Monday, August 1, 2011

Is Your Protagonist a Zero or a Hero?

Is your protagonist a zero or a hero? Did you create a wimpy protagonist? Compare the lists below with your main character and see whether he (or she) passes the test.

A Wimp…

-retreats whenever conflict is present
-worries and is indecisive
-may not know himself and because of this makes inconsistent choices
-crumbles under pressure
-can’t handle pain, physical or emotional
-is boring
-lacks self-esteem and courage
-blame others for his problems instead of trying to resolve the issues
-avoids, avoids, avoids. A wimp avoids intimacy, conflict, responsibility, etc…
-is forgettable, doesn’t stand out

A Hero…

-refuses to give up, retreat, lose, or die
-saves others and/or himself
-has a good understanding of himself
-is confident and brave
-takes risks
-will do whatever it takes to get the job done
-accepts responsibility and learns from his mistakes
-is strong mentally, emotionally, and/or physically
-takes charge
-is unforgettable

One of the most crushing comments a writer can hear is that her protagonist is a wimp. However, this is something she can fix. First, she needs to better understand her character. Some writers interview their characters and others create a GMC (goals, motivations, and conflicts) chart. With this new understanding, she can go through her manuscript and question everything the protagonist says and does. Was that heroic? If not, can she make the necessary amendments without changing the scene too much? Does she have to rewrite the scene or delete it and write a new one?

Have you ever had someone tell you your character is too wimpy? Have you felt you needed to make your protagonist stronger? Looking back, have any of your protagonists been a little on the wimpy side?

Lynnette Labelle


  1. I've read a few books lately where the authors did a great job with the alpha male hero. Definitely no wimps there. But the heroines fell into the wimpy category, always waiting for the heroes to come to their rescue. I always wonder what the heroes would see in these women and it pulls me right out of the story. Great post, Lynnette!

  2. Ooh! I'm totally printing this list out. Thanks Lynnette, for the great post today. :)
    Edge of Your Seat Romance

  3. This is an important thing to keep in mind with any hero. It's not as easy as it seems because the hero has to experience challenges, set backs, conflict, pain...and if nothing bothers them, then the conflict isn't going to mean much. So it is a balancing act. You could add "brooding and pouting " to the wimpy list.

  4. Love this post! You know - sometimes the Zero ends up being more of a hero than the *real* hero!

    Reminds me of this song:


  5. I've written a few but I'm more of a reluctant hero guy than a dashing do'er well.

  6. Amy: Good point. As much as readers like alpha males, they don't want to see wimpy heroines.

    Raquel: Thanks.

    Cindy: LOL Yes, brooding and pouting. I've see some heroines who sigh a lot, too. I agree, you have to balance it all.

    Ashen: When that happens, I'd say the hero wasn't really the hero and perhaps the story should've been about the other guy.

    Travis: A reluctant hero is fine as long as he's not portrayed as a wimp. ;)

    Lynnette Labelle

  7. I'd definitely say that being a hero is better and more interesting to read, BUT, I still like the reluctant hero who can completely come off as a wimp. I think being a wimp is okay as long as it comes off as trying to be realistic, but that only can work to a point. Nice characteristic list :)