Showing posts with label creating a protagonist. Show all posts
Showing posts with label creating a protagonist. Show all posts

Saturday, April 6, 2013



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

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

10 Things Every Literary Hero Needs

My first draft of Odessa, then called Dragons in the Dark, could have given a garbage dump a run for the money in stink. I was so happy and proud to have the entire 600 word story finally written and out of my head. As you know, if you’ve read any of my interviews, the entire story has resided in my head for over thirty years awaiting the right moment and amount of time to pop out. When it finally did and I read it through the manuscript was obviously full of errors, bad writing and a fatal flaw. I had no distinctive main character—no hero or heroine.

Because the story is about a group of seven teens, I assumed they could all tell the story. But it didn’t work that way. I had to decide which of them would tell the story to the reader and be the hero of the book series. Once I knew that, I revised the story about eight times, writing it from Myrna’s point of view, until I got it right. The funny thing is I have a strong driving need to revise it again. I’m guessing that’s a common feeling for authors. And one day I might do it, who knows.
But I digress. My point is this: There are certain aspects of a hero/heroine an author must provide for the story to work.

1-Your protagonist must be interesting. There should be some quirk, personality trait, etc that makes your hero special. Why would a reader care about her and what happens to her? This was my first big area of improvement and why I need to revise Odessa—Myrna isn’t likable enough and she’s too white bread.
2-While the reader doesn’t need to feel sympathetic for your protag (as in the case of a detestable character-murderer, rapist, etc), they should be able to feel some empathy for them. Maybe a horrific childhood that created their current character.
3-Protags should act bravely.
4-As the ‘god’ creating your characters, it is imperative the author knows every aspect of each main character in the story. They should exist in the author’s head as surely as any living person. There are many character creation templates to help with this. I’ll post my own in my next posting.
5-Conflict, conflict, conflict. Your story must have a general overriding conflict, but so should each of the characters—especially your protag. If your hero has no inner conflict or problems to overcome, what makes them interesting enough to hold a reader’s attention?
6-In addition to or in conjunction with a conflict, your hero should have a weakness. They may not realize it at first, but sometime during the story it should come to light and they must work on improving that weakness while accomplishing their tasks.
7-All characters in a story, but especially your protagonist, must change and grow throughout the story. If you are writing a series, each book should have a character arc of growth which is different from that of the series.
8-Your hero must have a reason for doing whatever they are doing in your story. The protag’s younger sister was kidnapped; her parents were killed and the murderer is after her; she is trying to get someone specific to fall in love with her. Whatever the reason, without a purpose for the protag’s actions/journey, you have no story.
9-Make sure your hero is believable. No one is completely good or absolutely bad. Even angels and demons can have slight issues causing them to question their behavior. This is what has made the Romantic Vampire so attractive.
10-The war and final battle between the protagonist and antagonist should be satisfying and believable. Even in a Sci Fi story set in a far-away universe, the conclusion to this battle can be believable to the reader if the author understands human nature and sticks to the rules of world building they’ve created. If the story is historical, make sure you stick to the actual history of the event.
These are just some of the things I’ve learned over the past couple of years and have tried incorporating into my writing. And from personal experience as a reader I can conclude with this final nugget. If you have an awesome main character(s) your story doesn’t even have to be awesome because the character will carry it—but if you can have BOTH, you’ll have a best-seller.

Laman and Harpies are currently in edits and should be available soon.

Rebecca Ryals Russell is a MG/YA Fantasy Author of two series: Seraphym Wars Series for YA and Stardust Warriors Series for MG readers. There are currently three books of each series available via eBook wherever eBooks are sold, with several more currently in edits and others in the works. Follow Rebecca’s progress at Under the Hat of Rebecca Ryals Russellor Tween Word Quest.

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