The Active Protagonist

In commenting about a novel’s protagonist, novelist and writing teacher Alicia Rasley writes: “Ideally, the protagonist should be involved in nearly every event, and his decisions or actions should drive the plot.” (1) Far too often, novelists fall short in the creation of the protagonist. How so? In the following ways: 

1) The protagonist lacks sufficient motivation to cause the plot to unfold. As Rasley points out, examples of an unmotivated protagonist include “the passive protagonist,” the “victim protagonist,” and the “bumbling protagonist.” The passive protagonist watches the plot but does not actively participate in it. The victim protagonist complains and endures suffering but is not proactive in handling it. The bumbling protagonist makes foolish choices but never learns from them. 

2) The protagonist does not encounter enough conflict. If you want your protagonist to capture your readers, give him or her a lot of trouble. 🙂 

3) The protagonist does not change by the end of the story. As Rasley notes, “One primary purpose of the plot is to force the protagonist to change.” (2) If your protagonist does not change, you have not only a weak protagonist but also a weak story. 

As you apply these three simple tips, watch your protagonist become more active. 🙂 

Sources Cited:

(1) Rasley, Alicia. http://www.sff.net/people/alicia/10prob.htm

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