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Mentors

Banes at 12:00AM, May 12, 2016
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I like mentor characters.

This is not just me of course; the mentor and protagonist relationship is powerful. Some of the best moments in many stories are the first encounter with the mentor, the training and sense of discovery for the protagonist, and the eventual loss of the mentor character (they often die, or at least are not able to help when the protagonist faces their final challenges in a story).

When the mentor dies it's often the most memorable moment in a story.

Maybe we dig them because they know a lot of stuff, and have strengths that are germane to the type of story being told.

In certain genres, they're really badass. Or they're wise. In other genres, they're cooler than the protagonist, who still has a lot to learn.

My top five fictional mentors (or the ten that come to mind at this second):

-Aahz, the mentor to Skeeve in the Myth Adventures books by Robert Asprin. Aahz is hilarious, a bit nasty, and one of my favorite characters ever. Just as a mentor should be, he's absent at crucial moments in most of the early books.

-Wade Garrett (Sam Elliott) the ass kicking bouncer and mentor in the movie Roadhouse. So cool! This is probably my first exposure to this type of character where I began to recognize the mentor's function in a story.

-Sean Maguire (Robin Williams) in Good Will Hunting. The mentor relationship is important in that movie. There is also another mentor for Will: Sean's former friend Jerry (Stellan Skaarsgard). Having two mentors can be an excellent way to give a protagonist an inner conflict and decisions to make. The mentors represent different paths the protagonist can choose.

-Stick (Scott Glenn) from the Daredevil series. Super cool. In the Wade Garrett mold.

-Fletcher (JK Simmons) from the movie Whiplash. This is the story of a very challenging relationship with a mentor.

(I actually put Fletcher in there instead of Pai Mei from Kill Bill. My mentor choices seemed too similar).



Of course, I also dig the traditional wise mentors like Gandalf, Obi Wan Kenobi, and Furious Styles (Boyz in the Hood). Doc Brown from Back to the Future is another one. There are so many!

Some mentors can be “false mentors”. They betray the protagonist or let them down.

What kind of mentor characters to you enjoy? Is the mentor a vital part of many stories? Is it just a cliche? Do you use mentor characters in your stories?

comment

anonymous?

Corruption at 9:52PM, May 13, 2016

About the Main Character being the mentor, the students are normally called Side Kicks. Examples include Batman and Robin. Joker and Harley Quinn.

Corruption at 9:30PM, May 13, 2016

I like the mentors that seem crazy, but are actually very good. For example, the drunken mentor in Drunken Master, there was another Japanese action movie where the mentor had the student pull his wagon from town to town in place of a horse. Some good mentors work by pissing off the student, driving them to learn to endure hardship, and to learn to fight back. Some field the students out to other mentors who can teach them more about specific things, and show the student how to unite the different areas. Some are students themselves, and the main characters. In these cases the death of the student might drive them to be a better mentor and seek vengeance.

Banes at 10:19AM, May 12, 2016

Another fave was Quint from JAWS. Horror mentors are a bit different, but similar. Ol Quint was even kind enough to get chomped, as many mentors do!

Banes at 10:16AM, May 12, 2016

@KimLuster - thanks! For sure, Ramirez was an excellent mentor character. I was glad he came back (illogically) for the sequel...but that's the ONLY thing I liked about the sequel!

KimLuster at 7:28AM, May 12, 2016

Another great article and premise!! I liked Ramirez from the original Highlander (like everyone else, I pretend the sequel doesn't exist)! Of course, it does bother me that, in a movie set in Scotland, the one character that doesn't have to fake a Scottish Accent (Sean Connery is Scottish) they make him Egyptian!! :D


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