“The protagonist is the character whose fate matters most to the story.” Stephen Koch
Tag Archives: protagonist
My Protagonist, Jill Steele, in Norman in the Painting, wears what I called a pink jogging suit. In a critique group, I was told the terminology is activewear, not jogging suit. Apparently, people don’t jog now days, they run. Jill’s sister convinces her to buy new clothes. Jill doesn’t like to go clothes shopping but since Norman is on the scene, she wants to look good for him. The pink activewear is a key to Norman’s vortex. Jill’s new activewear looks like the one here in Landsend’s photo. She hopes it will work as well as the old one did to bring Norman through the painting.
Do you think it will or does she have to wear her old worn pink outfit?
Picture credit to Landsend.com.
The beginning of a novel establishes a question. For example in Norman in the Painting, the question is, will Jill be able to help Norman remain in 3D? More questions follow, since it’s a romance, will Jill and Norman develop a relationship? The story involves mystery as well. Who is committing the murders in town? But the most important question is whether Norman can live outside of the painting or not.
The plot line leads to the climax, the resulting answer to the beginning question.The climax may have multiple actions, but the protagonist not only must be in the center of the action, he or she has to perform the main action. Jill meets many challenges along the arc but at the end, she will have to make the difference in whether Norman will stay or not.
If we imagine other characters in our story seeing the protagonist through a keyhole view, what would they say or write? If the story is written with a single point of view, the thoughts of the other characters can’t be used or we’d be head hopping. Their judgements can be revealed in dialog, directly in words or tone of voice, or in a letter/email the protagonist reads, etc.
The other characters have a limited view based on their interactions with the protagonist and their observations of his or her actions and emotions. How accurate is their character judgement? Is the bias partly the protagonist’s fault for not allowing others to get to know her or him and by hiding the true self?
In my multidimensional novel, Norman in the Painting, the protagonist, Jill, has a long time friend named Evelyn who owns an antique store. Jill freaked when Norman appeared out of the painting at the back of her shop. She wanted Evelyn to see the phenomenon, but Norman had disappeared again. Since then, Evelyn’s tone of voice sounds placating as if Jill is mentally fragile regardless of the topic Jill initiates. Ed, the knife sharpener at Evelyn’s, often gives Jill a look of total confusion and annoyance. He has seen her fainting, shouting, arguing, and causing chaos which Evelyn says he doesn’t like. Jill wants to have conversations with him but he ignores her attempts. The antagonist plays on Jill’s fears to control her but as she grows in the character arc, the limited assumption about Jill will prove wrong.
How do your other characters view the protagonist in your story?
Lisa Cron in Wired for Story has a “Story Secret” on page 103. She says, “Anything conceptual, abstract, or general must be made tangible in the protagonist’s specific struggle.”
On the following page, she quotes E.B. White, “Advice to young writers who want to get ahead without any annoying delays: don’t write about Man, write about a man.”
It’s all about specifics.
In Wired for Story, on page 31, Lisa Cron corrects the myth that the plot is simply what the story is about. She says that the reality is, “A story is about how the plot affects the protagonist.”
She continues on page 39 that “the plot’s goal isn’t simply to find out whether he snags that brass ring or not; rather, it’s to force him to confront the internal issue that’s keeping him from it in the first place.”
I’ve found her book to help in digging deeper for the real story behind the inciting incident and the continuing plot.