The attributes I am about to analyze are found throughout popular culture and legend. They are pretty universally accepted, and as long as they aren’t too cheesy they can pass as pretty good fictional characters. There will need to be slight variations to keep them from going too cliché, but these are some standard guidlines.
Think of it this way: the perfect hero (or heroine) possesses three qualities: strength, speed, and intellect. Speed is almost like a subtype for strength, but it is possible to have strength without speed, or vice versa. When a hero possesses all three, they become a sort of universal hero.
Since there are three main heroic attributes, there are three main characters that embody the attributes: the ninja, the knight, and the sage. I know that you may be getting Dungeons and Dragons vibes right now, but hear me out: if you look, you can see these archetypes in a lot of different places.
The ninja embodies speed and stealth, and is perfect for those covert ops missions. The knight is the enforcer, the muscle of the operation. The sage is the brains of the operation, and is most likely to be elected the leader of the other two. More than a few legends, books, and movies utilize these three characters in different ways.
Take Lord of the Rings: Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli. Gimli is the strong and stout member, and he favors quick action with an axe. he is the knight. Legolas is a quick and light-of-foot warrior, and he prefers to take enemies out from a distance with his bow. He is the ninja. Aragorn is the main tracker, the brains of the operation. He knows how to track, when, and he is the main planner and coordinator for the group.
For a more elaborate example, you could say that Gandalf is the Sage for the whole story, Aragorn is the Knight for the whole story, and Frodo is the whole story’s main ninja (since he secretly goes on a mission to mount doom to destroy the ring).
Of course, you would say that there are slight variations: Legolas occasionally gets flashes of wise insight, Aragorn sometimes bears the brunt of the fighting, and Gimli can formulate his own stealthy plans (“I can’t jump that far; you’ll have to toss me!” That was Gimli’s plan, for the record).
This is something that you can do to avoid falling into annoying archetypes: vary them slightly. Have the hybrids, like a sage-ninja or a ninja-knight or a sage-knight. A strong guy with stealth, a stealthy guy with some strength, or a wise guy (snicker snicker) with some stealth. This way, the reader can’t be like, “Oh, that’s the strong guy. He’s like this other thing from so-and-so. How lame.”
One pro tip: avoid the perfect or “universal” hero. By portioning off specific traits to different characters, you encourage diversity in your book. The reader will be impressed on how you were able to pull off so many different characters to suit the book’s needs.
However, if you do end up making the universal hero, you end up with something like ol’ Superman. In case you didn’t know, Superman had almost every power imaginable and embodied every superhuman skill and strength. He had to have a character rebirth in order to make him a little more interesting.
Play around with these archetypes. See how close you can get to making characters based on this list without making them into Supermans. (Supermen? Spider-men? I have no idea) Learn to recognize these archetypes in books, movies and beyond.
Good luck, and happy writing!