Since I have been delving back into both reading and writing a lot more lately, I have been asking myself the question:
What Makes A Good Protagonist?
The protagonist can make or break the story. I do not mean good as in ‘heroic’, but rather good as in interesting and fun to read about. They have to be gripping enough to make readers want to continue with the story — because, if you are anything like me, a bad protagonist is definitely one of the main reasons why I will DNF a book.
But what makes a protagonist good?
They Are Relatable
My favourite kind of protagonist is one that I am able to relate to in some way. I don’t mean that they must be relatable in every way, but rather that some aspect of their character must be something that I can relate to. Whether this is an experience they had as a child or they have a similar hobby or they react to situations similarly, they have to have something that makes them relatable.
Although, saying that, I also find that if I am able to empathise with a protagonist that I am extremely different to is important.
They Make Things Happen
Isn’t it boring when a protagonist just has things happen to them? Protagonists that simply allow other characters to make decisions for them are perhaps some of the most boring characters to actually read about. I love protagonists that actually make things happen for themselves. They move the story forward through their actions and they influence the events around them.
For me, a protagonist has to be a catalyst. This is something that I’ve talked about when discussing strong female characters and can be read here.
They Grow and Change
A good protagonist will grow and change throughout the course of a novel. In most cases, stories follow the protagonist through a series of challenges and these challenges consequently allow for them to grow. A protagonist that doesn’t develop is a boring protagonist to read about. Also, if a protagonist is going through multiple challenges, facing their worst fears and potentially finding happiness, it is very unrealistic to have them not change in some shape or form.
I would also like to point out that growing, changing and developing do not always have to mean that a character is changing positively. It is possible to have protagonist’s change negatively and that is definitely something interesting to read about.
They Don’t Freaking Complain ALL THE TIME
I just have a very strong personal dislike for protagonists that are constantly whinging about wanting to be normal or being ugly or not getting the guy they like or not having friends. The amount of time that protagonists complain about things like this could actually be spent moving the story forward.
I actually do not empathise with protagonists who complain constantly. They annoy me and authors really need to stop writing protagonists like this.