Who Is Your Protagonist?

by | May 12, 2015 | Prose and Cons | 0 comments


When you write, you’re bound to end up with a protagonist or two along the way (it would be a good trick not to!). Understanding your plot and how that protagonist fits into it can shape your story. Some genres and types of story have their own cliches and stereotypical protagonists. You can choose to follow along with those, in which case it’s incumbent upon you to come up with another hook for the story (since your protagonist isn’t going to grab anyone by the imagination). Or you can look at fitting an alternative protagonist into your plot.

Here are some fantasy and sci-fi sub-genres and the protagonists everyone expects of them:

Epic Fantasy

  • Farm boy with a destiny
  • Apprentice wizard who finds a powerful staff/wand/spell-book

Change it up…

  • Army commander who refuses a key order

Sword and Sorcery

  • Young hero out to make a name for himself

Change it up…

  • Aunt of young hero, out to stop him from getting himself killed

Urban Fantasy

  • Lonely girl who stumbles onto a hidden sub-culture
  • Immortal or ancient being living among humans for centuries

Change it up…

  • Late-shift subway attendant, who sees all the crazy things happen (but who no one believes)

Space Opera

  • Heroic explorer with his own ship
  • Smuggler with a heart of gold

Change it up…

  • Stowaway sneaking from one ship to the next


  • Elite hacker who learns too much
  • Cybernetically enhanced bounty hunter/mercenary

Change it up…

  • Zealot who wants to end the worship of technology

Zombie Apocalypse

  • Researcher who is on the verge of a cure
  • Hapless refugee struggling to stay ahead of the horde

Change it up…

  • Necromancer trying to take control of the zombies

When you want an original story, you need original ideas. When you want to hook readers, you need a reason for them to pick your book over the piles of others. Only think inside the box long enough to know where you don’t want to be.


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