Creating the Perfect Protagonist: Three Things to Consider

Liam J Cross

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When beginning your journey to craft a full-scale novel, you almost fail to realise just how mammoth the task ahead of you is. If it’s something you’ve never done before, you’ll likely not have a clue where to start and you’ll end up over-complicating things by thinking about too much at once. It’s all expected though. Writing a novel is a difficult task and it is taxing on the minds of those with even the most formidable willpower, so a few (which translates to a lot) bumps on the way is nothing unexpected.

One of the most important things to consider when starting your book – and this goes for both old and new writers – is your protagonist; your main character. You’re going to have to come up with a personality that is a perfect fit for the story you want to tell, which means you’re going to have to spend a considerable amount of time crafting them. From their appearance and interests, all the way down to what their grades were in elementary school – all of these things can impact your main character, and ultimately, your novel on a whole.

With that said, there are a few things that are more important than others, and I’m going to underline three of them in the following list.

#1: Their Name

Now please just hold on a second, hear me out before you start shouting at me for stating the obvious…

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Whilst yes, this may in fact be painstakingly obvious, but it goes a little deeper than it may seem. You’re going to want to think about the name of your main character in direct relation to your novel, both on a whole, and on a more intricate level of detail. If you can somehow tie your protagonist’s name to one of the themes in your book, or if you can make it something that will all tie together at the end, then you’re in for some serious brownie points. Readers lover reading books that all tie together nicely, and this is one way to factor some of that in.

For example, let’s say one of the themes in your book is the power of love. Not the famous song, but its abilities to ease pain from the inside out; to extinguish the flames of solitude and replace them with a smile – that sort of power. You could have a female protagonist named Rose Salvator – Rose having connotations of love, and salvator being the Latin word for saviour.

It doesn’t have to be that cliche or corny, but you get the idea. Including some sort of Easter-egg style theme in your novel will be sure to score you some big points and will add a sense of intelligence to your work. You can’t go wrong with it really.

#2: Give Them a Realistic Issue With a More Unrealistic Solution

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Of course, this won’t really be applicable to genres that stretch beyond the world of realism, but for the purposes of this post (and more importantly, this particular point,) we’ll keep to those genres that are more real-world based.

You know how it gets. It’s easy to get bored reading about alcoholism and therapy. In fact, I’d be willing to bet my bottom dollar that as a combination of problem/solution, that the aforementioned combo is the worst you could possibly choose. It’s a real-world issue with a real-world solution, nobody wants to read a book like that. We read to escape reality, not see it through the eyes of another. If your reader wanted to see that they’d just sit in at the nearest psychiatrist’s office and observe.

Instead, change the solution.

Your protagonist can be an alcoholic – that’s all good and well. Well, it isn’t really, but you get the point… It’s a good idea to give your characters an issue that readers can potentially relate to. It’s not the problem that shapes the classiness and sheer brilliance of the literature, but rather, the solution to the problem.

Rather than having your character undergo therapy, why not have her discover that her neighbour is a kidnapping psychopath who is holding a bunch of young girls captive? Upon rescuing the poor girls, she sees that others have shared her pain, as this also happened to her when she was younger – she knows what it is like to spend her childhood in a sex ring. Seeing that others share her pain helps her to overcome the issue, and she is able to combat her alcohol problem through the sheer grit and determination that has been instilled from this experience.

You see, that’s much more appealing isn’t it? Please consider the whole problem/solution theory when giving your protagonist an issue to overcome. The flow of your book will thank you for it, and your readers sure will too.

#3: Become Best Friends With Your Protagonist

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As writers, we must know out protagonist inside out, and must fully believe in their existence – anything less is unacceptable. Think of them as someone you’d hang out with, someone you’d be around and have a good time alongside. I mean, if you think about it, that’s the way we feel about every other great character in fiction, so why not feel that way about our own? That’s a sure-fire way to create a character with the same effect.

Believing in your main character will not only empower them more and give them a greater sense of completeness, but it will also help your reader to believe in them too. And trust me, engaging your reader and making them believe in the world you’ve created, that’s half the battle.

Name Them, Give Them a Struggle, and Then Make Them Your Best Friend

I think it’s pretty straight forward when you put it like that – if only it was that easy in actuality, huh? It may be difficult, but I know you have it in you to create the story you’re dying to tell; the story that the world needs to hear. And even if the world never does hear it, the great sense of inner achievement that you’ll feel when your book is finally finished – that’s one of the greatest feelings in the world.


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