Sooo, a while back I did an article on my site about why it didn’t really matter if your protagonist wasn’t the most interesting character in your story. (Editing Hannah’s note: I actually can’t find the article, I’m certain I wrote but I either didn’t publish it, or didn’t put in the correct sections on my site… so, for the time being, it’s just gone, sorry).
I stand by that, by the way.
But it never quite felt complete. It touched on things such as a protagonist usually being relatable, usually having a sound moral-compass.Your protagonist is also likely the intended age group of your audience, so if like me you write YA, you’re protagonist is probably a young adult. All of these are limitations. Limitations that lead to a villain, or simply a fully formed adult who’s had far more happen to them, be more interesting. And I don’t think there is anything wrong with side-characters or villains being more interesting. Sometimes part of the reason they’re more interesting is because they are side-characters or villains that aren’t around as much!
If I were to only consider what I talked about in that initial article, there’s a lot of protagonists out there often considered bad that are perfectly fine. And I could go on about nothing truly being bad and everything being subjective but… let’s be honest, I have my tastes and I try to create something that would be “good” to me. So what is that? What makes a protagonist good?
Today, I think I realised. And it’s got to do with the inciting event.
Now, in my own book the inciting event is when the protagonist receives a letter that motivates her to leave the comfort of her home and run off into adventure. But if I’m to switch lenses, look at the story from any other character’s perspective, Elizabeth the innkeeper, Kai the male lead, our villain or practically any other character, the inciting event is the arrival of my protagonist! There to mess everything up for better or worse!
The protagonist isn’t supposed to be good on there own, that’s why boring protagonists aren’t bad, a protagonist is good because they affect the world around them, they incite change, they motivate characters to act (for better or worse).
I encourage you to think of some books you’ve recently read, what’s the inciting event? Switch to another character, what’s there inciting event? Do this with your own story. Do this with every story!
My protagonist isn’t my protagonist because of her personality or appearance, but because she is the inciting event!