Select Page

Passive to active: let goals be your guide

by | Jun 21, 2013 | Review | 0 comments

passive, active, protagonist

To make a passive protagonist active, clarify her goal

As a substantive editor, one of the most common problems I run into—especially with new writers—is that of the passive protagonist.

I suspect that this is because writers are, by nature, observers. We pay close attention to the world around us. That’s great, but it’s not so great when our protagonists become passive observers, when other characters in the story take the most interesting and important actions.

Remember: your story belongs to your hero. We want to see what she’s up to. So make sure that she has a clear goal and that she actively pursues and refines it, gaining greater and greater insight into what she really needs as her story progresses. 

That will keep your story on-track, which is a good thing, because, when the protagonist is passive—when she’s not pursuing a clear goal—the story tends to wander all over the place, spawning subplots, trying to find its core.

So give your hero a difficult task and set her at it!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Freshsheet Reviews logo reversed

Subscribe Free!

Sign up for the FRESH SHEET newsletter and get curated local, national, and international arts coverage — all sorts of arts — every week.


Drop a line to


FRESH SHEET, the reviews and FRESH SHEET, the newsletter are available free. But writing them is a full-time job and arts criticism is in peril. Please support FRESH SHEET by sending an e-transfer to or by becoming a patron on Patreon.

Copyright ©2024 Colin Thomas. All rights reserved.