Relating to my protagonist

Forums Fiction Characters Relating to my protagonist

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    Hey everyone! *waves* It’s been a while since I was on the forum, but I’ve still been writing despite college and everything, so I’ll consider that an accomplishment!

    For my newest WIP, I’m actually taking the time to brainstorm and get into my character’s heads, which is pretty great. Unfortunately, I’ve run into the same problem that I have for previous WIPs… that I can come up with + relate to my side characters pretty easily, but I’m having trouble with my protagonist.

    I suspect this might be in part perfectionism (“I need to get my protagonist exactly right!”), in part that I often associate my protagonist with myself, whereas my side characters are based on other people, so I can see their traits more clearly.

    So has anyone experienced this before, and have advice on distancing the protagonist from yourself? When you begin character development, what do you start with?

    Thanks guys!

    Calvin '25 // The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. (John 1:5)



    Hi Grace!

    So has anyone experienced this before, and have advice on distancing the protagonist from yourself? When you begin character development, what do you start with?

    Oh, I definitely relate to that!

    Something that I’ve found really helps me is to take one trait of mine and give it to my protagonist, then build around that. I usually end up magnifying and exaggerating that trait, and writing in other traits that complement or contrast it, and by the end, the character isn’t nearly that similar anymore!

    More often than not, the trait is actually some flaw of mine, so it’s easier to be both close and distant to it. It has often happened that I look at my protagonist and go “Oh, that’s so incredibly messed up, why would they be like that?” And then realize I unconsciously copied that trait off myself XD

    Something else that works is to give the protagonist other traits that I don’t have, or even that I don’t agree with.

    It’s not something I do consciously, it usually just ends up working out that way.

    Hope this helped!

    Without darkness, there is no light. If there was no nighttime, would the stars be as bright?


    Hey Grace!

    My protagonists practically are me, LOL – they tend to have a similar personality & interests, but under different circumstances (and usually a bit braver than me! Sometimes they end up being my ideal self.).

    You can often relate your protagonist to the main theme/message of the book: for example, generosity vs. greed – make your main character have a hidden flaw of avarice in his/her life.

    Also, you can try gaining inspiration for your protagonist the same way that you do it for side characters (for example, through observing others or yourself, maybe making a collage or Pinterest board).

    Feel free to use yourself as inspiration: the things you struggle with, worry about; your own flaws & fears. Ask yourself: what would you think, fear, do in this situation?

    If your protagonist is morally imbalanced (too perfect or too evil), then he/she can be difficult to relate to. If the protagonist is a hero, it’s easy to forget to give them flaws – infuse moments where they unexpectedly make a selfish decision, even if it’s for an ultimately good cause. If your protagonist is too “bad,” then they can also be difficult to relate to. Make sure that there is some logical reasoning or some other explanation behind their questionable behavior.

    Infuse flaws, fears, struggles, losses, and difficult decisions into the characters & story. Where there is humanity, there is relatability.  Don’t be afraid to expose your own vulnerability. Sometimes as writers, we’re tempted to hide behind our characters, forgetting that we have worries, thoughts, problems, internal battles that can inspire our stories. You might not have slain a dragon, but you’ve slain a pile of homework. You might not have journeyed in the middle of a remote desert, but you’ve been thirsty & exhausted & hot. You might not have committed a serious crime, but you’ve had a taste of guilt or shame after making a small mistake. In other words, when you can’t relate to the situation, you can at least relate to the feeling behind the situation (at least a hint of it). In addition to fantastical feats, give your protagonists some ordinary problems (e.g., a night with little sleep, a petty squabble with a sibling, a lie they regret telling, an itchy sweater, etc.). Intersperse these moments amidst the adventurous moments.

    It can be summed up in this: try to find the “you” in “them.”

    I hope this makes sense 🙂


    • This reply was modified 1 year, 8 months ago by Michaela.

    "May it be mercy I show for it is mercy I've been shown." - Written to Speak

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