done this, it should be relatively easy to find your quest item. You know where the quest item is and how to get it. Don't be fooled by any last-minute tricks or deceptions. If you have to choose between something plain and something ornate always choose plain.
Use the quest item to defeat the bad guy. This will be the hardest battle of your life. But if you have the right party of people and faced your biggest fear you will be successful. Now is not a time for mercy, just kill the bad guy, everyone will thank you later. Expect some members of your travel party to die. This is sad but normal. You can hold a big funeral later, and maybe erect a statue. They probably saved your life, or the life of your love interest.
Take over the kingdom. Most people forget to tell their heroes about this part of the process. But this is the most important part. It is time for you to finish saving the world. Ascend the throne. You killed the last person to rule so you might need to declare martial law for a while, just until everyone calms down. Taxes are a good way to recoup the cost of rebuilding your country, just let everyone know why they are being taxed. If your people continue being rebellious, blame factions of the bad guy's leadership that got away from you. Raise a larger army. Orcs and goblins accept lower pay packets and will eat practically anything. Hold ceremonies so that your people know you are a proper king. Your princess love interest, whom you should have married by this point, can help with this. Produce heirs, lots of them. Watch out for sixteen-year-olds on quests. What? Did you think you were still the hero?
The End
This story was first published on Friday, September 25th, 2020

Author Comments

The books and fairy tales I read as a teen, that made me fall in love with fantasy, always seemed to star a hero who started as a farmer. Which is where the idea for the first couple of lines came from. They arrived before the rest of the story and remain basically unchanged from my first draft. The idea of a world where "hero" is an actual job and someone might need information, like a college admittance guide, amused me. So, I thought I should write that guide for aspiring heroes. I hope you had as much fun reading this as I did writing it.

- Rosanna Griffin
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