Partridge India Writing Tips| Writing a Protagonist Pt 2

Feb 9

Partridge India returns with part 2 of Writing a Protagonist.


Show, Don’t Tell

This piece of advice comes in two parts. First, do not reveal everything about your protagonist in the beginning or early parts of your story. If the reader knows all there is to know about your protagonist, if there is not a single bit of mystery to them, then the reader loses part of the incentive to keep reading about your protagonist.

Second, in avoiding revealing everything about your protagonist early you also avoid the writing mistake of telling instead of showing. With your protagonist you will want to show readers who they are and what they are like. You can do so, through the character’s actions, from their dialogue, how they treat others, how they dress, how the keep themselves busy, through their thoughts, and in many other ways instead of telling the reader through exposition.



Writing a Protagonist
Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

It is important for your protagonist to be consistent. Throughout the twists, turns, deceptions, and reveals of your story, your protagonist needs to be a rock of stability. Your protagonist is an anchor to which readers can attach themselves to and trust to guide them through the events of your story. Create certain core aspects and characteristics of your protagonist early on, such as morals, personal taboos, or tendencies. This is often helped by quickly showing your protagonist’s moral code. This does not mean the character has to be nice or a ‘good guy.’ But it helps the reader to know with certainty what your protagonist will or will not do. And when your protagonist’s moral code is challenged by events or circumstance, it can be an amazing character moment. If your protagonist does act outside or against their moral code, keep in mind that people normally do not do so without drastic reasons.



Perfect characters are boring, they are unbelievable, static, and do not have to struggle to achieve their ends. It is hard for readers to relate or connect to a protagonist who does not suffer from the same flaws, insecurities, or doubts that trouble the rest of us. It is more compelling story to read a protagonist overcoming or struggling with their flaws than to read a protagonist who has no flaws. Have your protagonist make mistakes, and either learn from those mistakes or not learn from them.


Partridge India will continue with Part 3 of Writing a Protagonist.

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By Ian Smith

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