Have you ever read a book before where you love the plot, the minor characters, the themes, the EVERYTHING…and yet the protagonist of the story just sucks?
What in the world happened here? Why isn’t the protagonist the favorite character? What went wrong?
Today we’re going to be looking at 3 really big ways that you can make sure your protagonist is the right protagonist so that readers will love your protagonist.
Let’s get started!
1. Your Best Character
“Always tell a story about your best character” ~John Truby
Yes, guys, I thought this quote was so important that I made a cool quote out of it. (You can pin it if you want). But, guys, I did it because us writers always forget to write about our best character.
A couple of years ago, my thought process of the “best” character was the nicest. Believe it or not, because of that thought process, Anya was the protagonist of my story for a solid stretch of the road.
Then I read a bit of The Anatomy of Story by John Truby, and realized that “best” means “the most fascinating, challenging, and complex.”
^Inspiration to use this gif goes to Julia
And after reading those 6 words, my entire book changed, because I got hit with the realization that Will was my protagonist. But why? Why not Anya? What was so wrong about her?
Because Will had a mysterious past. He had flaws. He was always struggling and fighting for something. And deep down I’d always known his story was more important because the plot twist at the end of my book was literally about Will, not Anya.
The instant I gave Anya up, the instant my story shot up in greatness.
So, what about your protagonist?
I want you to take a moment and think of all your characters. Your current protagonist if you have one, and all your minor characters who play a part in your book. Now, ask yourself: Which one do you love the most?
It might seem like an odd, pointless question, but it’s really not. If you don’t love your protagonist you’re not going to love writing a book about him.
So don’t skip around this question! Consider it very carefully. Here are two questions by John Truby that you should ask yourself while considering any character as a possible protagonist:
- Do I want to see him act?
- Do I care about the challenges he has to overcome?
If your answer is “Yes” to both of these questions, that character might just be your protagonist. To some extent, yes, we want to see all our characters act and overcome. But which one do you want to see the MOST of?
2. Who’s Story Needs to Be Told?
The biggest gap between Anya and Will was that Anya was normal. So normal that she was boring. Will, on the other hand, washed up onto Athwil’s shore with no memory of his past. Now there was a not-so-normal story!
The big questions you need to be asking here is:
- Who has the most changing to do?
- Who needs to change?
- And who is the most resistant to this change?
If your protagonist is some perfect magical human being…he’s not going to feel very human. Someone who has flaws, who needs to overcome these flaws, who will overcome those flaws is a human that readers want to read about. A human who readers will root for the whole way.
- Bonus: This all completely works even for stories where you have multiple protagonists. Just ask this question that Jessica Brody gives in her Save the Cat! book: “Which of my main characters is most like my reader?” Figure out which one and that is your real protagonist.
3. Who Is the Most Interesting?
Which would you rather read about? A normal girl wandering around her village just living? Or an abnormal boy struggling in the village trying to survive?
When one character above the others seems to have a story to them, guess what? You can pull that story out and write it!
A “story” from a character can stem from:
- A mysterious backstory
- Flaws that they need to overcome
- Change that needs to happen in them
I’ve been planning on doing a post on backstory sometime soon, so if anyone is interested hopefully I can branch out further on this subject. Just know for now that a mysterious past can pique readers interest so much so that it can be the difference between them picking up your book or not.
Take a look at all your characters and see which one of them has already the most interesting or potential to have the most interesting backstory in their lives. Whoever has it could quite possibly be your protagonist right there. Even if they’re the antagonist.
The moment the idea struck me to switch my protagonist to being Will, I didn’t want to do it. I can still remember sitting in my room for a solid hour, going back and forth between the two. But, finally, I relented, and decided on Will. And the moment I did all my worries about my story slid down and clicked into place, and suddenly my book didn’t seem to be so impossible anymore.
Have you ever had to change your protagonist before?
What made you change him?
Does your protagonist right now fit in with all these tips?
Is anyone interested in a backstory post?
*Sorry about not posting last week, life got crazy busy!
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I hope you enjoyed this post! If you have any questions or thoughts, leave a comment down below.
Thanks for reading!
Image Source: https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/745486544569318494/