What is a protagonist?

In simple terms, the protagonist is the main character in a story, a novel or in a literary work.  It is the character that the story is centered around.  It is the leading or principal figure in a literary work.  It is usually the leader or champion of some type of cause.

How do I develop a protagonist character?

protagonist 1A protagonist character can come from any source.  In a sense that character will be developed as a result of someone you know or it can be taken from someone who works with you.  That protagonist can be developed from drawing into your own inner experiences.  Getting to close to your inner self has its strengths and drawbacks.

The strength, of course, is that you were actually there and you can identify with every detail and describe everything that happened explicitly.  You can smell the aroma of that first brewed cup of coffee, you can feel the wind as it whistles through your hair or you can taste the savory piece of fillet mignon as you first plop it into your mouth.  You can feel every emotion as each one of those things occurred.  The problem, of course, is that it is very difficult to view yourself objectively as you write yourself into a page.  It is this very thing that makes it difficult to ensure that the reader is in tune with the things that are being written.  The reader has no idea what your experiences were and what you were thinking at the time and it then becomes even more crucial to clearly state the details for effectiveness.  Sometimes it is easier to think of that situation and then assign a character to that incident.  In that way it becomes more objective because it is not you.

For your protagonist to be successful they should be well-developed, they should have a purpose and they should be interesting.  The character should be believable and their interactions with other characters should show.  They mustn’t be considered a “flat” character.  Remember that your audience will often want to relate and sympathize with this main character.  It’s important to make your protagonist interesting because you want your audience to keep reading your book.  When developing your protagonist, make sure that you know detail things about them.  It’s helpful that you identify their family connections, heritage line or things that make them stand out; such as important personality traits.  It’s helpful to put together a page listing all these detail items so that you can refer to as you move forward with your book.

There are ways to make your protagonist successful.  One of the ways is to set your protagonist on a mission.  Give them a purpose and revolve your story around the pursuit of that goal.  Make them interact with other characters about that purpose.  Adding obstacles to that goal will bring your story together.  Make your protagonist proactive in search of this goal.  It is important to indicate how they pursue a goal because it also helps to define them and allows your reader to get more involved with the character.  A protagonist has to be searching for clues to solve a murder, slay a dragon to save the princess or win the heart of their beloved to keep the story moving.

It is important to show your protagonist’s modus operandi.  This is a simple way of saying that you need to show how your character operates in life.  You will need to show how their logic works.  For instance, do they use their fists or heart to solve things — a fighter or a lover?  Do they follow or break the rules of society to get their goals accomplished.

And last but not least, you will need to show how your character develops as the story progresses.   Most characters will undergo a compelling change of some sort as the goal or mission of the story is accomplished.  You need to determine what that change will be.  Those are choices that will occur as you develop your protagonist and the story.

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