From story to story, from novel to novel, protagonists vary widely in psychological make-up, goals and dreams, in the types of conflicts they face and in the way they resolve these conflicts. Among all these differences, compelling characters may have some common qualities as well.
Catherine Ryan Hyde, author of Pay It Forward and 24 other novels, believes compelling protagonists share two chief traits. “I think he or she needs to be someone with a strong will to move through adversity, and someone readers can relate to,” she says, adding that relatable characters also require vulnerability. “We’re all vulnerable on the inside, so our hearts go out to anyone enduring struggles we understand.”
Authors are often told that readers must be able to root for their characters, yet Hyde believes that protagonists don’t necessarily have to be likable or sympathetic. They do need to be human, or readers won’t be…
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