It’s noted that you should let the reader see your protagonist’s characteristics within the first few pages. This enables the reader to quickly identify with him. This connection will determine whether the reader turns the next page.
Unless you’re writing fantasy or science fiction, your protagonist will have ordinary strengths (possibly extraordinary, but within the realm of reality); he will also have weaknesses. These qualities need to be conveyed early on.
Here are 15 characteristics that may pertain to a protagonist or main character (MC):
1. Intelligent: Is your MC smart? If so how smart: is he a genius, did he finish college, does he gets all As in school?
2. Handy or Crafty: Maybe your MC isn’t great at academics, but is he handy, musically inclined, or crafty?
3. Arrogant: Does your character think he’s better or smarter than others? Does he let others know it? If so, how?
4. Trustworthy: Is your MC the kind of individual that others feel they can trust?
5. Determined: Does your MC know what he wants and strives to obtain his goal?
6. Greedy: Is your MC the kind of person who wants everything he doesn’t have? Is he the type of person who wants much more than he actually needs? Does he make it obvious?
7. Dependable: Is your MC the kind of individual that others know they can count on?
8. Brave: Does your MC do what he has to even if he’s frightened? Is he known for his bravery?
9. Cowardly: Is your MC afraid of his own shadow? Does he try to avoid any kind of confrontation or adventure?
10. Caring: Does your MC demonstrate kind and caring qualities? Does his family and friends think of him as a caring individual?
11. Selfish: Does your MC think of only himself? Is he known for this unsavory quality?
12. Strong: Does your MC have great physical strength? Is he strong emotionally?
13. Weak: Is your MC weak either physically or emotionally or both?
14. Athletic: Is your character into sports? Does he excel at it?
15. Artistic or musical: Does he draw or paint? Does he play a musical instrument?
These are just some of the characteristics you can give to your protagonist. There are many others though, such as: shrewd, cheap, a liar, a thief, a go getter, beautiful, awkward, loyal, kind, lazy, introvert, extrovert, irresponsible, and cruel.
It’s up to you as the creator to give your protagonist a set of characteristics that will allow him to connect to the reader – whether the reader loves him or hates him there must be a connection. This connection is what will cause the reader to keep turning the pages.
Be cautious though, if you are giving your protagonist unsavory qualities at the beginning, be sure to include at least one redeeming quality otherwise your audience may not find that connection and decide not to read on.
And, remember, you can always have the protagonist change characteristics through the momentum of the story. He can start out as a coward and through various occurrences within the story he can evolve into a hero, or whatever you choose. That’s the amazing thing about being a writer – you create something from nothing. You give your character breath and dimension.
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