Subjects we’ve covered are: PREMISE, the PLOT POINTS andCOMPLICATIONS, SCENES, the MEATY5 (story’s heart).

Today you will discover who your PROTAGONIST is. You may think you know him/her, but when you finish with today’s questions, he/she will feel like your best friend.

For those who might not know, the protagonist (protag) is the one about whom the story is told; he/she/it solves the problem. The protag doesn’t have to be the ‘good guy’. You can have a bad protag, as long as the story is ABOUT that character and they are the one facing and solving the problem (remember, no conflict/problem=no story).

So, you probably have some idea who your protag is at this point in the story development. But you may not know enough INNER DETAIL about him/her to keep them from becoming a flat character. Here are some ways to get to know the character.

Complete a Character Worksheet. There are tons of these available online or you can email me and I’ll send you some I use.

List 10 of the worst things that could happen to the character. How does he/she respond?

For example, Rayna is captured by the Peacers at age 13. She thought she was ‘safe’ from having to go to the Gestortium. But an evil lady turned her in out of revenge. What does Rayna do? She recalls her father always telling her to “Be invisible.” So she goes along, but watches for her chances to escape.

Next list 10 of the best things and how the character responds.

What are the character’s Internal Conflict? We all have it. Sometimes out internal conflict becomes so overwhelming we can hardly function—and some can’t function so they get sent to prison or a mental facility or check out with drugs/alcohol/sex/shopping. So, what conflicts does your character deal with besides the ones thrown at them in the story?

For Rayna:
Who is she?
Why is her hair red, eyes green?
Why are these taboo in society?
Why can’t she love Trae and express that love openly?

Of course, being a young teen, she has many more issues, but you get the idea. Keep brainstorming EVERY POSSIBLE conflict you can think of from all aspects of the character’s life. Some of them may NEVER be used in the story, but it helps you know them better.

Which of the character’s viewpoints change throughout the story and in what way? The protag MUST grow throughout the story or they become flat, like a paperdoll. So, decide what the character is supposed to learn and how and why. It’s called Character Arc and is similar to the Story Arc but for the protag. Ask him/her—let them tell you.

Mine: Rayna starts out quiet, subdued, listening to Da’s “Be invisible” as a result of living with taboo features. But as the bully pushes, she has to begin standing up for herself then her friends. Finally, she is pushed too far and decides that being invisible may not be the best answer for her.
Lastly, answer these questions:

What is his/her greatest weakness? Who is he/she hurting?
What does the character want? Need?
What does he/she know at the beginning? Middle? End?
What is he/she wrong about at the beginning?
What will he/she learn at the end?

Next month, your Protagonist’s Backstory.

Thanks to K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel

Rebecca Ryals Russell, a fourth-generation Floridian, was born in Gainesville, grew up in Ft Lauderdale then lived in Orlando and Jacksonville with her Irish husband and four children. Due to the sudden death of Rebecca's mother, they moved to Wellborn, near Lake City, to care for her father, moving into his Victorian home built in 1909. After teaching Middle Graders for fourteen years she retired and began writing the story idea which had been brewing for thirty years.  Within six months she wrote the first three books of each series, YA Seraphym Wars and MG Stardust Warriors. The world she created has generated numerous other story ideas including two current works in progress, SageBorn Chronicles based on various mythologies of the world and aimed at the lower Middle Grade reader and Saving Innocence, another MG series set on Dracwald and involving dragons and Majikals. She is finishing a YA Dystopian Romance which has been a NaNoWriMo project for three years. She loves reading YA Fantasy, Horror and Sci Fi as well as watching movies.  Read more about Rebecca and her WIPs as well as how to buy books in her various series at  You may email her at


Heidiwriter said...

Great tips. Developing a well-rounded character is essential to a good story and is possibly one of the hardest things to do when starting out. I remember getting feedback on my first attempts, saying my characters were "flat" and I had no idea what that meant!

Magdalena Ball said...

Wow Rebecca, your series is an entire course. Lots of great tips here and in your other posts which I've downloaded for ongoing reference. Thank you.

Mary Jo Guglielmo said...

Great tips Rebecca. You need to put this info all together in a book.

Karen Cioffi said...

Rebecca, this is a detailed and helpful series on writing. I'm with Mary Jo, you need to put this into a book/ebook. That's how a lot of information books are created, from a compilation of articles and content.

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