Who Are The 3 Characters Driving Your Plot?

Who Are The 3 Characters Driving Your Plot?


Who is responsible for moving the story along in your books? In this post, we write about the three characters driving your plot.

Sometimes deciding what role a character is going to play in your story is tricky.  If you want to cut through the confusing labels used for characters, try this simple method: focus only on three biggest characters in your story and rank them in starring order.

Who Are The 3 Characters Driving Your Plot?

  1. Character # 1. She can be good or bad or somewhere in between — the point is, this is her story. She’s the star – the protagonist. The focus is mostly on her. We don’t have to like her, but she’s the one you want the reader to identify with. She must be exciting, intriguing, and we must understand what drives her decisions and her emotions.
  2. Character # 2. He may be the second most important character but that doesn’t mean he always plays second fiddle in the story. He can either with or against your main character — either a friend, rival, a lover, a sidekick. His actions move the plot forward in a major way. He has a story of his own and you’ll spend quite a few pages telling this story.
  3. Character # 3. She may be coming in at number three, but this a catalyst character. This character causes change — brings suffering for the main character, or joy. What she does or doesn’t do will make the reader feel differently about the main character. She’s the character who can surprise the main character — and the reader  — when she comes out of the left field.

So …where’s the antagonist?

While all stories have an antagonist or bad guy, you may not always have a neatly formed character that plays this role – or you may want to keep him hidden from the reader and your main character.

For example: Say you want to keep the identity of the shadowy leader of a terrorist group until the last pages, you could have a skilled assassin or bomber doing his bidding in the role of C#2 and we follow his story as a major part of the story.

For example: Say your main character is up for a promotion at work — and so is his friend and co-worker. The two are competing, but the co-worker doesn’t hate his friend or want to destroy him like a classic villain would want to.  He’d simply be C#2.

In third place …

C#3 is a character you can have great fun with — because they’re a little further in the background, they can deliver the greatest surprises.

For example: Say you have a main character who is a criminal underworld, but he loves fishing in the country. He forms a friendship with an older man who also loves fishing. At the end of the story, it turns out the older man is an undercover cop who has tricked him into revealing his confidences.

For example:  Say your main character is a married man who is having an affair. His mistress is the only one he can be open with, talk to, and be himself. She may be C#3 and we he decides to leave his wife for her, she turns around and says she doesn’t want a husband. She can surprise him by showing him the decisions he’s made have consequences.

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 by Anthony Ehlers

If you enjoyed this post, read:

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  2. Five Ways To Kick-Start Your New Short Story
  3. Seven Invaluable Lessons For Writers From James Patterson

This article has 0 comments

  1. Michael

    Hi Anthony
    This is gold! The struggle with so many stories is making sure that characters are related as individuals, but in such a way that their stories don’t superimpose on the main character’s story. Thanks for this post!

  2. Anthony Ehlers

    Pleasure, Michael. Glad it helps. 🙂

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