Are you having problems with your main character? In this post, we look at what to do when your protagonist is a bore.
I was chatting to a few students the other day and we were having a conversation about the novels they were writing, and a few agreed that their other characters were more fun to write than their protagonist. This is not ideal, and it got me thinking about our relationships with our protagonists.
Has Your Protagonist Become A Bore?
Why Does This Happen?
We put our protagonist on a pedestal.
I think it is because we like good people. What we consider good is debatable and yes, there are exceptions, but most of us prefer people who share our morals and values. This means that sometimes we end up giving our characters the high morals standards that we strive for and then these characters sometimes become a little boring.
There are no grey areas for them. There are no questionable decisions. There are no maybes.
How Can We Fix That?
1. It’s Just A Name
Remember just because they are your protagonist it does not mean that they have to be good. Just like your antagonist does not have to be evil, your protagonist does not have to be a golden Adonis who never does anything questionable. It may help you to stay away from the words ‘protagonist’ or ‘goodie’ and use the word main character (MC) instead. This is the character we are most invested in. The one around whom the story revolves and the one we are rooting for.
2. They Need To Act
Don’t immobilise your main character. Put them in positions where they need to act. They do have to be the primary decision-makers in their story, and they should be the ones getting themselves out of trouble. They can’t keep passing the buck and waiting around for someone to get the story going. That’s their job. Minions and friend characters are fine, but most of the work needs to be done by the MC.
3. They Need To Be Motivated
If you are struggling with this, you need to re-evaluate your main character’s goal and motivations. Do they really want to achieve the goal? Raise the stakes if they don’t. What will happen if they fail?
4. Make It Hard For Them, But Don’t Make It Impossible
You should stack the odds against your main character, but sometimes we can go a bit overboard. Make it hard, yes, lock them in a room and throw away the key, but at least give them a paper clip to pick the lock. Give them a small win every now and again.
The Last Word
You can do whatever you want, and you will find exceptions, but it’ll be easier to write about an active, motivated character – not a protagonist who is a bore. They should want to succeed or have no choice to succeed. They can definitely fail, but they must at least try.
TOP TIP: Use our Character Creation Kit to help you create great characters for your stories.
by Mia Botha
Visit us at First Edition Design Publishing