Saturday, February 1, 2020

2020 February - The Protagonist - The Story's Hero or Heroine

Part 2 of 12  of Job titles for Story Characters • © 2020 All Rights Reserved

There can be only ONE Protagonist in a story. This I have stressed time and time again over the years. 

A story is about ONE PERSON'S JOURNEY or quest. A story is about how A Protagonist handles The Story Problem (or the story's overall danger or dilemma). 

Here's the thing— a story's problem should be one that has high stakes and severe consequences if the Protagonist fails to solve that Story Problem.

For a story to resonate well with readers, the Protagonist is the only one who can and must resolve The Story Problem. If anyone else does, then it is not the Protagonist's journey, is it? 

Nor does the Protagonist learn something about themselves, or about conquering their fear worse than death, which is part of The Character Arc and which makes for the most enjoyable stories.

So, does your story have a hero or heroine? 

Actually, the sexual orientation of the Protagonist is what determines the pronouns used. And think about this— not all Protagonists are human. But a "protagonist" is a Protagonist.

Of course, physical and emotional qualities may vary between a male and a female of a species, but a good story's Protagonist likely is to be—

3 dimensional
sexually potent
dramatically driven

In most stories, the Protagonist— 

takes the lead (once they decide to charge forward at The Story Problem, they act and don't quit)

is motivated by idealism (at some point in the story)

does not hesitate unless there is real peril— they'll risk their life, but not others' lives

is larger than life in that they are driven, desperate, neurotic, maybe even a bit wacky or far out (in other words, they have personality, quirks, phobias, etc., like most human beings)

will stand out in a crowd (by their attire, their manner, or their actions and reactions)

will have a special "talent" (certain skills or abilities that can be an asset or a detriment to solving The Story Problem)

is an "outlaw"—one who lives their own life by their own rules

is good at what they do

is wounded, maimed, disgraced, or grieving during the story (all of which are human qualities)

Make no mistake, readers read to vicariously become a story's Protagonist and ride an emotional roller coaster through the adventure of that Protagonist's journey. 

Since the Protagonist is the most important character in a story they will have 60% to 100% of the narrative Point of View and Viewpoint (POV-Viewpoint). For example, if you have a story of 100 pages, a total of 60 pages will feature the Protagonist center stage. 

Which means, the Antagonist, if a human or entity, will get the other 40% or 40 pages. However, in the case of a romance, that 40% gets split, not equally, but unequally. For example, 30% (30 pages) to the Romantic Lead and 10% (10 pages) for the villain-antagonist. Yet the 40% could be split other ways, like 25% (25 pages) and 15% (15 pages).

Great protagonists have grit (guts), wit (mental acuity laced with humor), and inner energy (sex appeal). It behooves a writer to pay close attention to such factors, and that brings me to revealing that the look and sound of the Protagonist's name makes or breaks the "heroic" imagery for the reader.

That's right, everything you need to know about a story's hero or heroine is tied up in their name and how it sounds and looks. The judgement for whether a name is hero-quality is done subconsciously by the writer and, more importantly, the reader. That judgement stems from the positive, negative, or neutral resonance of a name and how the look (spelling, type of letters, sequence of consonants and vowels) of the name links to or triggers primitive, subconscious emotions.

Don't believe me? Look at the following list of names and listen to how they resonate in your mind. Which conjure images or hits an emotional cord of like or dislike? Which of the names would not make an effective hero or heroine? Which would make the best Protagonists? 


****Next month 2020 - March — The Protagonist's Entourage

SPECIAL NOTE: Today, Feb. 1, is the last day to register for MAKE THAT PITCH online course