A Good Protagonist

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Okay, so when I say a 'good' protagonist, I don't necessarily mean they're a good person. I mean, usually, they are. After all, they are the driving force of the novel, and readers tend to side with the morally just characters.

I say 'tend to', because I know my readers and I have learnt, in the past few months, that some of you are... well, what's the nice way to put this?


Respect to you, though! You love seeing the world get destroyed, and you own that! I, too, like to cause chaos in the world by asking to taste test like six different ice cream flavours whenever I go to an ice cream store.

Now, as for our protagonist, what do I mean by a 'good' protagonist?

I mean a protagonist that is engaging. That your readers genuinely care about and want to follow. Sometimes, people have amazing premises and plot twists, but they just cannot retain their readers because no one really clicks with their protagonist.

Your protagonist is the central force of your story. It's the person who, quite often, is the lens in which you view the story. Do they have to be a good person? Absolutely not. Hitler didn't rise an army due to having excellent ethical and moral standards. Rather, he was charismatic and charming, and made people feel understood enough to follow his dream.

Similarly, you want your protagonist to be someone your reader understands and cares about. You want them to read because they are invested in this character. And if they aren't good... well, then why should the reader even care about what happens to them?

Now, the way I conceptualise a protagonist is sort of like IKEA furniture!

For those who don't know IKEA, it's a furniture store that is literally giant, sells beds and chairs and tables and everything, and also sells pretty sick meatballs. However, IKEA furniture comes with a twist:

They give you the parts. You build it yourself.

Cue the pain of being unable to understand instructions. Cue the spouses fighting. Cue the divorce.

Now, creating your protagonist is like building a piece of IKEA furniture! Let's go through it!

1. Know Your House. Know Your Story.

You need to know your house before you buy any furniture. You don't want an entirely pink house, and then, bam! You have this random orange rug in the middle of it, ruining the aesthetic. It simply does not fit.

Similarly, you need to make sure that you know your story well -- or, at least, your premise and world. That way, you know what sort of protagonist you need to ensure the plot moves forward and the world makes sense.

Sometimes, people construct their world and plot around their protagonist. This is fine, too! Just make sure they all work seamlessly with each other.

2. Purpose.

You need to know the purpose of something before you buy it.

If you know you need something to sleep on, that tells you that... well, you probably need to buy a bed.

When you create your protagonist, you need to give them purpose. Goals. Dreams. An antagonist force. Something that actually gives their presence purpose and meaning.

Additionally, it needs to be a problem that we feel like only they can solve. Or something we feel has additional importance to them as a character. We want their purpose in the story to be meaningful.

Like, sure. If we look at Mary Had A Little Lamb -- why is Mary the main character in that song? It's because she is the one with the sheep who won't stop following her. Not some other kid. She is the one with the sheep who stalks her incessantly like a creep.

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