Want to get technical with your story knowledge? Well, the protagonist is quite literally the center of every story. Read on to learn all about protagonists and our tips for creating one for yourself.
If screenwriting is not your thing, check out our page on filmmaking to capture your new protagonists and antagonists on screen.
What is a protagonist?
A protagonist, put simply, is the main character in a story. They are the characters around which the story revolves, as their decisions and actions influence the plot. They are also the characters who often face the most obstacles, and the audience follows their fate closely.
Famous protagonist examples in film
- Tony Stark as Iron Man
- Harry Potter
- Bilbo Baggins in the Hobbit
- Luke Skywalker in Star Wars
- James Bond
- Indiana Jones
- Rocky Balboa in Rocky
- Marty McFly in Back to the Future
- Neo in the Matrix
4 Types of protagonist
1. A Hero/Heroine
This is the most common type of protagonist- a character respected and famed for their good and noble qualities. They usually laud plenty of strength, courage, virtue, and honor. They are the unmistakable ‘good guy’ of the narrative.
2. An Anti Hero
The anti-hero is the exact opposite of the hero in the story. They often lack attributes of morality, courage, and idealism.
3. A Tragic hero
This is what we call the protagonist in your classic tragedy narrative, the character with a ‘fatal flaw’ that will bring about their downfall.
Think Prince Hamlet from Hamlet or Blanche from a Streetcar Named Desire.
4. A false protagonist
Sometimes we follow a character in a story who we think is the protagonist and then switch to the real protagonist later on. This is done to disorient the reader.
Think Llewelyn in No Country for Old Men.
2 Tips for writing a strong protagonist
1. Create depth and complexity
Since the protagonist is the center of your story, they have to be interesting enough to engage your audience.
Therefore, you’ll want to create a character with plenty of depth and layers. This will not only keep your character more relatable for audiences, but it will keep them interested as well.
2. Avoid absolutes
A good protagonist is a relatable protagonist. Therefore, you should go to extremes on the morality spectrum- no one in real life is the devil or a literal angel. Keep a balance to keep your audience on their feet.
What is an antagonist?
The antagonist is the main opposer of the protagonist and works to combat them throughout the story as the central source of conflict.
They often have complex morals and disturbing backstories- many new films work to explore their mentalities as well: think Joker!
Famous antagonist examples in film
- The Joker in Batman
- Saruman in the Lord of the Rings
- Lord Voldemort in Harry Potter
- Darth Vader in Star Wars
- Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs
- Captain Hook in Peter Pan
- Agent Smith in the Matrix
- Scar in the Lion King
- Hans Gruber in Die Hard
3 Types of antagonist
1. A villain
The most traditional type of antagonist is the villain. These bad guys work to destroy the protagonist in the evilest way possible and are the central source of conflict in the story. Think Darth Vader from Star Wars.
2. A conflict-creator
This antagonist doesn’t create conflict for the force of evil or hatred. Sometimes an antagonist is created purely because their interests conflict directly with those of the protagonist. Think Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice.
3. The protagonist themselves
In some mind-bending narratives, the antagonist can be found within the protagonist. Protagonists may have fatal flaws or insecurities that bring about their downfall in the same way a villain might. Think Holden Caulfield in The Catcher in the Rye.
3 Tips for writing a strong antagonist
1. Include multidimensionality
Fascinating antagonists to follow are those with depth to their character and background. The protagonist in your story should by no means be the only character with layers- make sure you develop your antagonist just as much.
2. Add goodness to the character
As we said earlier, it’s best not to stick to moral extremes. An antagonist who is too evil immediately becomes unrelatable and challenging to follow. Even in narratives with evil villains, adding goodness in these characters gives them depth and allows the story to stay exciting.
3. Make them difficult to beat but possible
Nothing is more underwhelming than a final fight scene that is easily won. You don’t want to spend your entire story building up a conflict between protagonist and antagonist for it to crumble apart in a minute.
Therefore, keep some balance in your antagonist’s power. Don’t make them too weak, yet don’t make them all-powerful either!
What is the difference between a protagonist and an antagonist
This is easy to remember since the protagonist and antagonist are pretty much opposite each other. The protagonist works towards the central goals of the narrative, whereas the antagonist works against them.
Famous protagnoist and antagonist pairs
- Sherlock Holmes vs. Professor Moriarty, Sherlock Holmes
- Harry Potter vs. Lord Voldemort, The Harry Potter series
- Elizabeth Bennet vs. Mr. Darcy and Mr. Wickham, Pride & Prejudice
- Hamlet vs. Kind Claudius, Hamlet
Become a better scriptwriter
Now that you’ve learned how to construct a protagonist and antagonist, it’s time to make a story ready for the screen. Head over to our page on video scripts to get writing.
What is a protagonist?
A protagonist is a central character around which the plot of a story revolves. Their actions and decisions influence and manipulate the plot and other characters within the story.
What is an example of a protagonist?
Examples of protagonists include Harry Potter, Luke Skywalker, Indiana Jones.
What is the difference between a protagonist and an antagonist?
The antagonist is the antonym of the protagonist. Whatever goal the protagonist seeks to achieve in the narrative, the antagonist will combat this and cause conflict.