What Makes a Good Protagonist?

Episode #17 – October 10, 2023

Welcome to episode 17 of the Writing on Caffeine podcast. My daughter (Ragan Franzone) and I (Jonathan Franzone) are a father and daughter who have decided to write our very first novel. In this podcast, we are inviting you to come along on this journey with us.

In this episode, Jonathan and Ragan discuss what makes up a good protagonist (THE HERO!). They also dive into some of their favorite (and least favorite) protagonists and why they love or hate them.

Show Notes

The protagonist is the good guy! This is the hero and central focus of your story.

  1. Relatability: While your protagonist doesn’t need to be universally relatable, they should resonate with your target audience. They could exhibit traits that readers identify with, such as particular strengths, weaknesses, or experiences. This helps readers to emotionally invest in their journey.
  2. Flaws: Nobody is perfect, and your protagonist shouldn’t be either. A character with flaws is more believable and relatable. These flaws can also drive character development and conflict within the story.
  3. Growth: One of the most satisfying elements of a story can be watching a character grow and change. A compelling protagonist often has a character arc, experiencing personal growth and change as they confront obstacles and challenges.
  4. Goals: A protagonist should have clear goals, desires, or needs. This gives your character a purpose and drives the action of the story. These goals can be anything from saving the world to navigating everyday life, depending on the nature of your story.
  5. Agency: A compelling protagonist makes decisions and takes actions that influence the plot, rather than being merely reactive or passive. They should have a certain degree of control over their destiny, even if the circumstances they find themselves in are beyond their control.
  6. Strengths: While a protagonist should have flaws, they also need strengths that allow them to confront the challenges they face. These strengths can be physical, intellectual, or moral, among others.
  7. Backstory: A protagonist’s past can significantly impact their character traits, goals, and actions in the story. A well-developed backstory can provide depth to a character, explain their motivations, and make their actions more believable.
  8. Consistency: While a protagonist should grow and change, their character should also remain consistent, unless there’s a good reason for a sudden change. This makes the character believable and helps readers stay invested in their journey.
  9. Empathy: A compelling protagonist often elicits empathy from the reader. This doesn’t mean the protagonist always has to be likable or good, but readers should be able to understand their motivations and feel some sort of emotional connection.
  10. Uniqueness: A compelling protagonist often stands out. They might have a distinctive voice, an interesting background, unusual skills, or an unexpected approach to problems.


Books We’re Reading