The Importance Of Being The Protagonist

The Importance Of Being The Protagonist


What is the role of the protagonist in your story?

Bonnie Tyler needed a hero and so do you.

Is your hero a big ogre like Shrek, a miserable bastard like House, or the floundering alcoholic from The Girl on the Train? Or is he a golden Adonis, perfect and noble like Ned Stark? Suggestion: try to keep your hero alive. It makes the storytelling easier. Hint, Mr Martin. Is she Cinderella waiting for Prince Charming or is she Katniss warding him off with a bow and arrow?

The Role Of The Protagonist In Fiction

We root for heroes. We want them to succeed. We want them to achieve their goals. Whether they achieve the goal is up to the story, but we go with them on a journey. We live through them. We share their experiences. We laugh with them. We cry with them. We wince as they stitch their wounds.

Your story should start with an inciting moment. This ‘moment of change’ should give your hero a story goal, or set the hero on a path. This goal should be physical. It should be a reason for your character to choose the road less travelled. The goal can also change during the course of the story, but we need the initial kick in the behind.

The journey will change your hero in two ways. There will be external change, caused by the external conflict that rises from the physical goal. Black eyes, broken limbs, haircuts and changes in clothing. The character will also change emotionally. This internal change will result from the physical changes forced on the character. These changes are how we show character growth. He or she can fall in love, for example, making him or her more confident or humble. The hero should be different from when he or she started.

Write a biography for your character with as much information as you can gather. Flesh out their backstory. This isn’t necessarily information that will be used in the manuscript, but the more you know the better and more rounded your character will be. Figure out what his relationship is to the antagonist.

For example: Shrek wants his swamp back. That is his goal. He goes to Lord Farquaad who sends him to find and rescue Fiona. Donkey of course accompanies him. At the end, Shrek gives up his need for his swamp and solitude and chooses Fiona and Donkey. He goes from wanting to be alone to realising he needs and wants people, (or donkeys and girl ogres) around him.

Make a list of your scenes, or write a chronological sequence of events. Make a second and third column. One for internal changes and one for external changes. Try to complete the list. Add to it and adapt it as you go along. This list will help you create an arc for your character.