6 Key Ingredients for Creating a Memorable Protagonist

How do you create a memorable protagonist? In order for a story to be meaningful or memorable, it must have a protagonist that has a certain something that makes him/her real to us.


As you watch your favorite movie or read a favorite book, I’d bet there is something about the main character that resonates with you which makes you want to keep watching or keep reading to find out what happens to him or her.

Take the movie Casino Royale, for example, one of my favorite James Bond films. James Bond takes on arch criminal Le Chiffre — their high stakes poker game extending from the gaming tables to the realm of international terror networks and stock market manipulation.

I found myself rooting for Bond because first of all, he’s a spy. And there’s just something fascinating about spies. I admired his bravery and his superior physical and intellectual skill as an MI-6 agent. I was on the edge of my seat as he faced his arch enemy at the poker table — hoping he’d win. When he was stripped and tortured, I cringed. And when he finally found the man responsible for setting the entire chain of events in motion, I cheered.

It’s the same for writers as we write our stories. We must create a protagonist whom the reader identifies with, roots for, or perhaps even admires. If we fail, the reader will ultimately lose interest in the story. And once the book is put down, it’ll never be picked it up again. This is NOT what we don’t want!

So, to create a memorable protagonist that keeps your reader glued to the pages of your book, I’m going to share 6 key ingredients he or she must have:

1. OBJECTIVES – Clearly define WHAT your Protagonist wants. What is the goal? What must he/she achieve?

2. MOTIVATION – Readers need to understand WHY your character wants the thing he/she is pursuing.

3. STAKES – What are the CONSEQUENCES if your character fails? The stakes don’t have to be fatal, but they need to be high. The higher the stakes, the greater the tension–the greater the tension, the better the story.

4. OBSTACLES – Place at least 3 OBSTACLES in your character’s path. By overcoming the obstacles, your character must exhibit strength, wit, or both, thereby creating admirable qualities.

5. FLAWS – No human being is perfect, so your protagonist must not be perfect either. Your Protagonist needs FLAWS that threaten to derail the journey. You can use the flaw as one of the obstacles. Flaws can also make the reader sympathetic toward the protagonist.

6. PAST – What is the BACK STORY that caused your character to be in the position he/she is in? By giving your protagonist a back story, it creates a more rounded 3-dimensional character.

What do you think? Drop me a line and share with me a memorable protagonist from your favorite movie or book.



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