All terms

What is a protagonist?

The main character in a story or piece of literature.

The Leading Role: Understanding the Protagonist in Creative Writing

Every story needs a hero, and that hero is the protagonist. Whether it's a novel, a memoir, or a screenplay, this character is the central figure around whom the plot revolves. The protagonist is typically the character that readers or viewers will sympathize with the most, and they are often the character who undergoes the most significant transformation during the course of the story.

Understanding your protagonist is critical to the success of your creative writing. As the leading character, they carry the weight of the story on their shoulders, and it's up to you as the writer to create a three-dimensional character that readers will care about. If your protagonist is flat or uninteresting, your readers will quickly lose interest in the story. However, if you can create a character with depth, flaws, and relatability, readers will be invested in their journey and eager to see what happens next.

When crafting your protagonist, consider their backstory, their flaws, and their overall goals and motivations. What drives them? What makes them tick? What are they trying to accomplish, and what are the obstacles in their way? By answering these questions, you'll be able to create a character that is complex and layered, one that readers will want to root for and follow through to the end of the story.

Leading the Way: Protagonist Examples in Literature

The protagonist is a fundamental aspect of story structure, and can be seen across all genres of literature. Here are just a few examples of protagonists in action.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter is the protagonist of this beloved fantasy series, and the Philosopher's Stone introduces readers to his journey of discovery within the wizarding world. Harry faces numerous challenges and obstacles as he uncovers the truth about his past and tries to prevent the theft of the powerful Philosopher's Stone.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Scout Finch is the young protagonist of this Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, which examines issues of race and justice in the South during the 1930s. Through Scout's innocent eyes, readers witness the tragic events that unfold in her small town, as her father, Atticus Finch, defends a black man accused of rape.