Tag Archive - protagonist

The Intersection of Premise and Protagonist

UPCOMING: I’m doing a second workshop on crafting a terrific premise on February 21, 2-4 p.m. Pacific Time (it will be recorded, so you can watch it later if you can’t attend). Veteran literary agent Steve Laube will listen to your pitches and give some feedback and advice. Space is limited, so be sure to enroll ASAP. And bring your premise statement to share, and get tips on how to improve it! 

Your premise and your protagonist go hand in hand. We’ve been looking at premise lately, and if you’ve been reading these posts (and if you attended last month’s premise Zoom session), you know how crucial it is to have a unique, strong premise.

A premise is not just a situation; it’s about how your protagonist is going to deal with it.

I can be in a bad situation, but I may do nothing about it. I’d be a very boring protagonist. Your protagonist shouldn’t be passive, reactive. She needs to be assertive and proactive. She might not be that way at the start of your story, but the inciting incident that occurs early on should spark a need and/or desire to do something about that situation.

Your protagonist needs to be just the right person to deal with the situation at hand. But so must all your other characters.

Your genre may inform some of the requisite characteristics of your cast of characters, but even within the bounds of genre you can still develop fresh, unique characters. Your readers deserve those elements of originality, so spend time on your characters and resist the default mode (stereotypes). And really, what’s more important is your premise. Continue Reading…

5 Characteristics of the Perfect Murder Mystery Hero

Today’s post is by screenwriter Neil Chase.

There are many important elements to a successful murder mystery, but the hero is arguably the most important.

This character needs to be someone that readers can root for and sympathize with. How to do that? Let’s take a look at the 5 most important characteristics of a murder mystery hero.

  1. The perfect murder mystery hero is brilliant (in a unique way)

When it comes to creating a great murder mystery protagonist, one quality is essential: intelligence. An intelligent hero is able to use their quick wit and sharp mind to piece together clues and solve the mystery. They see things others do not and connect the dots in unusual ways.

Here are a few tips for creating a brilliant murder mystery hero:

  • Give your hero a backstory that explains why they’re drawn to solving puzzles in general and murders specifically. Perhaps they witnessed a crime as a child or have personal experience with loss. This will help make them more relatable and sympathetic.
  • Make your hero’s intelligence apparent from the start. Before the case even starts, give us a taste of what they can do and how their mind is superior to those around them.
  • Once the case is on, they should be able to see through lies and spot clues that others would miss.
  • Give your hero plenty of obstacles to overcome. The more difficult the mystery, the more satisfying it will be for readers when your hero finally solves it.
  1. They are always willing to help solve the crime, even if it means putting their own life at risk

The perfect murder mystery hero is always willing to help solve the crime, even if it means putting their own life at risk. They are clever and resourceful, able to piece together seemingly disparate clues to uncover the killer’s identity, but they are also cool under pressure and maintain their composure in the face of danger in order to catch the culprit. Above all, they are driven by a strong sense of justice, determined to uncover the murderer no matter what the cost. Continue Reading…

The Intersection of Character Transformation and Moral Dilemma

The protagonist’s transformational journey is highlighted in countless stories, whether novels, movies, or plays. If you take time to examine some of your favorite stories, you should be able to identify key scenes or moments in which this transformation gradually takes place. It’s the events that transpire that erode the persona and emphasize to the character that living in that identity isn’t working.

People don’t change overnight; it’s a process. And when we write a story, we want that process to be believable. While there are six stages in the process, you might have a dozen or more scenes in which your character’s beliefs, opinions, and biases are challenged, one bit at a time.

What Theme Really Is

Keep in mind this truth: the theme of your story is your character’s inner motivation made universal. What drives him, what plagues him, what consumes him is what propels him toward the visible goal.

These key transformational scenes with your protagonist are the ones that will shine a light on the themes of your story.

Consider the movie Hostiles, which I explored in another post. The title itself implies the theme and poses the moral dilemma Capt. Blocker faces. Who truly is the hostile?

The question Blocker asks himself, essentially, is this: “How am I all that different from those I hate?” In asking that question, consciously or subconsciously, the theme is brought to the forefront. Continue Reading…

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