Provoking Your Protagonist

Character Development

When writing fiction, the protagonist needs a quest that appeals to the audience. The quest needs to be something the reader can relate to because measurable goals increase the story tension.

For example, the protagonist of a story is training to win a singing competition. He or she works many different jobs to support a music career. The author can throw obstacles at the protagonist to prevent their goal from being reached — family problems, health issues, financial struggles, and possibly self-doubt. Don’t make it easy for your protagonist, or you won’t have a story that makes readers want to keep turning the pages.

A tug-of-war is key in every aspect — internal or external. Every scene needs to pull the protagonist towards a goal or away from it. Back and forth. Just like any personal conflict he or she faces.

Another important aspect to consider in the protagonist’s quest is motivation. Why does the protagonist want to win the contest? Did the protagonist and his or her father sing together on road trips? Did the dad teach him or her to play the guitar? Did the dad tell him or her they’d win the singing contest one day? To increase the motivation for the protagonist to enter and win the contest, the author could have the father die. With each step along the journey to winning the contest, the protagonist reflects on the father and increases the emotional tension and motivation to win.

Be sure your protagonist’s motivation is clear for a stronger story.


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