How to Choose Your Protagonist
Updated: Oct 2, 2020
The Perfect Protagonist
The protagonist of your book is smart. She is so intelligent that she has devised a way to travel to Mars. She is also so breathtakingly beautiful that everyone has to turn their head whenever she enters a room.( What happens if she enters an empty room? )
She can speak seven languages and volunteers at an elderly care center. She lives in a mansion and has three dogs and five cats. Her husband is a handsome billionaire. Oh and she can do magic.
The perfect protagonist right?
Craft your protagonist like this and it is guaranteed that the only person who will finish reading your book is you.
We constantly strive for perfection.
Yet perfection is not a desirable quality in your book’s protagonist.
Such is human nature.
Wait. What was that? Oh you are saying that there are many likeable perfect characters?
Go ahead. Name any one. I dare you.
Yes, Tony Stark was a handsome, intelligent, billionaire who saved the Marvel world, but he was also an egotistical pomp with daddy issues.
Yes, Harry Potter saved his world, but he was an ordinary guy whose best friends were smarter and funnier than him.
You get the idea.
Being relatable is good!
Does this mean your protagonist has to be boring?
Your protagonist must be someone relatable.
Being relatable does not mean boring. It just means that the protagonist is not handed everything over on a silver platter and has to actually work towards what she/he wants.
This is what makes the story interesting.
The story is how your protagonist reacts to whatever is happening around him, aka the plot.
If your protagonist is boring (I’m looking at you, Bella Swan) , the reader feels a disconnect from the story.
I mean why would you choose to read about an emotionless, passive character in a long novel , when you can very easily just read the darn newspaper?
A likable protagonist is most likely to be someone flawed whose growth can be traced by the reader throughout the novel. Of course there are characters like Sherlock Holmes or Poirot who don’t fall into this category, but they are also heavily flawed characters, not perfect ones.
Growth makes for the most compelling character. Does your protagonist start out by being a selfish Neanderthal? Let her learn the importance of sometimes putting the comforts of other people over hers through the story. In the end she will be a changed girl, who is not completely selfish anymore.
Hurray! You’ve created a character to whom most human beings can relate to.
If your character is perfect in every sphere of life, the number of people who can relate to her will be very limited.
Remember, relatability is good.
Pretty self explanatory. We are kinds fed up about reading fair skinned redheads going off on an adventure.
It is 2020.
It is high time that we authors breathe life into main characters with whom people all around the world can relate.
I grew up with no brown female curvy protagonist in any fantasy book that I read. It sucked.
Don’t make your protagonist annoying.
A protagonist who whines about every minor inconvenience will annoy the reader.
If this little howler does not obtain a really good character arc by the end of the novel, your readers will probably never pick up anything you write ever again.
Don’t let your protagonist whine about the plot just to establish the character arc.
Choose a protagonist who is age appropriate to your genre category
If you are writing children’s books with a thirty year old protagonist, the relatablility factor may be a tad bit low.
And if you are writing an adult romance with characters below the legal age, well...that is just sick dude.
Try to frame your characters age a couple years younger than the highest limit of your genre category.
For example if you are writing a young adult book , make your protagonist 16 or 17 at the most. Anyone older might distance the younger audiences.
I hope these tips will help you get started on creating your protagonist.