What is your protagonist DOING?


The most common problem that I run into is passive protagonists. It’s also one of the easiest and most rewarding problems to fix.

I have read drafts that were full of beautiful descriptive prose and almost no action. These manuscripts seduce at first, but very quickly become boring.

As readers, we want to see a story develop. The best way to make that happen is to allow the protagonist to identify—and pursue—a goal. Your hero won’t instantly achieve their goal, of course; they’ll have to try different strategies. As they apply these strategies, they’ll acquire enemies, allies—and wisdom. And, as that wisdom accumulates, the protagonist’s goal will deepen.

In every story that I’ve worked on, the seeds of the protagonist’s goals have always been present, although they’ve sometimes been buried. Give those seeds and little light and nourishment and—Presto! Change-o!—your manuscript can go from flat to exciting in one rewrite.


About Colin Thomas

Colin Thomas is a Vancouver-based editor, an award-winning playwright, and an established theatre critic. Colin helps writers unlock the full potential of their novels, short stories, screenplays, and children's books.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Sign up—free!—

YEAH, THIS IS ANNOYING. But my theatre newsletter is fun!

Sign up and get curated international coverage + local reviews every Thursday!