protagonist definition: what is a protagonist?

Protagonist Definition: How to Create the Perfect Protagonist

If you’re writing any kind of fiction, from a short story to a screenplay, your story has a protagonist. This is the character or characters around whom the story centers. Without a well crafted protagonist, the rest of the story falls short, so careful consideration of a story’s protagonist(s) is crucial to effective storytelling. In this article, we’ll examine how to create the perfect protagonist.

What is a protagonist? What is the difference between a protagonist vs. antagonist? Can there be more than one protagonist? Understanding these key detail of storytelling will unlock countless possibilities in your work, so let’s examine the development of protagonist personality in detail. We’ll start by looking at the role your protagonist must play in your story.

Contents

Protagonist Definition: What is a Protagonist?

The protagonist of a story is the main character who drives the plot forward. As the leading character of a story, play, movie, or other piece of drama or literature, protagonists are essential components of fiction, as it’s their conflicts and journeys that make the story possible.

Protagonist definition: The main character of a story, whose conflict drives the plot forward.

Readers love fiction for a variety of reasons: stories can answer moral questions, transport us to beautiful worlds, and teach us about history, society, and philosophy. But readers especially love fiction for its characters, and for the chance to observe human nature with a certain degree of intimacy. Without a well crafted main character, fiction cannot accomplish what it seeks to accomplish, nor can it answer, transport, or teach the reader.

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Many great protagonist examples come from the pen of Toni Morrison. Milkman, the main character of her novel Song of Solomon, showcases how a character’s moral dilemma drives the story’s engine. Milkman feels estranged from his family, from society, and from any sort of obligation to other people—but this estrangement is fueled in part by his father’s lack of affection and approval. When a quest to find a bag of gold coins presents itself to Milkman, he goes on this quest secretly desiring his father’s approval, only to discover his family’s complex and beautiful history, making him appreciate the foundation his life is built upon.

Is the protagonist the main character? Yes, always—although they are not always the narrator, and they may have to share the spotlight with other characters. Let’s briefly examine the distinction between protagonists and other character types.

Protagonist vs. Antagonist

If the protagonist is the main character of the story, then the antagonist is the main force working against the protagonist’s wishes. Most stories involve a dilemma between the protagonist vs. antagonist, and if the main character wants to achieve their goals or desires in the story, they must surmount the antagonist’s obstacles.

The antagonist is the main force working against the protagonist’s wishes.

The antagonist is not always a person: it can also be a concept or ideology. Society and government prove to be the antagonists in dystopian works of fiction, like Brave New World by Aldous Huxley or 1984 by George Orwell. In the story The Curious Case of Benjamin Button by F. Scott Fitzgerald, the antagonist is the concept of backwards aging, which the protagonist is afflicted with and can do nothing about.

Shorter works of fiction might not have a clearly defined antagonist, but they still force the protagonist to confront a conflict or moral dilemma that’s preventing their own growth and success. Moreover, a good antagonist will perfectly challenge the faults and shortcomings of the protagonist. To learn more, check out our article on developing a strong antagonist.

Protagonist vs. Deuteragonist

A common distinction made between main characters is the protagonist vs. deuteragonist. The deuteragonist is a secondary character: they play an essential role in the story by aiding or hindering the journey of the main character.

Deuteragonists can be allies, antagonists, or anything in between, but their own flaws and motives must influence the course of the story. Great examples of deuteragonists include Dr. Watson in Sherlock Holmes, Hermione and Ron in the Harry Potter series, or Iago in Shakespeare’s Othello.

Antihero Protagonist

An antihero protagonist is a character whose traits are opposite what’s expected of a hero. Especially in genre fiction, conventional protagonists might be brave, kind, or interested in justice. The antihero protagonist, then, is something opposite: they might be cowardly, unkind, selfish, or otherwise unconcerned with morality. To put it simply: the antihero protagonist defies conventional morality, and in doing so, reveals something essential about the ways society functions.

Antihero protagonist examples include Muersault in Albert Camus’ The Stranger, Holden Caulfield in Catcher in the Rye, and the unnamed main character of Dostoevsky’s Note from Underground. Note that all of these characters have very different personality traits, but each antihero protagonist’s diversion from what’s expected of a main character allows the author to comment on society, human psychology, and philosophical thought.

Learn more about the antihero here:

https://writers.com/anti-hero-characters

Considerations for Creating a Protagonist

Before we look at some protagonist examples in literature, it’s important to consider everything that goes into a carefully crafted character. Whether you’re writing literary fiction or genre fiction, the following considerations are necessary for creating a protagonist.

Inner vs. outer journey

A protagonist’s plotline is defined by two interweaving narratives: the inner journey and the outer journey.

The outer journey is the plot at face value, encompassing every action, decision, and event of the main storyline. If you’re familiar with the hero’s journey plot structure, then you might think of the hero’s quest: leaving home, entering a strange new world, making new allies and enemies, vanquishing the enemy, journeying home, vanquishing the enemy again, and finally returning home.

The inner journey describes the changes going on in the main character’s personality, personal philosophy, and morality. As the protagonist encounters different obstacles and dilemmas, their outlook on life inevitably changes as well. Don’t assume that the protagonist always improves as a person: sometimes, the main character doesn’t survive their inner journey.

Sometimes, the main character doesn’t survive their inner journey.

For example, consider the plot of Fahrenheit 451. Guy Montag, the main character, comes to realize the value of literature in a society bent on destroying books. Montag is a fireman which, in this society, means he is one of the people who destroys books. However, he soon realizes the value of literature and the ills of modern society, creating a contrast between his inner and outer journeys. Outwardly, he must demolish books and the people who still value literature; inwardly, he comes to find the value of books, and must choose between his newly found values and his adherence to society. The inner and outer journeys each goad each other on, forcing Montag to decide between justice and complacence.

Protagonist personality

Personality is a combination of the thoughts, feelings, actions, beliefs, and philosophies that inform a particular person’s decisions. It is, in short, a gestalt of a person’s many interactions with the world: the things they do that define the patterns of their choices, thoughts, and feelings.

Who is your protagonist? How do they act, feel, think, and make decisions? Developing protagonist personality is an imprecise science, partially because scientists have yet to figure out what personality even is, and partially because a character’s personality will develop organically and over time.

Nonetheless, it’s imperative to think about protagonist personality, and how your characters’ identity and shortcomings shape the narrative at large. For example, in Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick, Captain Ahab’s obsessive personality is essential to making the story work. If Ahab wasn’t so prideful, impulsive, and vengeful—and if he didn’t struggle to give his own life meaning—then he would not be the right protagonist for a story about chasing a mythical whale.

For more on developing character personality and traits, take a look at our article on character development.

The unlikable protagonist trope

Related to the issue of protagonist personality is the unlikable protagonist trope. Sometimes, the main character of a novel is simply a heinous person. They may be redeemable, but even if they’re not, the reader is drawn to this character because of their complexity, and because of the little glimmer of humanity that they cannot seem to eradicate.

There are countless examples of this in classic literature: Humbert Humbert in Nabokov’s Lolita, Oscar Wilde’s Dorian Gray, or Anthony and Gloria Patch in The Beautiful and the Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald. Each of these characters bring an awful taste to the mouth: they are vain, self-centered, and uninterested in the betterment of society or themselves, ruining the lives of the people around them.

What’s most difficult about the unlikable protagonist trope is this: the reader still roots for them. Unlikable characters are still complicated and human, and while we might abhor them for their iniquities, we also hope they might redeem themselves, recognize their errors, even turn themselves in for the crimes they’ve committed. Through reprehensible protagonists, the reader observes something about the dark side of human nature, forcing them to reflect on society and how we ought to coexist with one another.

In your own work, your main characters do not have to be unlikable. But they’re certainly not perfect, and carry a mix of positive and negative traits. Good people do unlikable things all the time, and many protagonists are indeed unkind people. After all, imperfection is what makes for a great story: the reader learns to love the main character and root for their success, despite all of their shortcomings and poor decisions.

Narrative lens

Who’s telling the story? Is it the protagonist, a close friend of the protagonist, or a distant and impartial narrator? Point of view plays an essential role in shaping the contours of your main character. With a clearly established POV, you can decide how intimately the reader knows your protagonist, including what access we have to their thoughts, feelings, and internal life.

Learn more at our article on point of view in literature, and how different narrative lenses affect the development of your characters and their journeys.

Names

Naming your characters, especially your protagonists, can prove especially daunting. It seems like there are thousands of wrong names to impart on your main character, but the right one always eludes you. How do authors come up with such great names?

Here are a few considerations:

  • Name meanings: What could your character’s name say about their journey? For example, let’s say your protagonist is a lion tamer. The name “Leo,” which means “lion,” would certainly be apt, if ironic. Or, perhaps your character must, at some point, cross a dangerous ocean. The name “Cordelia” means “daughter of the sea,” and could certainly foreshadow her journey.
  • Ethnic or religious background: Consider the upbringing of your main character. What traditions shaped their childhood? If they grew up in a heavily Christian household, for example, then it makes sense to give them a Christian name.
  • Nicknames: People endow each other with nicknames for a variety of reasons. A nickname can refer to someone’s physical features, a talent or occupation they have, or a story that everyone knows. Nicknames can also be cruel. Milkman, in Toni Morrison’s Song of Solomon, is called “Milkman” because he was seen breastfeeding when he was 4 years old.
  • Alliteration: Many memorable characters have names that use sound devices like alliteration, consonance, and assonance. For example: Peter Parker, Major Major, Tiny Tim, Peter Pevensie, Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov, etc. This is just one of many considerations, and of course, it matters much more that the name sounds believable and interesting rather than just alliterative.
  • Time period: When was your protagonist named? What was going on at the time? Many babies were named Britney in the early 2000s, likely because of Britney Spears’ stardom. More recently, people have named their children Khaleesi or Arya, as inspired by Game of Thrones.

If you’re still struggling to come up with something clever or applicable, try out this name generator for a spin.

Finally, when it comes to naming your protagonist, you’re probably your own biggest critic. Readers will trust that the name you’ve given your character is thoughtful and relevant. Whether or not you’re a believer in nominative determinism, go with your gut—there’s nobody else who can give a better name to your characters than you.

Character description

What does your main character look like? How do they dress, wear their hair, move their face, navigate a room? What do they smell like? How does their voice sound?

You don’t need to paint a complete picture for the reader, as we don’t want to get lost in the details. But singling out precise imagery for your protagonist will help the reader visualize them and understand their personality.

Again, we don’t need to know everything: there’s no need to pile on visual and sensory details. Readers prefer to build an idea in their head of what a character looks like based on a few key pieces of description, otherwise the story gets weighed down with loads of imagery, confusing the reader. Keep description simple and symbolic—let the reader get to know your main character through the most important sensory details you share.

Finally, don’t have your protagonist describe themselves by looking at their reflection. For example: “I looked at myself in the mirror, examining my short hair, my large nose, and my bluish-green eyes.” It’s cliché and distracts from the narrative.

Synergy with the antagonist

The perfect antagonist isn’t perfect for everybody, but specifically for your protagonist. The challenges that the antagonist presents will prove difficult for the main character to overcome because of the main character’s own flaws and shortcomings.

The challenges that the antagonist presents will prove difficult for the main character to overcome because of the main character’s own flaws and shortcomings.

For example, in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kasey, Nurse Ratched is a perfect antagonist for Randle McMurphy. Randle is a fun-loving, free-spirited character who does not respond to threats, intimidation, or any of the tortuous punishments Nurse Ratched dreams up for her patients. Nurse Ratched, by contrast, exercises total control over the psychiatric ward, using patients as informants and manipulating the residents to her will. These two contrasting personalities inevitably reach a stalemate, until McMurphy nearly chokes Nurse Ratched to death. McMurphy is lobotomized, but Nurse Ratched loses her voice, essentially disabling each of their respective personalities.

The antagonist might also demonstrate something about the shortcomings of society. In To Kill a Mockingbird, the Ewells are no match for Atticus Finch, who is a model example of a lawyer and humanitarian. The Ewells win their case and successfully get a black man wrongfully imprisoned, demonstrating how justice is not always found in the justice system. Atticus’ shortcoming is not his own fault, but rather the fault of systemic racism; nonetheless, his own prowess as an orator makes the Ewell family the laughing stock of Maycomb.

The moral dilemma

A good antagonist will also present the protagonist with difficult moral dilemmas. The main character must inevitably make hard decisions, often with limited information, that decide the fate of the story and their own internal journey. If the protagonist has not grown as a person, or else cowers in the face of responsibility, the story will end in tragedy.

For example, in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the titular Hamlet is tasked with avenging the death of his father. Hamlet suspects, and later confirms, that his uncle Claudius killed his father, the former king of Sweden. With this knowledge, Hamlet vows to kill Claudius—except he is never able to do so, as he is both indecisive and frequently gets lost in his own moralizing. Several preventable deaths, including Hamlet’s own, result from Hamlet’s inability to approach the moral dilemma.

Real people versus fictional elements

How do you come up with fictional characters? Can they be completely unique human beings? Should you model your protagonist off of people you know? Should your protagonist be yourself?

There’s no wrong answer here. James Joyce’s hero Stephen Daedalus was Joyce’s literary alter ego. By contrast, Arthur Conan Doyle’s character Sherlock Holmes was inspired by a professor Doyle had in medical school, Dr. Joseph Bell.

In truth, authors usually imbue their characters with a mixture of inspiration from the people they know, and elements of themselves they unwittingly endow their characters with. The important part of developing your characters is to be strategic: figure out what traits are essential to telling your story, escalating conflict, and creating a perfect moral dilemma.

Protagonist Examples in Literature

The following protagonist examples come from classic works of literature. We summarize the role that the character plays in the story, referencing how each protagonist was carefully crafted with the above criteria in mind. If you read or have read these novels, pay close attention to the interplay of character and narrative, as the protagonist is equally shaped by the story as the story shapes the protagonist.

Selin Karadağ in The Idiot by Elif Batuman

Story summary: Selin is a freshman at Harvard in the 1990s, when email is first becoming a means of communication. Much of the story is focused on her uncertain relationship with Ivan, an older student in mathematics, and Selin’s observations and dry wit explore the existential uncertainty that comes with being in your late teens—the odd juxtaposition of being a freshly minted adult and entirely uncertain about how the world really works.

Protagonist personality: Selin is witty, obsessed with the inner workings of language, and has a remarkably dry sense of humor. Much of her observations about the world are tied to language, and the gap between what language conveys and how the world truly is. Outside of this, Selin is a typical teenage girl, trying to figure herself out and her place in the world. Sometimes she’s confident, other times she’s shy; sometimes she’s completely sure of something, and other times she feels completely lost in the large, chaotic world. In addition to learning languages, Selin sees herself as a writer.

Character description: Not a whole lot of time is spent on Selin’s appearance, mainly because it’s written in first person POV. We know that Selin is Turkish American, and that she grew up in New Jersey.

Inner and outer journey: Outwardly, Selin tries to figure out her place at Harvard and the future she wants to build. She surveys different classes, makes the typical mistakes that freshmen make, and spends her summer teaching English in a remote Hungarian village (partially to be closer to Ivan, who is Hungarian). Inwardly, Selin tries to conquer the gap between language and meaning. In her relationship to Ivan, which is mostly held over email, Selin tries to put her thoughts and feelings precisely into words. But, despite their chemistry, neither Ivan or Selin seem capable of expressing their feelings towards one another.

Moral dilemma: Selin must figure out how to communicate her feelings, whether to communicate them or not, and how to accept the vulnerability of love, desire, and language. To express something is to open yourself up to the limits of language—the inability to convey exact feelings and ideas through words. Selin’s Sisyphean struggle is to constantly learn more about words, but also to be brave enough to use them.

Other notes: The Idiot is semi-autobiographical, and was a 2018 Pulitzer Prize finalist in Fiction.

Charles Marlow in Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad

Story summary: Written during the period of European colonial rule across the African continent, Heart of Darkness details Charles Marlow’s journey into the Congo Free State. Marlow is the captain of a steamboat for an ivory trading company, and he is tasked with finding Kurtz, a successful ivory trader, who has adapted his way of life to the natives along the Congo River. Throughout Marlow’s journey, he makes important realizations about colonization and the false dichotomy of “civilized” versus “savage.”

Protagonist personality: Marlow is adventurous, curious, and perhaps even obsessive. He becomes engrossed with the idea of Kurtz, and wants to meet him to understand why a European man would conform to an African lifestyle. He is well-educated and aristocratic, but also meditative and a bit distant, as he spent much of his time studying or at sea.

Character description: Marlow is a recurring character of Joseph Conrad’s work. Although his physical appearance is not discussed much in Heart of Darkness, other works describe him as a handsome man, though easily flustered and self-conscious around people of his own social standing.

Inner and outer journey: Marlow’s outer journey pushes him into the heart of the Congo. He dodges enemy attacks, suffers through exhaustion and illness, and does everything he can to meet Kurtz, who is on his deathbed. Inwardly, Marlow makes important realizations about colonization. He realizes that there is little difference between European aristocrats and African “savages,” and that colonization has wreaked disaster across the African continent. Marlow comes to see all men as equal, and to see Europeans as “whited sepulchers,” filled with the same “savagery” that all men have, but very thinly masked behind a veneer of aristocracy.

Moral dilemma: Before Kurtz dies, he gives Marlow a packet of papers, which detail some of his methods and the success of his trading station. In truth, Kurtz is a tyrant: he made the African people worship him so he could exploit their labor and produce as much ivory as possible. Further, he came to Africa to “civilize the natives,” and died wishing death upon every African man. Kurtz’s papers are highly lucrative, and Marlow’s moral dilemma is what to do with them. In the end, he protects those papers from every European, knowing that they would use Kurtz’s methods against the African continent.

David in Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin

Story summary: Giovanni’s Room is a novel about love and sexuality in 1950s Paris. David, who is engaged to his girlfriend Hella, meets the bartender Giovanni at a gay bar, which forces David to reckon with his masculinity, his sexuality, and his loneliness. The novel begins at the end: we know that something David has done has sent Giovanni to be executed.

Protagonist personality: David is indecisive and introspective. His mother died when he was young, his father was a distant but masculine presence, and David had several gay experiences as a teenager which made him afraid of his own queer desire. David is desperate to “be a man,” and when he’s anxious enough, he seduces women to prove to himself his own masculinity and heterosexuality (which for him, and society, are intertwined).

Character description: David is a handsome blond American man from New York City. Since the story is told from the first person, not much else is said about his appearance.

Inner and outer journey: Outwardly, David navigates his relationships to both Giovanni and Hella. He certainly cares for Giovanni, but feels suffocated by this relationship: David is the only thing that Giovanni lives for, and David has not come to terms with his sexuality. Additionally, Giovanni’s room is small and depressing, yet David spends the majority of his time there. Inwardly, David must confront his socially indoctrinated beliefs about manhood and sexuality, or else he can never overcome his sense of isolation and loneliness in the world.

Moral dilemma: Whether David is bisexual or homosexual is never explicitly stated, but still, he must choose between Hella and Giovanni while also resolving his questions of identity. In the end, he chooses neither. David abandons Giovanni to marry Hella; this sends Giovanni into a slew of self-destructive behaviors, culminating in him murdering his former boss and being executed for it. David blames himself for this, disappears from Hella, and starts gallivanting with a gay sailor. When Hella discovers this, she heads back to the United States. So, in David’s reckless indecisiveness and refusal to acknowledge his own desire, he has lost both of the people he claims to have loved.

Common Questions About Creating a Protagonist

Is the protagonist the main character?

Yes, always. But the protagonist is not always the narrator. In The Great Gatsby, for example, the protagonist is Jay Gatsby, but the narrator is Nick Carraway, a close acquaintance.

Can the protagonist also be the antagonist?

By definition, no. The protagonist is the main character of the story, and the antagonist is the main opposing force. Readers often assume this means the protagonist is always good and the antagonist is always bad, but it’s much more nuanced than this: good main characters will also have “bad” traits, and some protagonists are actually evil people.

That said, the protagonist can be their own opposing force. Take note of the above protagonist examples. In Giovanni’s Room, the antagonist is arguably society and its unfair views of masculinity and sexuality. One could also assert that David is his own antagonist: he’s a grown man, capable of confronting his biases and struggles with identity, both of which cause him to hurt the people he loves. David, of course, has inherited loads of trauma and confusion surrounding his identity, and in the 1950s, it wasn’t easy to admit to yourself you’re a gay or bisexual man. Thus, there is no clear antagonist, but David plays an active role in his own self-destruction, as well as the destruction of others.

Can there be more than one protagonist?

It depends on who you ask. Some literary theorists argue that, even in novels told from multiple perspectives and with multiple interweaving narratives, there can be only one true protagonist, and the other perspectives are deuteragonists.

In truth, it’s very difficult to tell a story with two or more equally-important main characters. One character will likely overshadow the other(s), even if only barely, because their journey ends up defining the arc of the story. That’s not to say the deuteragonists aren’t also given depth and importance, only that their journey does not define the story, which is a central trait of all protagonists.

Some examples of novels with multiple perspectives or main characters include:

  • Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami
  • The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai
  • A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  • The Testaments by Margaret Atwood
  • In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
  • The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner

There are also novels that are told across the perspectives of multiple generations, including Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, and Beauty is a Wound by Eka Kurniawan.

Among this list, the novel that comes closest to having equally weighted characters is In the Time of the Butterflies, which tries to show equal perspective from each of the Mirabal sisters. In a way, this makes the Mirabals, as a unit, the story’s protagonist, though each sister certainly has her own traits, desires, and flaws, and though Dedé is the only sister who survives.

In short, it is possible to have multiple protagonists, but if you’re considering doing this, pay close attention to the narratives and journeys you’re building for each character. You may end up prioritizing one journey over the other in your novel.

Creating Your Protagonist

Here are instructor Jack Smith’s thoughts on crafting the perfect protagonist. Jack Smith

What is a protagonist? It’s your main character. You might have several characters, but this is the character who drives the action, the one whose perspective is the most important. In being the main character, this character needs to be real, to have human attributes, not to be one-dimensional, but multi-dimensional, and to be sympathetic, someone whose problems we can relate to and care about.

But first, let’s look into this matter of creating your protagonist and how you might do it. What fictional methods can you depend on? How should you start?

  1. Descriptive opening: Should you start by trying to describe your protagonist first so that readers will get a basic understanding of what your main character looks like before you get them involved in action of one kind or another?
  2. Expository opening: Should you begin by telling about your protagonist, providing some backstory? Should you concentrate on a few dominant traits?
  3. Scenic opening: Should you start with action and reveal your character’s physical appearance and dominant personality traits as your protagonist acts and responds to others’ actions? This could be narration alone, or narration with dialogue. 

Of these openings, many writers today would probably choose the latter, beginning in media res, or in the middle of things. Though the traditional five-stage plot structure, which we’ll cover later, begins with exposition, or telling—establishing the character’s situation before a complication occurs—writers today tend to feel that this lacks the kind of verve they want out of a novel opening. A descriptive opening, however, might work, unless it sounds like it’s just description for description’s sake. And it’s got to be vivid—it’s got to “show, don’t tell.”

What should you accomplish in your opening? Richard Bausch, famous novelist, states that he “troubles” his character to get things moving. However you manage to get things rolling, you do need to find ways to create your character—again putting aside, for now, the question of creating a character worth your reader’s time, one that is complex and sympathetic.

What besides a good opening do you need? What are the tools at your command to create your main character?

Be sure to rely on the following:

Scenes that involve your protagonist in conflict: Fiction thrives on conflict. A good scenic opening means putting your character in a situation that threatens themin some way. Throughout your novel, you need to keep this in mind. Scenes where your character is feeling good, satisfied, getting along with others, being happy, happy, happy, will probably make for dull reading. Save that for some riveting prose. (Unless, we can just feel in that happy, happy occasion that things are about to go south.) Think of conflict, whether it’s verbal or physical, as the engine that drives your character—and your novel. We’ll learn about your protagonist, in part, from what they do.

Prose that reveals what the protagonist is thinking and feeling: Think of moving from summary to scene and from scene to summary. We’ll get to know your character not only through interaction with others in scenes, but in narrative summary, which establishes her routines over a given time period, or typical routines at a given time in her life. Perhaps—just one possibility—these times could be lulls in the action, giving your protagonist moments to take stock of her life.

Expository prose can also reveal the feelings, thoughts, worries, fears, etc., of your character. Readers like to get inside the protagonist’s mind. Good prose can do that, if it doesn’t sound like it’s talking about a character but instead is revealing the inner life of a character. Vividness helps.

Scenes that reveal what others think of your protagonist: Dialogue that reveals what other characters think of your protagonist will help in creating this main character. Are these external perspectives right or wrong? Are they credible? Readers will be intrigued by different takes on the protagonist.

Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, these are the fictional strategies you have at your disposal.

Learn how to create the perfect protagonist at Writers.com

What is a protagonist? What does your protagonist want? What do they look like, who’s acting against them, and how will they survive? Will they survive, or won’t they?

Crafting a great protagonist and putting them on an interesting journey is hard work. Learn how to create the perfect protagonist at Writers.com. Take a look at our upcoming fiction courses, where you’ll learn the craft of storytelling and get expert feedback on your characters.

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