NOVEL WRITING (Protagonist vs. Main Character)


Question: Who is a protagonist? How is he different from the main character? Thanks!

Answer: "Protagonist" is a term that comes from ancient Greek drama and literally means the "first actor."

For most of history, and in common parlance, "protagonist" refers to the hero or main character of the story.

However, there are plenty of stories which contain two major characters, either or whom could be considered the hero. For instance, is the hero of The Great Gatsby Gatsby or Nick? Is the hero of To Kill a Mockingbird Atticus or Scout? Is the hero of Equus Dr. Dysart or Alan Strang?

So it is that Dramatica theory came to define these characters separately, in this way...

The Protagonist is the character who is the primary pursuer of the story goal.

* Gatsby, who pursues Daisy and the world of money she represents.
* Atticus who pursues justice.
* Alan Strang, who pursues his passionate obsession with horses.

On the other hand, the main character is the character whose perspective the reader shares. It is often called the "point-of-view" character. In a first person novel, this is the character who narrates the story. In third person, it is the character whose perceptions the reader is privy to, as if the reader were standing in the shoes of the character.

The main character is also the character whose inner conflict the reader is privy to. The resolution of this personal struggle often determines whether the story goal is achieved.

E.g. Nick, Scout, Dr. Dysart.

As stated, the Protagonist and the main character are often one and the same. But not always.

Sometimes you want to tell the story from the point of view of someone other than the Protagonist, because you find their inner struggle more interesting. In that case you would choose a different character to be the main character.

The other advantage to doing this is that the main character can then look at the Protagonist and evaluate his/her choices more objectively.

Comments for NOVEL WRITING (Protagonist vs. Main Character)

Click here to add your own comments

Aug 12, 2017
by: patricia

Thank you very much. i now know that i wasn't anywhere next to this explanation until i found you thank you again. best regards!

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.

search this site the web
search engine by freefind

Celebrating our 2nd year as one of the...

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero