Quick Link: Deepen The Protagonist to Readers By Challenging His or Her Moral Beliefs

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Want readers to invest in your main character? Make them interesting. How? Give them depth and reasons, show why they do the things they do. Nothing is more boring than a perfect character who always knows the right thing to do and does it. Challenge their morality. Push them to the edge and see what happens. That is what Angela Ackerman over at Writiers Helping Writers helps us to learn this week.

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Deepen The Protagonist to Readers By Challenging His or Her Moral Beliefs

This is what I found when I searched for "perfect" and the title, I kid you not is "The Perfect male body". Someone totally needs more depth.

This is what I found when I searched for “perfect” and the title, I kid you not is “The Perfect male body”. Someone totally needs more depth.

When we sit down to brainstorm a character, we think about possible qualities, flaws, quirks, habits, likes and dislikes that they might have. Then to dig deeper, we assemble their backstory, plotting out who influenced them, what experiences shaped them (both good and bad) and which emotional wounds pulse beneath the surface. All of these things help us gain a clearer sense of who our characters are, what motivates them, and ultimately, how they will behave in the story.

But how often do we think about our protagonist’s morality? It’s easy to just make the assumption that he or she is “good” and leave it at that.

And, for the most part, the protagonist is good–that’s why he or she is the star of the show. The protagonist’s moral code dictates which positive traits are the most prominent (attributes like loyalty, kindness, tolerance, being honorable or honest, to name a few) and how these will in turn influence every action and decision.

In real life, most people want to believe they know right from wrong, and that when push comes to shove, they’ll make the correct (moral) choice. People are generally good, and unless you’re a sociopath, no one wants to go through life hurting people. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, but most try to add, not take away, from their interactions and relationships.

In real life, most people want to believe they know right from wrong, and that when push comes to shove, they’ll make the correct (moral) choice. People are generally good, and unless you’re a sociopath, no one wants to go through life hurting people. Sometimes it can’t be avoided, but most try to add, not take away, from their interactions and relationships.

To feel fully fleshed, our characters should mimic real life, meaning they too have strong beliefs, and like us, think their moral code is unshakable. But while it might seem it, morality is not black and white. It exists in the mists of grey.

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