on The Creative Penn:
Your protagonist is the reader’s doorway into your story. As author Florence Osmund shares, if you get readers to care about that character, they’ll stick around until the last page to see what happens.
There is no shortage of articles and books that have been written about how to develop the main character (protagonist) of your novel—how to make him or her believable, authentic, unique, interesting, motivated, dynamic, vulnerable, dimensional, and flawed.
These are all good characteristics to keep in mind, but if the reader doesn’t care about the protagonist, the story will likely be doomed.
In my mind, caring for the character means that if they were a real person, you would jump to their aid if they needed it. For readers to become engaged in the story—whether it’s emotionally or intellectually—they must care about the main character, his or her journey, and the outcome.
Good storytelling is key to developing a deep interaction between the narrator and reader, taking the reader as close into the story and its characters as possible. One could argue that characters are the foundation for the whole story—the vehicle through whom your reader experiences the journey.
Making characters feel real to the reader is extremely important—without believable characters, readers won’t have someone in the story to like, dislike, or care about in any way, making the other elements of the story irrelevant. An effective narrator/reader connection makes a story come to life, and it can be accomplished with a protagonist that readers care about.
So how does one go about creating a cherishable main character, one that readers care about? Consider the following strategies: