The Protagonist (1)

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I have a supporting character that seems to fill a far greater purpose than I originally anticipated. However, your definition says hero and main character are synonymous. Is it wheels off to have a main character and protagonist not be the hero in the end? Do you think the audience will feel cheated by a decision like this? Seriously, you can stop reading now.

Main Character Just what it sounds like: this is the character who the story is mostly about.

Sometimes but not always a hero, the protagonist makes the story move

Protagonist The character who changes over the course of the story, travelling from Point A to Point B, either literally or figuratively. She learns and grows as the story progresses. Generally, Protagonists want something at the start of the tale, and discover they need something else. Now, remember, most times, one character is all three of these things. However, in some stories, the Hero, the Protagonist and the Main Character are not all the same person.

What’s the difference between Hero, Main Character and Protagonist?

One very current example is Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. You want to see him win that Golden Ticket, and for only good things to happen to him. Quips work when they are insightful but also come from a real place. Be extra careful in establishing the background of a metacharacter.

Firm Believers in the People

Think Ron in Harry Potter. The falls into trouble and falls back out of it style of character goes way back to Greek comedies. The setup for a comedy of errors relies on a likable fellow getting in over their heads and trying not to make a mess as they work it out. A character that lacks the ability to affect the world around them becomes tiresome. We want heroes challenged, sure, but we also want to know they can succeed.

That when faced with the dangers of the plot and the villains they have a shot that, when it comes down to it, they can kick some ass. The reason we love underdog characters is because they are secretly the most powerful. The likable, funny exterior makes you root for a character, but you want them to win in the end because they are better than the competition. If they are entering an academy to become a pilot, they are on the path to be the best pilot.

How to Make Your Protagonist Likable

A powerful character ie- the best at something garners respect from the reader. Remember to keep the character likable, a powerful character that uses their power to do harm becomes a villain.


One of the bonuses of being great at something is that people are quick to forgive them some of flaws. Tony Stark is arrogant. Unless you are writing noir, you want to keep the positives outshining the negatives. That balance can flip a bit for antiheroes ie Deadpool, John Wick but often takes a darker world to be effective. Conflict makes character. Conflict that stems from the characters internal conflicts leads to a different emotional response than conflict that stems from inevitable outside forces.

We feel a lot less for Superman and Batman in their Doomsday fight when they need a device they casually tossed aside an hour ago.

  1. Definition of Protagonist?
  2. SparkNotes: Macbeth: Protagonist?
  3. Un psicopatico e mezzo (Italian Edition)?

The more a conflict resonates with the reader, the more they can identify with the character. You personalize it by bringing it down to the granular. You make it about a particular personal loss, not all the losses. Be warned: there is a difference between the reader empathizing with a character and pitying them.

You want to make them rich and full. As the preceding examples overlapped quite a bit, you see that mixing and matching works better than solo applications. A character that is trying to be too many things can become cluttered and confusing. Also, nobody likes a story where the plot dictates the effectiveness of the character from page to page.

A common mistake of first-time writers is to make characters reactive, otherwise known as passive. And you know just how much passive voice is a no-no in writing, passive characters are also frowned upon. While they might need to roll with the punches when they first splash into the deep end, you want them to drive the action soon after. A great character is proactive.

They take charge, make a plan, and attack a problem with their skills and supporting cast.

Here are some questions to ask in order to learn how to avoid a passive character:. Keep in mind what fuels your character and they will always have a way to move forward. Not only that, the reader will be rooting for your charter as well. Great characters come from relatability and impact a reader by appealing to what we like to think about ourselves. A likable character engages a reader and can be a vector into a strange world. Funny characters use their quips and whit to attack problems and keep the darkness at bay.

We like to leave our fiction with a good feeling and jokes are how we cope with the worst of our issues. Powerful characters embody proactive approaches. A reader likes to see a character succeed and likes to know what a character is capable of so they can be in on the action, not blindsided by troubles and des ex machina. A reader likes to see real conflict. That is conflict that matters to a character and challenges the character. Think of your character like a friend. Keep writing and let your characters speak for themselves.

Ramy Vance is a Canadian who lives in Edinburgh with his wife, three-year-old kid and imaginary dog. With over 14 years experience in both traditional and self-publishing, Ramy is the bestselling author of over 13 novels and has helped nearly aspiring writers with their publishing goals. Exclusive video content from our CEO. Writing Prompts.