1. Entiter
    Offline

    Entiter New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2015
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    The dreamscape

    Passive protagonist, how to drive plot?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Entiter, Oct 21, 2015.

    Hello! I am currently working on a story where I've recently realized that I've made the mistake of having a passive protagonist - that is, the plot happens to them rather than being driven by them, and they are practically just thrown into one thing after the other. Now, I figured that the main reason for this is that my protagonist is quite shy and insecure, and that I can fix it with some character development where she becomes more confident and starts to do more things, but I still have the problem of how exactly to go about this. The reason I didn't put this in the "character development" section, is that the main point here is making the plot move forward. I simply cannot think of many ways of making the story progress, other than putting obstacles in the way of my protagonist, and that would just be the plot happening to her rather than her driving the plot, so that's not something I should do. So basically what I'm asking is how to do some story progression pushed by the protagonist. Thank you in advance!

    Please, excuse me if this post isn't particularly well-written. English is not my native language.
     
  2. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,215
    Likes Received:
    4,225
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    You're not alone. I'm suffering this exact thing with my fantasy; she's just sort of sitting there while the plot happens to her, and everyone else around her drives the plot. It also helps that she, as well, is a shy introvert.

    My best advice as of now is to really give your character an incentive to care. Maybe someone she cares about got hurt/killed, or that someone revealed a mystery to her and offered her the chance to join them in solving that mystery? That's...all I've got for now. :p Sorry.

    But you're not alone in the whole 'my protagonist is a passive one' wagon.
     
  3. Entiter
    Offline

    Entiter New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2015
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    The dreamscape
    So just "up the stakes", pretty much? That sounds like a good idea, why didn't I think of that myself? ;) Thank you! Now that I think about it, I actually have a lot of opportunities to do so very soon in the story because of the events which have recently taken place.
     
  4. Link the Writer
    Offline

    Link the Writer Flipping Out For A Good Story. Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 24, 2009
    Messages:
    11,215
    Likes Received:
    4,225
    Location:
    Alabama, USA
    Excellent. :D Good luck, and have fun!
     
  5. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,969
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    Your question reminds me of the movie Romancing The Stone. The protagonist was essentially forced into everything that happened to her, for about half the movie.
     
  6. Starfire Fly
    Offline

    Starfire Fly Member

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2015
    Messages:
    31
    Likes Received:
    14
    Location:
    US
    What's wrong with having your plot happen to your protagonist rather than having your protagonist driving the plot? Depending on your story, either one could work just fine. If you feel you need to rework your main character's fundamental personality, that seems like a red flag to me. A good story can work with a lot of elements that might be poo-pooed in the fads of writing "rules."
     
  7. thatoneauthor
    Offline

    thatoneauthor Member

    Joined:
    Jan 8, 2015
    Messages:
    82
    Likes Received:
    27
    What are her goals?
    Make her chase those goals and then shes an activist.
    Her fighting obstacles the world throws at her because she wants to chase her goals makes her an activist.
    Hoped it helped.
     
  8. aguywhotypes
    Offline

    aguywhotypes Active Member

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2013
    Messages:
    183
    Likes Received:
    77
    Location:
    Millersburg, Ohio, United States
    Ask yourself what does your mc love?

    Now take that away from them.
     
  9. seekparadise
    Offline

    seekparadise Member

    Joined:
    Oct 18, 2015
    Messages:
    17
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    South Australia
    I guess you just have to figure out something that they really really want
     
  10. xanadu
    Offline

    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2008
    Messages:
    552
    Likes Received:
    407
    Location:
    Cave of Ice
    The crux of most stories is that the protagonist has a goal--something she wants--and the antagonist (be it person, force, concept, etc) is preventing her from getting it. The meat, then, is the attempt to reach that goal, the failure to do so, and the planning of the next attempt until it she finally succeeds (or ultimately fails).

    If the plot is passively happening to your character, then she's most likely lacking that want that should be driving her forward.
     
  11. Inks
    Offline

    Inks Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Aug 24, 2015
    Messages:
    655
    Likes Received:
    167
    Passive protagonists are tough - unless the tide sweeps them up and carries them off. Make yourself or the world will make you - which do you prefer?
     
    Wreybies and FadedSpectrum like this.
  12. hilal
    Offline

    hilal Active Member

    Joined:
    Sep 3, 2015
    Messages:
    187
    Likes Received:
    27
    Have you read story by Robert Macke ? Your Protagonist cant be passive.
    He either has to act or react.
    I think what you mean is that they are reacting to the things around them. That's not a bad thing. Take any summer blockbuster and that is what is happening. The protagonist reacts to the antagonist. Look at Mad Max or MI5. Its only at the end where our heros decide enough is enough. Hope this helps.

    The Matrix. Morpheus believes Neo is the one. But Neo till the end keeps on believing that he isnt.


    Again summer blockbusters. I haven't read them but the Bourne films do the same thing. You have no memory of who you are and why you are, the way you are. Who do you trust? Who do you fight?

    I don't think you have a problem. But then again i'm not Shakespeare. As a side note the protagonist in my story also has little control over the outside world(don't we all) and in a way he is also reacting to these external forces.

    Robert has an hour long interview on BIG THINK. You should be fine if you just watched that.
     
    jannert and Starfire Fly like this.
  13. Ryan Elder
    Offline

    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,613
    Likes Received:
    78
    What about the antagonist? Does he/she do a lot to drive the plot forward and does he/she have a grudge against the protagonist in order to keep doing things to her?
     
  14. Entiter
    Offline

    Entiter New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2015
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    The dreamscape
    Perhaps you're right, to be honest I'm practically just seeing it as an issue because I've read a lot of warnings about passive protagonists, and I suppose I'm afraid she comes off as dull or annoying for not personally driving the plot.
     
  15. Entiter
    Offline

    Entiter New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2015
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    The dreamscape
    Yes, I do in fact have quite strong antagonists who do drive the plot. They are the main obstacle (obviously, hence their antagonist status) and most of the time when something new happens, it's because they're doing it. I wouldn't say they have a grudge against the protagonist, but it's more of a "power game" where they try to keep her under control.
     
  16. Entiter
    Offline

    Entiter New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2015
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    The dreamscape
    Thanks to everyone who has replied, I really appreciate all of your input! It's very helpful!
     
  17. Ryan Elder
    Offline

    Ryan Elder Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Apr 15, 2015
    Messages:
    1,613
    Likes Received:
    78
    Okay then. Is it after the power game is over that you are having trouble with the plot, or is it the power game itself, you are not sure how to drive the plot of?
     
  18. Entiter
    Offline

    Entiter New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2015
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    The dreamscape
    I suppose it's a little bit of everything. In the scenes with the antagonists, it tends to go a bit smoother because then I have more to work with, as opposed to when the protagonist is alone and I have to come up with things without having the very clear obstacle in front of me, if that makes sense. But no matter what, she remains passive, and that (I have been told) is my problem. Even with the antagonists around, things are just happening TO the protagonist, she doesn't participate enough.
     
  19. Doctore
    Offline

    Doctore Member

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2015
    Messages:
    60
    Likes Received:
    34
    I think that one of the problems associated with 'shy introverts' is that they are/ can be 'MarySue' types. They lead nothing in the story, contributes to nothing, has/have no REAL endearing qualities, and yet BY GOD everyone fucking loves them! So, I say to you, as it was said above, there isn't anything wrong with an MC who isn't leading the story, nothing at all. But I get the sense that you want your character to do more, to contribute something, so what if and just for a time, your MC's contribution is in themselves, their views, and personality? The reader follows the MC through the story, so why not allow them to see the MC grow and become! It doesn't mean that they have to go from a squealing mouse to a roaring lion, but showing their progression and their strengths rise from their struggles really is a win on it's own. This sounds more like the type of character that has more inner struggles than outer so use that to your advantage. When your character is alone, maybe there is an inner voice (No! She's not talking to herself!) that tells her that she needs to do more, or maybe it's the reflection in the mirror that haunts her because she's not proud of herself or indecision.
     
    Entiter likes this.
  20. Entiter
    Offline

    Entiter New Member

    Joined:
    Oct 21, 2015
    Messages:
    11
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    The dreamscape
    Thank you, that's actually really helpful! I suppose I mostly just saw it as an issue because, as I've mentioned before, I read some articles online which stated that a passive protagonist is an absolute no-no.
     
  21. Doctore
    Offline

    Doctore Member

    Joined:
    Oct 25, 2015
    Messages:
    60
    Likes Received:
    34
    That doesn't surprise me that you've read things like that, there is certainly a lot of articles about writing floating around the world to make your head spin. But if you read any literature, or look into it, I think that you would find the exact opposite of what those articles are telling you. So, I think you are on the right track and good luck to you.
     
  22. Kallisto
    Offline

    Kallisto Active Member

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2015
    Messages:
    183
    Likes Received:
    87
    I don't see a passive protagonist as a mistake. So long as they don't stay that way. They can start out as passive, being pushed either way. My protagonist is like that. Where they learn and grow is in realizing that passive is taking action and control over their life.
     
    Ivana likes this.
  23. ChickenFreak
    Offline

    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2010
    Messages:
    8,969
    Likes Received:
    5,491
    I have to quibble that "shy", "introvert", and "passive" are definitely not the same thing. A person can be one, two, or three of them, but they're not synonymous.
     
  24. ToeKneeBlack
    Offline

    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jun 4, 2014
    Messages:
    592
    Likes Received:
    207
    It could be a sudden change sparked by a single, large event, or something more gradual with the anger (or other motivating emotion) building up inside until finally it explodes when one bad thing too many happens.
     
  25. Lew
    Offline

    Lew Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2015
    Messages:
    591
    Likes Received:
    406
    My female protagonist (one of several protagonists) goes through a long transition from a very passive, abused concubine of a 1st century Chinese official, to a very self-confident woman, married to a centurion, and a competent fighter. As you can guess, this transition takes a while! It has to build on something that is already there, and requires input from others.
     

Share This Page