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        How to Create a Memorable Protagonist (7 Expert Tips)

        • calenderApr 30, 2024
        • calender 7 min read

        Want to create an unforgettable protagonist that hooks readers? In this article, we’ve given 7 expert tips to create the perfect protagonist. To explain the protagonist’s meaning, we’ve also included the best protagonist examples. 

        With this, we’ve also shown how the protagonist is not always the story’s hero. So what is a protagonist? Let’s find out with a simple protagonist definition! 

        Take your protagonist from good to unforgettable!

        What is a protagonist? 

        A protagonist is the main character of a story, around whom the narrative revolves. It is the protagonist’s actions, decisions, and conflicts that drive the story forward. Harry Potter, Cinderella, Rapunzel, Sherlock Holmes, and Hercule Poirot are some famous protagonist examples. 

        However, a protagonist is not always the story’s hero with only good qualities. While many protagonists have admirable traits, others can be complicated, flawed, and unreliable.

        The best protagonist example of this is Prince Hamlet from Shakespeare’s play Hamlet. In this play, Hamlet realizes Claudius has killed his father but hesitates to take revenge. His inner conflict and indecision lead to several deaths including that of his sister Ophelia. 

        After understanding the protagonist definition, let’s learn how to create a protagonist that readers love. 

        How to write a good protagonist 

        1. Give them goals

        These goals can be external (e.g. winning a championship, solving a murder mystery, surviving a life-changing event, etc) or internal, overcoming a personal flaw or belief (e.g. overcoming a fear, learning to accept and love oneself, healing from a traumatic experience, etc). 

        • Write down your protagonist’s goals: Break them down into smaller, actionable steps using writing apps like Scrivener, Novelist, etc. 
        • Allow the goals to evolve: As your protagonist experiences growth, setbacks, and new information, you can show a shift or change in their goals. For example, while initially, the goal can be getting justice for one’s family, later, the goal can be getting justice for several others who have suffered from the same injustice. 

        2. Establish strengths and weaknesses

        Select the traits that will impact the protagonist’s journey and create opportunities for growth, conflict, or triumph. For example, In Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo, the protagonist Lisbeth Salander is a hacker with amazing computer skills, using which, she becomes rich. 

        • Give them a mix of positive and negative traits: For example, they might be brave and loyal, but also stubborn and quick to anger. This mix of traits makes them feel more human and complex.
        • Show, don’t tell: Instead of simply listing your protagonist’s strengths and weaknesses, highlight them through their actions, decisions, and interactions with other characters. For example, instead of saying the character was dominating, describe their actions to control others which shows how the character dominates. 

        3. Ensure consistency 

        This means that the actions that a character performs must be consistent with his personality traits and how he/she is portrayed in the initial part of the story. 

        For example, your protagonist, John, is introduced as a shy and introverted person who struggles to interact with people. As the story progresses, it’s essential to ensure that John’s actions, thoughts, and dialogue remain consistent with this established personality. If John suddenly becomes the life of the party and starts engaging in witty banter with others easily, it would feel inconsistent with his previously established shy nature.

        4. Give them a unique voice 

        The following are 2 strategies to give characters a unique voice: 

        • Use distinct speech patterns: Have your protagonist use specific phrases, slang, or verbal tics that set them apart from different types of characters. For example, “Ava always spoke in short, clipped sentences. ‘No time for fluff,’ she’d say, ‘let’s get to the point.” 
        • Incorporate their personality traits: Have your protagonist’s voice mirror their personality, such as a sarcastic tone for a witty character, or a soft-spoken manner for a shy one. For example, “Lila’s voice was barely above a whisper, reflecting her timid nature. ‘I’m not sure if I can do this,’ she mumbled, her words trailing off.”

        5. Use their appearance to reflect their personality 

        Following are some ways you can show the protagonist’s personality through their appearance: 

        • Clothing choices: Have your protagonist’s clothing style mirror their personality traits, such as a preference for comfortable, practical clothes for a down-to-earth character, or clothes of odd color combinations for a socially awkward, misfit character. 
        • Hairstyle and grooming: Let your protagonist’s hairstyle and grooming habits reflect their self-image and approach to life. For example, “Lila’s hair was always perfectly tied, not a strand out of place. Her meticulous appearance mirrored her detail-oriented and organized nature.”

        6. Show character development 

        This involves demonstrating how your protagonist grows, changes, and learns throughout the story as a result of their experiences. 

        Some tips to show character development are: 

        • Show internal reflection and self-awareness: Provide insight into your protagonist’s inner thoughts and emotions through introspection, dialogue, or even journal entries. 

        An example of internal reflection is a line in Slyvia Plath’s Bell Jar–  “I felt very still and empty, the way the eye of a tornado must feel, moving dully along in the middle of the surrounding hullabaloo.”

        • Use relationships as catalysts for change: Show how your protagonist’s relationships with mentors, allies, love interests, or even antagonists shape their perspective and influence their development. 

        For example, In The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, Katniss Everdeen’s relationship with Peeta Mellark serves as a catalyst for her growth and change. During the games, Peeta’s declaration of love for Katniss in a televised interview initially angers her. Still, it also forces her to reconsider her strategy and begin seeing Peeta in a new light. As they both try to survive the games, Katniss starts to care for Peeta and realizes the importance of human connection amid the games’ brutality. 

        7. Develop characters that challenge stereotypes 

        Some ways to do this are: creating protagonists who defy traditional gender roles and giving your protagonist an unconventional profession that challenges stereotypes. For example, a stay-at-home dad, or a woman who chooses mining as a profession. 

        You can also create protagonists who challenge age-related stereotypes and show that age doesn’t limit one’s abilities or dreams. For example, “At 70, Grandma Rose decided to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a yoga instructor.”  

        With this, you can also take inspiration from famous examples of protagonists like Hazel Grace Lancaster from The Fault in Our Stars, Ove from A Man Called Ove, etc. 

        Ready to start writing after understanding how to write a protagonist? Here are 3 simple practical brainstorming strategies that can help!  

        Bonus section: 3 brainstorming strategies 

        1. Use AI generators: By using character name generators like Reedsy, Hiveword, WriterBuddy, and Fantasy Name Generators, you can define protagonists’ identities. You can also use writing prompt generators like Springhole to create unique characters.  

        2. Completing incomplete sentences: Create a list of incomplete sentences about your protagonist and complete them to understand how to portray your protagonist. 

        For example: 

        • John’s strengths are…
        • John’s weaknesses are…
        • John believes in…
        • John likes…
        • John dislikes…
        • John disbelieves in…
        • John works in…
        • John is ashamed of…

        3. Interview: Once you decide who is the protagonist in your story, imagine you are interviewing your protagonist. Try to answer questions from your protagonist’s point of view. Make a list of questions most relevant to the story such as goals, obstacles, their response to obstacles, their feelings towards their obstacles, and how their perspective changed due to their experiences. 

        You might also have heard the word antagonist. So what is the difference between the two? Let’s briefly understand this! 

        Protagonist vs. Antagonist 

        The difference between a protagonist vs. antagonist is that while the protagonist is the story’s main focus, the antagonist creates obstacles for the protagonist. Lord Voldemort, Iago, The White Witch, and The Joker are examples of popular antagonists. 

        This concludes our guide about protagonists. You can bookmark this article to revisit the definition of protagonists and how to craft one. Excited to apply the tips you’ve read? Start writing a protagonist for your story! 

        With this, you can also reflect on: What is a protagonist and antagonist’s effect on the other characters in the story? This will help you to create a strong climax. 

        Once you write your story, the next step will be to edit it. As experts in editing and proofreading services, we’d love to help you perfect your story. 

        We realize that other than “What does protagonist mean?” you might have more questions about writing. To help you, here are some useful resources: 

        Frequently Asked Questions

        Found this article helpful?


        Priya Linkedin

        Priya has a talent for academic research and enjoys simplifying complex topics. When she's not helping students improve their writing, she can be seen reading poetry, playing the harmonium, or learning classical dance.

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