Is there a difference between a protagonist and a hero? A protagonist is the subject of a story. A hero is a human being of extraordinary qualities. A protagonist can be a hero, certainly, but isn’t always. Quite often in manuscripts the protagonist is an ordinary person. They may face extraordinary circumstances in the course of the story but when we first meet them they, in effect, could be you or me.
That early, introductory moment is where many authors begin to lose me. Why? Meeting a protagonist who is a proxy for me, with whom I can readily identify, should be ideal, shouldn’t it? Isn’t that how sympathy arises? I see myself in the novel’s focal character and, therefore, their experience becomes mine? Actually, it doesn’t work quite like that. A reader’s heart does not automatically open just because some average schlemiel stumbles across the page.
Whether they are public figures or just ordinary in profile, our heroes and heroines are people whose actions inspire us. We would not mind spending ten straight hours or even ten days with them. That is important because ten hours is about how long it takes to read a novel and ten days a not uncommon period of time that readers commit to a single book. When it is your book, what sort of protagonist do you want your readers to meet? One whom they will regard more-or-less as they do a fellow grocery shopper? [Read more…]