Writing a compelling protagonist is critical in any story. It is the person who drives the plot forward and captivates the audience’s attention. The protagonist must be relatable, authentic, and memorable. They should have qualities and flaws that make them interesting and dynamic. But how do writers develop such characters? In this blog, we will delve into the science behind character development and explore tips for creating protagonists that resonate deeply with readers.

Embrace Complexity: Write Multidimensional Characters 🤔

A multidimensional protagonist is one that is not merely a flat character with one personality trait. They contain multitudes and exhibit qualities and flaws that make them human. Multidimensional characters are nuanced, complex, and layered. They have multiple goals, desires, and past traumas that influence their choices and motivations.

To develop multidimensional characters, create a backstory that helps you identify their goals, fears, and ambitions. Build characters with different personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. The character’s goals, conflicts, and desires should be specific and innate to their personhood. By giving life-like complexities to characters, it humanizes them, and the audience can relate with their growth, struggle, pain, and joy.

A male college student scrolling down his phone while taking a break from class

Authenticity is Key👨‍👩‍👦‍👦

Authentic characters are relatable in that they feel like real people who are multi-minded, multi-emotional and sometimes, inconsistency. Being genuine means the person does not be ideal, perfect or typical, but instead shows real-world personalities who vary and are authentic.

Readers want to root for a character that feels genuine and authentic. As a writer, develop authentic characters by creating backstories, quirks, fears, beliefs, and values that align with the character’s unique personality. Avoid black and white tropes, reducing characters to stereotypes, let the individual’s worldview and experiences be the guide. The character’s experiences and actions should be authentic to their nature.

📚 Tip: Provide memorable details about the protagonist, what they like, their pet peeves as a way of humanizing the character more.

A selfie of a young girl with a natural smile

Create Strong Visuals💥

A character’s physical traits and overall presentation affect their impact on readers and audiences. When readers first encounter a character, they create a quick mental picture of that character, even when the author doesn’t specifically describe the character’s appearance.

To ensure the character stands out, design an engaging visual or sense perception of the character early on, which should align with their personality and the overall tone of the story. Consider height, weight, facial features, voice, clothing, and accessories. Strong visuals become part of the story, like Harry Potter’s circular glasses, which is a defining trait. That was a strong visual element that penetrated the reader’s minds, and it became the character’s signature element.

📚 Tip: Avoid templates like ‘the most beautiful girl in the room’ or perfect bodies. Mix up known stereotypes with unique physical details that are integral to the character’s personal story.

Black and white character design template with different hairstyles, facial designs, and clothing items

Dive Deep Into The Characters Personality💢

A protagonist’s personality plays a crucial role in how it interacts with the plot and drives the narrative forward. A character’s personality comprises their behavioral traits, behaviors, and overall characteristics.

Understanding the character’s personality leads to character decisions and the plot direction of a story. Take characters out of their comfort zones or create situations that force them to make difficult decisions, revealing character weaknesses, strengths, and reveals more about them.

Once you develop the character’s personality, it’s vital to ensure the choices they make align with their personality. The more the audience understands how a character will react to a particular situation, the more invested they become.

📚 Tip: Give deep thought into the decision-making process in character development. It should align with the motivations and goal of the protagonist.

A man sitting on a rock cliff overlooking the sea in deep thought

Middle and End Game💥

Creating a sturdy beginning is essential in developing characters for a story, but understanding the character’s decision pattern throughout the narrative is crucial. Thus, consider how the protagonist’s choices throughout the story guide the narrative of the story and lead to the ultimate ending.

An empathetic protagonist will resonate more with the readers; in a thriller, the protagonist has the most at the stake, and the audience is readily invested in their outcome. Therefore, it’s vital to ensure that the protagonist, in all situations, drives the story forward, influences the story, and isn’t a mere bystander.

📚 Tip: Do not let the protagonist wield a ‘magic wand.’ Give them a fair proportion of wins and losses and keep the stakes high.

A sunset horizon with golden tones

Creating a strong protagonist requires many things, but the most important is the connection with the reader. Understanding and creating a multidimensional character, creating a strong visual character, diving deep into their personality and making the choices that align with their personality all come together in creating a memorable and dynamic protagonist. Remember, creating a protagonist is not science, but more of an art, so express yourself and be creative.

A scene from a movie set; a director pointing to a script with actors in the background