Character Studies: Relatable Protagonist

Stories can have multiple major characters, but one should stand out as a clear-cut protagonist. One way too identify them is based on their narrative opposite – the antagonist. Not all protagonists are heroes just like all antagonists are not necessarily villains. The important part of these two positions in a story is that we rely on the protagonist and the antagonist to drive the conflict. The protagonist wants something – either for themselves or because circumstances have put them in such a position – and the antagonist wants to deny them.

The function of a protagonist in a story is important, but is not the focus of today’s topic. Instead, we’re going to talk about their relatability to the reader. After all, this is the character the reader needs to root for. It’s important that the audience wants the protagonist to succeed, and that they care about because they will suffer alongside them while they deal with whatever obstacles the antagonist has put in the way.

So here are some important questions to evaluate your protagonist.

  • are they easily identifiable from the other major characters? how do they stand apart?
  • is the pronunciation of their name difficult? does their name have a meaning that might confuse their role to a reader?
  • what is their internal conflict? are there enough details present to help the reader identify it?
  • what is their external conflict? what goal, or goals, does the protagonist have that center around the external conflict?
  • how does the antagonist oppose the protagonist’s goals?
  • what does the protagonist stand to lose if they don’t accomplish their goals? does their loss affect just them, or others as well?
  • does their internal conflict reflect or define the theme of the story? if not, does their external conflict reflect or define the them of the story?
  • what flaws does your protagonist have? do they have any outright vices?
  • what positive attributes does your protagonist have? are they realistic to the setting of the story and the protagonist’s function within it?
  • does the protagonist grow as a person during the story? if so, what events or circumstances lead to their growth?
  • are they defined by more than just their external and internal conflicts? as a person, are they appropriately complex? what do they redefine about themselves, or their desires and goals, within the story?

A relatable protagonist is one of the key elements to getting a reader to finish your story. Crafting a protagonist with easily identifiable desires, motivations, and goals will make it much easier for a reader to connect to them. Without an interesting protagonist, the reader won’t have someone to root for, and will have trouble emotionally investing in the story.

What is your biggest weakness when it comes to crafting a protagonist? What is your largest strength? Have you ever wondered if you should choose a different protagonist than the one you started with? What about the conflict between the antagonist and protagonist do you think is the most intense? Do you like making your protagonist suffer, or do they have lots of opportunities to learn as they go without putting anything or anyone they care about in [immediate and life-threatening] jeopardy? Who is your favorite fictional protagonist and why? The comments are always open.

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