7 Essential Characteristics to Create an Unforgettable Protagonist

In this post, we go over some of the most essential characteristics to create an unforgettable protagonist.

How to Create a Good Protagonist

A memorable protagonist isn't made by accident. Instead, it is crafted by the writer's extensive research and observation.

Like all of us, the main character of a story has a unique personality, background, values, and experiences that make him a unique being capable of making mistakes and achieving success.

However, it takes skill to craft a character worth emotionally investing in. A storyteller must be able to create a protagonist who offers a perspective that the audience can relate to and root for.

This is why it's important to know the most important characteristics a good protagonist can have.

7 Essential Characteristics for Creating Unforgettable Protagonists

With that in mind, I chose the seven most important characteristics he mentioned for creating an unforgettable protagonist.

Strong Determination

Your protagonist needs to be determined. There is no escape. A lazy character who doesn't move is not interesting.

The reader wants to live a new experience through the narrative, so give him a protagonist with a strong will, who overcomes obstacles, goes to different places, and seeks a life full of meaning.

You don't have to fall for the commonplace. You don't have to write a story full of drama and heartache if you don't want to. But you need to make a character who has the strength to continue his journey in the face of adversity.

Definite Aim & Desire

You have to be determined to accomplish something. Therefore, your protagonist needs to have a defined and conscious aim, a desire for a clear objective that moves him through the ups and downs of the narrative.

Think of a simple wish to start, but one that matches what you want to convey in your story. For example, let's say your protagonist is determined to go to a Japanese food restaurant at the end of the day but has no money.

How will he get money? Does anyone want to go with him? How much money does he need? Does he want to go to the nearest restaurant or a specific one?

You define your protagonist's conscious desire very simply to show your reader, “this is the quest I want to take you on.”

Has a Contradicting, Unconscious Desire

Of course, we can't make life that easy – after all, contradiction is part of being human. So, working with a contradictory and unconscious desire is an interesting addition to a defined desire.

Let's say that our unforgettable protagonist is too lazy to leave his house despite being determined to do anything to earn money and have dinner at the best Japanese food restaurant in town.

The protagonist may not even notice that they are lazy, but the reader does.

But gradually, the protagonist's determination can turn him into someone who isn't lazy. Instead, they can become motivated enough to go after what they want and achieve their goal.

This is character development.

The Protagonist's Goal Makes Sense

The reader must be convinced that the goal is sensible for the protagonist to have.

Perhaps the protagonist wants to take someone special to a high-end restaurant that they can't afford. The desire and underlying reason the protagonist wants to do this reveals to the audience how much this means to the character.

What if he has met someone he is romantically interested in, but believes his current self isn't enough to court his love interest. This would mean that he has to become someone who is capable of taking her out on impressive dates.

Depending on your story, the reader can be convinced that your protagonist has what it takes to reach their goal. Even if the reader's initial impression isn't that the protagonist will succeed, an opportunity that presents itself to the protagonist can change the reader's mind.

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A Realistic Shot Despite Low Odds

Everyone loves an underdog story. Where the main character doesn't have what it takes to reach their goal—in the beginning. But after a good montage and growing pains, the protagonist is given a real shot at their goal. The chances are low, but there's still a chance.

The narrative is bound to have conflicts. Without conflict, there is no story. This is why the protagonist must go through a variety of situations up to the climax—which may or may not lead to the main character achieving their goal.

Keep in mind that the story's progression involves the protagonist taking risks. Many times it may seem that he is so close to achieving his goal, just before it is pulled further away from his grasp.

The Protagonist is Relatable

Your protagonist doesn't need to be likable for the character to be good. The protagonist only needs to be relatable, someone the audience can empathize with.

The audience must be able to relate to what the protagonist is experiencing and what the character is feeling.

A good example of this is when a "goody-good" protagonist is down on their luck and needs to do something against their values to survive. The audience can sometimes empathize with these hard decisions because they know how it feels (or can imagine how it feels) to steal, or hurt someone else, for the sake of survival.

If the audience can fully understand a protagonist's actions, then they have successfully formed an emotional connection with the character. Thus giving them more of a reason to follow the story.

A Chance to Shine

A good story is character-driven, not plot-driven. This means that a good ending comes from the protagonist acting from their own gifts, experiences, and commitment to their goal.

It's by the end of a story that the protagonist will get the chance to lay it all on the line. The do-or-die moment that will show us what The Hero is really made of.

The believability of this character and their actions is essential for crafting a satisfying ending.

Here are resources I recommend to get more in-depth knowledge

Storytelling 101 teaches you how to write compelling stories worthy of commercial success. This is best for screenwriters, novelists, filmmakers, videogame writers and storytellers.

Children’s Books 101 teaches you how to write stories that children will love. This is best for aspiring children’s book authors and storytellers.

Owl AI is the revolutionary AI-powered content production platform that helps storytellers, writers, and bloggers of all subject matter easily create highly-polished content.

Success, Money & Mindset Subliminal is a self-hypnosis recording that we recommend to new writers to help with focus, concentration, creativity, and motivation.

Shadow Work Journal: 240 Daily Prompts contains inner work exercises related to relationships, anger, anxiety, self-love, healing trauma, abandonment issues, depression, forgiveness, etc.

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