1. jmh105

    jmh105 Active Member

    Apr 14, 2015
    Likes Received:
    United States

    Making your protagonist more active in the story...

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by jmh105, Jul 27, 2020.

    I've run into a problem where I have a protagonist who has his own character, personality, etc, and I give him an important role to play by the end of the story -- but it's just that. Excluding that last scene, I can eject my protagonist from the story and the plot remains the same.

    That's kind of the opposite of what a protagonist should be doing in their own novel...

    What are some exercises you guys have done with your own protagonists to ensure their active role throughout the story?
  2. Lifeline

    Lifeline South. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Oct 12, 2015
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    On the Road.
    It sounds like you have the wrong protagonist. Who is driving the story if not he/she?

    Think about your cast one by one. Is the story happening to them or because of them? Is there one person in your cast whose choices dictate the way the story goes? If so, that's your protagonist.

    Sometimes outside events happen to us (i.e. a car accident where we're not to the guilty party, a freak weather occurrence), but in general our own choices dictate the way our life goes. We choose to stay in a job, or we walk away and search for something else. We choose to ignore the hacking cough or go to the doctor. You get my drift.

    Identify who in your story does the job of making choices, and you have your protagonist.
  3. Cephus

    Cephus Contributor Contributor

    Jan 3, 2014
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    Your MC needs to be the prime motivator of the story. If the character isn't making the story happen, then the story doesn't happen. If that's not what's happening, then you're telling the wrong story.
  4. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

    Sep 7, 2013
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    I had the same issue. Many things happened to the protagonist and it wasn't until a late stage in the story that he ultimately did something to solve the issue. In the lead-up time, he's more victim of circumstance and doesn't do much (which is a bit frustrating for the reader).

    I overcame this problem by asking: What does the protagonist want? I then had him seek that goal. At the end of the story, I employed a plot-twist to change the expected outcome of the story to give him what he truly needed. Think of the story as a murder mystery where the detective is misled my many clues only to realize at the end what's been staring him in the face all along.
    jmh105 likes this.
  5. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

    Jan 8, 2017
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    Rhode Island
    Well, if the protagonist isn't driving the bus then who is? Is it a minor character narration thing... like how Watson tells all of Sherlock Holmes stories?
  6. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

    Aug 30, 2018
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    Norwich, UK
    Maybe your protagonist is actually a side character. Look at who couldn't be removed. Who has the most to lose. Who has the greatest reason to do what they are doing, a reason you can get behind. Someone must be driving the narrative. He has a personality but does he has a concrete goal (external) does he have a want (internal goal) A good motivation. Good conflict.

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