A Protagonist By Any Other Name

When you're writing a novel, some terms will come up that may confuse you. Like protagonist, antagonist or hysterical fiction (sorry, had to throw that in there). You, the writer, better know the difference or you'll confuse your readers.

Well, not really, but you'll be better off if you understand both what it means and how to create a good one.

The Good

The protagonist is the good guy. Or the good girl. The hero or heroine of your story or novel.

Doesn't sound good, does it, with "-agonist" in it?

Nonetheless, that's what it means. So, this is whom the novel is about. The main character. It can be a male or a female, or even non-human (depending on your genre). But the story revolves around this character and his or her conflicts and needs.

But how do you create a "good" good guy?

By dodging the bullets of stereotype and cliche, of "been-there-done-that". Same as any other character you create. By making him or her real and unique.

The Good News

For me, the good news is I'm good at good guys. My heroes and heroines are easy because I'm a "good guy". Or more to the point, a goodie-two-shoes.

This, on the other hand, severely limited my bad guys for years. I just wasn't good at "being bad" on the page.

Good I can do. So can you. Start with someone others can relate to. Someone they can look up to, maybe (but not someone lacking all flaws - BORING!). If your readers can't empathize with your hero, you'll lose them (the readers, not the good guys).

So look around you, collect character traits and such that you think make up a "good" good guy, and create your heart out. Then round that character out with a few flaws and weaknesses, and you have a winner.

The Bad News

Okay, now for the bad news.

Your good girl/guy has to shoulder the entire novel. Well, not alone, but most of the weight of the story is in her (or his) hands. So if you don't do it right, again, your readers will take it out on you. (Or more likely, just chuck it out - your novel, that is.)

Delve into your heroine's mind, into her heart, her soul. Interview her, put her through crisis after crisis and see what comes out. If she "falls to pieces", you need to work on her more.

If she holds up and becomes more and more solid in your head, she'll become alive to your readers, too. And that's what makes a memorable character.

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