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Protagonist First Aid

Lesson 5 Chapter 1 Module 1

The Problem


Sometimes, a protagonist can just seem a bit bland, a little opaque. Maybe your early readers aren't in love. Maybe you missed an orientation two scenes ago, and, as a result, aren't quite feeling where your hero is, mentally and emotionally.

If you ever feel like you need to re-connect your reader and your protagonist, or you're early in the novel and worry your heroine is not the most engaging character, use this "first aid" technique.

Write one new scene where the primary purpose is to strengthen the relationship between reader and character.

This Lesson Contains

  • Technique: three ways to connect
  • Worksheet: your character's secrets 
  • Practice: a scene of yearning

If you are working on a draft of your story, and you realise you have skipped some orientations, or you just feel like your protagonist isn't quite "there" yet, DO NOT GO BACK AND REVISE.

Do not enter the vortex of circling re-writing.

Instead, write a new scene that will help your reader connect to the character in a powerful way.

Such a scene could be based on:

  • Yearning: show your protagonist begin fond of somone, or dreaming big.
  • Regret: we all wish we were better. Some scenes force us to relive the past.
  • Clarification: teach the reader something about the protagonist's life. 

This lesson's worksheet (download it here) prompts you to think about those aspects of your character, and your practice session (below) gets you writing -- what would a scene of regret look like for your main character? 

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  • Elizabeth G. Wilmerding says:

    I like the brevity of these exercises. It makes you choose your words carefully!

  • Elizabeth G. Wilmerding says:

    I think that the subject matter of these 1st aid scenes or interludes should mesh with the overall theme(s) of the story or they’ll be irrelevant and the reader will notice. So, if you have an overarching theme of family is important, the yearning/regret/clarification should be along those lines not about eating bad food at a restaurant or something.

  • Pen
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