Who is a protagonist? The protagonist is simply the character that the story revolves around. While there are other important characters, major and minor, two things might happen to a story if the main character dies; 1, the story ends and 2, a new main character rises. But if any other character dies, as long as there are still things for the main character to do, the story will go on. This why The Game of Thrones continued even after Ramsey, Catelyn, Rob, Drogo and Joffrey died. And why the book series features new main characters after one dies.
So, have you ever been watching a movie where a character was in grave danger but you felt calm because you knew that they were the main character? Or did you watch Naruto and even though you were on the edge of your sit through most of his epic battles you knew he would survive because the show was named after him and you just knew that it would not end until he achieved his goal? This is what I mean by the world revolves around the main character.
There are three types of protagonists.
The first is the most typical type, the Hero. If you watch a lot of Nigerian/Ghanaian movies you’ll realise something about the protagonists, and it is that they are usually the good guys. In fact, except it is a comedy, the West African protagonists take goodness to a whole new level. They are morally upright and extremely godly. In short they are the perfect victims. And bad people just tend to hate and want to destroy them and their environment for no good reason at all. These types of protagonists are called the hero protagonists. The good guys. In the most tradition sense they are the superman characters in comic books. The problem I personally have with this type of protagonist is that writers usually get lazy with developing them. They end up turning them into the West African Protagonist, the professional victims and rather than making things happen in the story, things happen to them.
The other type of Protagonist, the type I like the most, is the Anti-Hero. An antihero is a protagonist who is flawed with imperfections, let’s think of the antihero as a wanker who has to overcome a greater evil than himself. The antihero can be an asshole, a drunkard, a heartless bastard, a prostitute, a bad child, a thief, Greed himself etc. but despite all their bad qualities they overcome their obstacles and sometimes even become a better person at the end. Have you seen the movie ‘Constantine’? Constantine is a perfect example of an anti hero, dead pool, Eric Cartman from south park, Batman, Harvey from suits, Homer Simpson, Bugs Bunny, the ocean 11 characters, these characters might not be morally upright but they are not all out evil, and they have goodness deep in their hearts and usually have some form of justifiable intention that the viewers can empathize with. So they are the Antiheroes.
Then there is the third type, the Villain Protagonist. Unlike the antihero, the villain protagonist is just plain evil, no redeeming quality, no empathetic intention that make logical sense to SANE people, they are just plain evil. Sometimes the story is told from the point of view of the bad guy. This means that the story will revolve around him and he will be the major character. E.g in most Friday 13th movies the protagonist is Jason, and because it is a horror movie he usually lives at the end. In a story about Hitler, he will be the protagonist, but that does not change the fact that he is the bad guy. If you are following the Manhwa series ‘Killing Stalking’, the major Character is a stalker who might become a psychotic killer, he is a bad guy, and even though I empathize with Yoon Bum, ‘I mean he just invaded his crush’s house and see the price he had to pay’, I still expect he and Sangwoo to die at the end. Basically when watching or reading about the villain protagonist most sane people will feel satisfied when the protagonist dies at the end.
So now that you know who the protagonist is, and the three types of protagonists there are. You should think about the protagonist in the story you want to tell and decide on what type would suit them in telling your story.
You can have multiple protagonists in your story. Like in the book series ‘A song of Fire and ice’ by George RR Martins. The story revolves around several plots interwoven into one plot. And while it is not clear who the central protagonist is, the protagonist is clear for each plot. In book one, the protagonists are Ned Stark, Arya Stark, Cathlyn Stark, Tyrion Lanister, Brandon Stark, Jon Snow and Danarys Targarian, each with their own plot. At the end of book one, one plot ends; The story of Ned Stark, but then two new plot are also added to the story. One is about Stannis Baratheon’s journey to the Iron throne, told from Davos’ point of view. And the other is a about Theon Greyjoy leaving the Stark way and embracing the Iron way. By the end of the book series we will know who the central ‘majorest’ of the main characters was all along.
That said. Now that you know this much about creating the protagonist you may be wandering how to decide who to make your protagonist. Well this entry is getting long so next time I’ll share with you how I chose my protagonist.
Thank you for reading my Journal.
Thanks for this. Until now I just write without planning who’s going to be what. I’ll sure try this plan out next writing session.