1. Inspired writer
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    Inspired writer Member

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    What makes for a good protagonist?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Inspired writer, Jan 25, 2012.

    What makes the main character more alluring? Is it what he does that makes him a better character? (possibly charitable in some way) Or is it they're persona in general?
     
  2. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    In general a good MC would be someone the reader can relate to. They should be a doer. No one wants to read about someone who sits around doing nothing. Also I think the authors ability to make there characters more than cardboard cut outs is more important than whether the MC is someone the reader would like.
     
  3. picklzzz
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    picklzzz Senior Member

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    I would agree that it is someone I can relate to, possibly someone I can learn from. I don't have to like him or her, but I have to understand the MC. Their words and actions must be believable and someone I would care to know about. There are many stories I've read and movies I've seen where I don't care if the person lives or dies because the author has not developed him or her enough for me to feel like I give a damn. That's just me though...
     
  4. Inspired writer
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    Inspired writer Member

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    For example. What character (bookwise) can you relate to the most? Someone who's like you personally or someone easily understood.
     
  5. Inspired writer
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    Inspired writer Member

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    So I'm right in assuming, writing the protagonist for that particular market in genre would be easier to relate to?
     
  6. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I can take just about any kind of protagonist except a totally passive one. The story must involve a protagonist in a situation that, for whatever reason, compels him to act. He either has a problem he needs to solve, or a goal he needs to reach. But he needs to take action to reach that goal or solve that problem himself. He can't just sit there and wait for other characters to do everything for him. At some point in the story, a crucial step must be taken, and the protagonist should take it himself. Otherwise, in my view, he's not much of a protagonist, and the story probably isn't much of a story.
     
  7. Kesteven
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    Kesteven Member

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    In my opinion, making the protagonist realistic and interesting is MUCH more important than making them anything like the audience, or even the sort of person the audience would like. A character is relatable to someone if that person feels the character's emotional responses to the situation are plausible, in other words, if they can put themselves in the character's shoes. And while that varies a little between people, generally people will be able to relate to characters that have enough depth and realism to understand what's going on in their minds.

    Of course if you want to make a hero, which is a particular type of protagonist, they should have something that sets them above most people, but still be relatable. In other words, they should be the person the audience wishes they could be.

    And yes, I agree that in all cases the protagonist should be 'active'. They don't have to be successful, they can be completely pessimistic and ineffectual, but they have to at least be participating in some kind of struggle, even if it's an inner struggle they're destined to lose.
     
  8. Inspired writer
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    Inspired writer Member

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    But say you were to make your protagonist mentally ill in some way. How can readers or yourself relate to that?
    Obviously, that's where the fiction comes in handy. lol. But how exactly are you to make that realisitic?
     
  9. joanna
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    joanna Active Member

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    Show something about the origin and mental processes of the character. If we know something about where they come from and how their minds work, we'll be able to sympathise and maybe even empathise.

    What if your character is experiencing paranoid delusions? He believes his wife is trying to kill him because she left a bottle of drain cleaner out on the counter. Maybe he thinks she's trying to poison him, because his father was poisoned as a child and he's been scared and upset about it ever since. Showing his emotional reactions to these things as well as his background will make the character more relatable.

    Also, a handful of your readers may be mentally ill themselves, or know someone who is.
     
  10. Inspired writer
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    Inspired writer Member

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    I completely understand. Obviously, there's going to be harrowing scenes when the readers will either, no doubtly, be shocked or moved due to his outworldly behaviour.
    But it does need to be written respectively for the readers who have suffered from similar inflictions.
    Does it make it more interesting if the character is suffering due to some ungodly past traumatic event? Or could it move the readers just as much if the illness was down to more of an organic disease?
    I guess it'll move somebody somewhere.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I quibble here: I agree that we don't want to _watch_ them doing nothing, but a protagonist that would rather be doing nothing, but is forced out of his comfort zone by events and acts because it's unavoidable, could be just as interesting (IMO) as one that gets up and takes action voluntarily.

    In the popular movie realm, Joan Wilder in _Romancing the Stone_ comes to mind. If her sister hadn't been kidnapped, she would have stayed in her apartment, buying expensive tuna for her cat and drinking the occasional tiny bottle of airplane liquor, for the rest of her life.
     
  12. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    This is exactly what I was talking about. You need a character in a situation that forces him to act. Joan Wilder was forced to act by her sister's kidnapping. The whole story proceeded from there. She didn't just sit in her apartment hoping that somehow everything would come out right; she took action herself. So she's a good protagonist. Sure, in ordinary circumstances, she's boring because she does almost nothing, but she is not put into ordinary circumstances. You put a character - even a normally dull one - into a situation that requires them to act, and you have a protagonist.
     
  13. AmyHolt
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    AmyHolt Contributing Member

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    Agreed
     

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