There are certain characters that leap off the page and others that just kind of mosey from it, only to be forgotten moments later. Obviously, having a memorable and dynamic protagonist is one key to a great story, so, as you wade into their lives, here are some strategies for making that protagonist leap:
- Get to know her.
This person should literally talk to you. You should have the sound of her voice in her head. You should be able to talk about her as if you are childhood chums, and you’ve known her your whole life. Think about her past before this story. Not just the big stuff, but the little stuff too. Has she always lived here? What is her favorite thing she’s ever done or seen? Who are her heroes? What is her favorite color? Her favorite movie? TV show? Book? These are all things that will most likely not be in your story, but they will shape who she is and affect her reactions to things. Make her clear as day.
- Give her a clear goal.
What does she want? If you find yourself stuttering something like “well she just wants to find love but she also really wants cake and is sort of annoyed by her mother” (whoops, that’s my life), that’s not clear. Nor are those goals. (Sidenote: NOT getting that goal should also have a clear consequence so we know how important it is) She wants to marry the prince is a clear goal. She’s searching for the best cake in the world is clear. She wants to reconcile with her mother, who is on her death bed, is a clear goal.
- Give her a flaw.
As we all know, nobody’s perfect. And your heroine can’t be either. Now I know, (for those of you who do, in fact, have female protagonists) that you want your gal to be strong, empowered, and in control of her destiny. But the truth is, people who are perfect are boring. They have no conflict in their lives, and stories with no conflict are boring. In reality, even empowered women have flaws. Maybe they have a secret shame, or maybe they are so powerful, they lack empathy for a certain person. Maybe they are too tough to recognize the power in vulnerability. Maybe they have a self-esteem problem. And sometimes, strengths can double as weaknesses. Example: Loyalty. She will always 100% have your back, but she may also be blinded to the facts, or take that loyalty too far and beat up some jerk who said something mean.
- Tell us what she loves. Better yet, show us.
Everybody loves something, and we need to see it. This is how we start to learn what makes your character tick. And as with everything, make it as precise as possible. Rather than a character that loves cats, which cat? A specific object or being makes it personal and relatable. We may not all have a cat we love, but we all love something, so we can get on board with your character right away.
- Make her active.
This is a pitfall many writers experience, particularly if their character is shy. Instead of being someone who does things, they’re someone that things happen to. It is critical that your character is proactive, rather than reactive. She needs to decide to do something, then go do it. Having other characters decide and thrust their will upon her makes her weak and uninteresting, and it will feel like she is standing still while the story moves around her. Make her move, or your story will stand still anyway.
PHOTO CREDIT: https://unsplash.com/search/woman?photo=Z3IrYTlf_WY