When embarking on the journey of storytelling, the process of creating a cast often commences with the protagonist, the pivotal character around whom the narrative orbits.
Note. This article includes spoiler from the following series: Succession and The Crown.
The 9 Key Protagonist Qualities
At the core of a compelling protagonist lies an unwavering willpower. This quality propels them through the labyrinth of antagonistic forces and challenges, steering decisions and actions that aim to restore balance to their disrupted lives. The inciting incident, disrupting the protagonist’s equilibrium, triggers an instinctual response grounded in the primal urge for survival. The journey to regain balance involves overcoming obstacles from various directions, culminating in a climax where the protagonist must summon the last reserves of their willpower to confront formidable opposition. Without persistent willpower, the story lacks the driving force needed to reach this critical juncture.
Note: The protagonist may take climactic actions and still fail to achieve their goal, but only after exhausting their willpower. The apparent fragility of a protagonist can be deceiving; true protagonists possess formidable inner strength.
To exemplify the importance of willpower, consider the iconic climactic scene from the character of Kendall Roy from the Succession series. Watch how Kendall’s relentless determination and resilience in the face of familial and corporate challenges showcase his willpower to be the successor of WayStar Royco.
A well-rounded protagonist exhibits mental, emotional, and physical capabilities that extend beyond ordinary limits. Their cognitive prowess enables thoughtful decision-making, emotional determination propels them towards their desires, and physical prowess pushes them to or beyond personal boundaries.
Explore the multifaceted abilities of Princess Diana in “The Crown.” Her intellectual depth, emotional resilience, and physical vigor collectively exemplify a protagonist with well-rounded capabilities.
The protagonist must assume the role of the underdog, facing antagonistic forces of overwhelming power, leaving them with only a chance—albeit a slim one—of attaining their object of desire.
Dive into the political complexities faced by Tom Wambsgans in Succession. As a semi-outsider in a business empire dominated by a family, Tom embodies the underdog, navigating powerful forces within the family.
Tom, the interloper, is like an organism that has found a precarious but rewarding perch above some deep oceanic vent and adapted itself to conditions perfectly.Jesse Armstrong, creator.
4) Empathetic Nature
An underdog protagonist gains depth through an empathetic nature. This quality allows the audience to connect with the character on a personal level, fostering a sense of identification.
For example, Shiv Roy in Succession. As the only daughter in a male-dominated business empire, Shiv embodies the underdog, but also she is the only one with an ideology much nearer to the audience.
The protagonist, being the most complex character in the narrative, should exude intrigue. Crafting an entrance that captivates both emotionally and intellectually. For example, the memorable Princess Margaret in The Crown who draws the audience into a curiosity that transcends surface appearances.
6) Depth of Character
As the story unfolds, the protagonist’s subconscious motivations and hidden desires come to light. It reveals layers that add depth and complexity to their character.
Witness another side of Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown. Despite her royal position, at some point the Queen takes compassionate decisions. However, she struggles to showcase an empathetic nature that adds depth to her character.
7) Changeable Nature or the Illusion of Change
While most characters maintain a fixed inner nature, the protagonist stands out as the one most likely to undergo significant transformation. This evolution, from the beginning to the end of the story, adds a dynamic dimension to their character.
Follow the transformative journey of Prince Charles in “The Crown.” Prince Charles’s evolution from a young royal to a more complex figure illustrates his dynamic complexity.
Possessing the keenest mind in the narrative, the protagonist seeks insights into the causes and effects of conflicts. This character is prone to experiencing profound realizations, contributing to the story’s depth.
Enter the insightful mind of Roman Roy in Succession. Roman’s unique understanding of the business world make him a character with keen insights into the dynamics at play. For example, at the beginning of season 3, he’s capable of foreshadowing the ending of the season for Kendall.
Audience must understand the protagonist in various facets of their life: personal, professional, and inner. This allows the audience insight into the motivations behind their actions and their relationships with other characters.
Uncover the multifaceted life of Margaret Thatcher in The Crown. Thatcher’s personal, professional, and inner dimensions contribute to a three-dimensional portrayal, allowing audiences to understand the motivations behind her actions.
In essence, crafting a protagonist requires a delicate balance of qualities that not only propel the narrative forward but also resonate with the audience on multiple levels. Through willpower, capabilities, underdog status, empathy, intrigue, depth of character, adaptability, insight, and three-dimensionality, a protagonist comes to life, driving the story to its ultimate and compelling resolution.