How to Create a Memorable Protagonist for Your Story
by Samantha Stone

Memorable protagonists live on in your readers' minds because they touched on something the reader could identify with or gave them escapism. Readers like to relate to a character, but they will also read to be transported into the world you've written with your protagonist as their host.

To capture your reader, you must give them an engaging guide into the world you've written. A reader doesn't have to necessarily want to meet your main character, especially in some crime fiction, but they must want to read about them.

Protagonists can be bad people and still be memorable. How? Keep these 10 tips in mind for your protagonist.

1. List Your Favorite Protagonists

List your favorite protagonists of all time. What draws you to each of them? Do they have anything in common with each other?

2. Good Reader Relations

Readers like to relate to or understand the protagonist on some level. Most heroes are someone readers want to aspire to or possess qualities that make them engaging to read. This doesn't mean they have to be perfect; flaws can help make them identifiable to readers.

3. Plays Well with Others?

Even the lone gunman has to fight someone. If your protagonist is a works-alone type, make it extreme, and then write him or her creatively to make readers still press on reading.

4. Sympathy and Empathy

Heroes usually try to protect and understand those for whom they care. They can still fail and come up short in times of emergency, but make those points for character development.

5. Character

Suppose your protagonist isn't all that good, maybe not even the hero type. You can still make a memorable knight in dented armor by developing other endearing character traits. Yes, there may be large black holes in the protagonist's history, but even damaged goods can have their moments to shine. Plant obstacles to show your character's brief good qualities.

6. Dedication

Even the reluctant hero can only rebel so long; he or she must eventually get onboard and want to strive for the goal. No side characters want to think the main character will turn tail and run when the going gets tough. And if the hero does, have him turn around and come back.

7. Trial by Fire

Readers want to see heroes who endure and survive. Not every story needs to be a survival story, but all should have obstacles that seem insurmountable. This gives you the chance to push your character past his known limits into heart and soul territory.

8. Passion and Desire

In romance novels, these are usually obvious, but every protagonist needs these, too. Use your hero's passion to achieve the desired outcome of your plot to drive him or her forward. The goal must matter; a lukewarm attitude toward the goal can be tolerated – even by a reluctant hero – for only so long. True desire to succeed must come into play.

9. Meet Your Un-Hero

Climb inside your main character's head and take a look around. What would they do in given circumstances? How would they react to good news? Bad news? Death? A windfall? If they're not a generous or kind person, give some hints why. You don't have to excuse their bad attitudes, but give them a reason for their outlook. Readers will relate to testy protagonists if they can understand the mindset.

10. Other Endearing Qualities

Protagonists aren't always the 'good guy' in novels, so your un-hero may need other qualities to stick in your readers' minds. Some of fiction's most enduring characters weren't exactly likable. Frankenstein's monster was a misunderstood creation able to both terrorize and invoke sympathy and John Steinbeck's Lennie and Harper Lee's Boo Radley both shared this latter ability. Use layers of guilt or your character's ability to rationalize their actions to make them compelling.

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