4 Ways to Create a Strong Protagonist

On Wednesday’s post, How to Write a Synopsis Editors Will Want to Read, we discussed focusing on your protagonist. But what if you do and then the plot suddenly feels flat? Alternately, what if you’re well-committed to writing your story (be it a full-length novel, a novella, or a short story) and you realize that your main character is just.. blah? Let’s take a quick look at some ways to make them stronger:

  1. Make them relatable in some way. Maybe it’s a personality tic, a viewpoint/stance on an issue, the way your character processes, something from their past, or even their goal, but there needs to be some way for the reader to connect to your protagonist: after all, they’ll be following them through their journey. The reader doesn’t have to like the protagonist but they have to relate to them (it’s easier to get them to relate when it’s a character they like but it’s not always necessary).
  2. Your protagonist has to change. At some point during your story’s arc, a transformation or evolution must happen to your protagonist. This usually comes near their final step or in the climax. This can be built up slowly throughout your story by having each event transform your protagonist.
  3. They must do. The protagonist is the main focus of your story and the story is defined by their change and their goals. They can’t achieve those goals by letting objects or others act upon them: they have to do; they have to take direct action. In doing, there is opportunity to share their personality.
  4. Find out what makes them real to you. You need to believe in your protagonist in order to get others to believe in them too. You should know them well enough to know how they’d react to events, images, anything. This step is usually why most protagonists are extensions of their writers’ selves, but they don’t have to be.

What’s your favorite protagonist? Why are they your favorite?


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