Today’s guest article is written by teen contributor, Samantha Smith.
How to Use a Mentor Character
If your goal in your novel is to have your Hero learn something by the end of the book, you most likely will use a Mentor. Although mainly used in the genre fantasy, with a little work, you can form a Mentor for any genre or style of novel you are writing.
Some examples of popular Mentors are Gandalf in Lord of the Rings, Haymitch/Cinna in the Hunger Games, Rafiki in The Lion King, and Dumbledore in Harry Potter.
Photo courtesy of Morguefile.com
What is a Mentor character?
A Mentor character is there to guide your Hero, to direct them, to show them the way. The Mentor provides advice, experience, hope, kindness, motivation and sometimes disappointment. Mentor characters are great fun to use, although there are some novels where Mentor characters are non-existent because the Hero needs to figure out things for himself, or there is just no need for one.
How can I create a good, solid Mentor, you may ask?
Here are some ways you can create a memorable Mentor:
1.) Don’t let the Mentor solve the problem. Whether you follow all the advice I give you, or whether you only use a couple of rules, please let this be one of them. Whatever you do in your novel, no matter how stuck you may seem, no matter how bad of a situation your character is in, do not let your Mentor solve the problem. If you let your Mentor solve the problem, and don’t let your Hero have the “oh my goodness, I know what I’m supposed to do!” light bulb moment, then you might as well have written your novel about the Mentor. As I stated before, your Mentor is there to guide your Hero and point him in the direction he should go. He is not there to solve all the problems. Plus, if you allow your Mentor to have some faults and not know every answer to the questions your Hero might ask, you could work some really good plot-holes into the scene.
2.) Don’t let your Mentor be perfect. On the topic of giving your Mentor faults, you should really strive to not letting your Mentor become too perfect. You have heard this rule before: “Don’t let your Hero become perfect” and that is an excellent rule. But if you chose to use a Mentor in your novel, you need to really make sure your Mentor isn’t absolutely faultless. It won’t be an interesting novel if your Mentor has all the answers, which would end up making it easy for your Hero to solve the plot of your book. No one wants to read a novel where it’s easy for the problem to be solved.
3.) Your Mentor must be completely absorbed with helping your Hero. No one wants to read a novel where the Mentor is half-hearted in what he does. It makes for a slow read, and I personally don’t find it at all interesting when one of the characters in the book doesn’t find it interesting, either.
*I would like to add that there are some instances where you could write some good humor with a half-hearted Mentor. Haymitch in the Hunger Games didn’t really have Katniss and Peeta’s best interest during the first ¾’s of the book, and that added some very nice humor. Another example is Nuic, Elli’s marayth, in the Great Tree of Avalon. Both of the Mentors were only helping because they had to in the beginning, but after they saw the ability and greatness of the Hero, they pulled through.*
4.) Make your Mentor a little off, or have some quirky behaviors. ***This is completely optional, I just find that in everything I’ve ever written that requires a Mentor I have done this. ***
The Mentor, if used correctly, can create character, depth and add humor to your book. Haymitch in the Hunger Games was annoying at times, but the small snippets of humor you got out of him were so much fun to read! I usually make my Mentor crazy, or say things at the wrong time, or he has little quirky behaviors. It gives your reader a breather before you launch him back into a battle scene or dialogue argument.
Overall, Mentors can be used to benefit your novel greatly! I know that if you spend as much time working on your Mentors as you do your Heroes, you can make a very memorable story.
What’s your MENTOR CHARACTER like?