Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Four Protagonist Criteria: Deciding on your MC

You've built your world, now you need to write your story.

But wait, you've got all these juicy characters and all of them seem like they would make fascinating MCs.

How do you decide?

Let me tell you how I did it. I didn't worldbuild, I just dove into the bulk of the story and suddenly I had two MCs. And that was about 7 years ago.

This year I found out that only one of my MCs was the actual protagonist.

Well, how did I find that out?

I was thinking about my chapter switch between MC1 and MC2. They are both supposed to be telling the same story.

These are my characters:

MC1, the philosophical old man.

MC2, the big timid guy who has lots of friends and likes a good joke.

Which one told the story better?


If I read it objectively and admitted brutally to myself, which one was more interesting?


And the age group I'm aiming at, teens, twenties, and anyone else after that, who could the reader relate to more?

MC2. Who, at the time, was twenty-eight. Before that, he was forty.

MC2 won the competition. So, I went to delete and rewrite all of MC1's chapters.

I hope you can see it. The protagonist is the one with the story. MC1 was just me being philosophical and me being overly descriptive and me just showing off my detailed writing skills. No contribution to the plotline whatsoever.

Let me tell you, admitting that one character is better than the other is so...hard. Shameful almost. But it's for the best.

This brings us to the Four Protagonist Criteria

What you want to do is choose a character that:

Tells the story better.
A character that tells the story better is one that interacts with your main plot. He/She never diverts too much from it and keeps adding onto it, making it more and more intriguing.

Is more interesting as a person/or a non-human.
A philosophical old man CAN be interesting in some circumstances but not all of them. Not my plotline, that's for sure. Would you want to get to know him? Maybe, but perhaps MC2 is more interesting. He has a family and a crush, lots of friends, a story to tell, a father who goes on seafaring adventures. The old man just walks around, whittles, and gives philosophical advice.

Is close to your reader's age.
I have seen this in some places, of literary agents saying that a book will sell or gain popularity if the protagonist is close in age with the age group you're aiming for because they are relatable. It's just safer, I think, to go that route. MC1 is sixty-eight. MC2 is twenty-four. Hmm *eyes MC2 knowingly* I wonder which is better... Besides, who can relate to an old man unless they are an old man themselves?

Contributes to your plotline.
MC1 is a philosophical old man who likes to take long walks in the evening. I used him to describe the scenes. MC1 is also a grumpy old man who doesn't like to chat much. I used him to observe other people and tell the reader what they look like or something that happened to them in the past. But my novel doesn't focus on the past, it focuses on the present and the future. MC1 is just holding back the story.

And, the bulk of the plotline revolves around interactions between characters and who is your enemy kind of thing. Not philosophical ideas.

So, you have the Four Protagonist Criteria. Look through the ones you have and choose one you think might work.

Let me warn you.

You might find out later that some other character, a secondary character now, might have been better.

Just chill.
Writing comes with rewrites. Rewrites come with rewrites. It's the way things are. After 7 years and a major rewrite of my whole story, I found that one character is better than the other and now basically I have to write the whole novel over again from scratch.

With worldbuilding, you hope you're all prepared. With the Four Protagonist Criteria, you hope you got the right one. But things can change and that's totally okay.

In fact it's good. It means you are starting to really see the story you want to write. You are writing your ish, the ish that you wanted to write.

So chill, and work that protagonist!

Happy Writing! :D

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