Wednesday, November 5, 2008


One of the writing concepts that some people have a hard time grasping is the concept of a protagonist and an antagonist. Many people have the idea that the protagonist is the good guy and the antagonist is the bad guy. While this is often the case, it is not the way we should understand the concept. The protagonist is principal character, but he can be either good or bad. The story will reveal which he is. The antagonist opposes what the protagonist is trying to accomplish and can be either good or bad.

Sometimes in the development of a story it is helpful to consider various protagonists. We should ask which characters will change the most during the events of the story and who will push the story forward. I was looking at a story idea the other day in which a woman was going to show up on a doorstep and force her way into a family. I thought of her as the protagonist, but the story just wouldn’t come together the way I wanted. For the story to end with her a member of the family, she would not change from her desire to put herself into the family. By swapping the protagonist and the antagonist, the story worked much better. A particular member of the family doesn’t want her kind, so when she shows up he opposes her. He tries to push her out, but it makes things worse. In the end, he has to learn to accept her or his family will fall apart.

The protagonist isn’t the same thing as the narrator. We can see a story unfold from the eyes of anyone or several people. When the narrator is a character other than the protagonist, we won’t see all that the narrator is doing. Mostly, we will see the things he does while he is with the protagonist. Consider how Watson told about Holmes.

Related Posts:

The Omnitagonist: When the Protagonist and the Antagonist are the Same