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How to Fulfill Reader's Expectations

Lesson 7 of 16

A Protagonist – Someone to Root for

 

How to Fulfill Reader's Expectations

Lesson 7 of 16

A Protagonist – Someone to Root for

 

Lesson Info

A Protagonist – Someone to Root for

The reader expects that there will be a protagonist. I cannot say this strongly enough. And I know that might seem one that's self-evident, but you would be surprised how often people leave that part out or they've got a big problem that's affecting a lot of people, so do you really need a main character? We need a protagonist because the protagonist is our lens in the story. Your protagonist is your reader's avatar in the story. No one ever says, whose plot is it? Unless you're writing about a cemetery. People always say whose story is it? This is what your novel is actually about, as we'll discuss. It's about the story, and the story belongs to the protagonist. Without the protagonist, you have just a bunch of things that happened. Because make no mistake, everything that happens in your novel, and I mean everything, is going to get its meaning and emotional weight based on one thing and one thing only and that is how it is affecting your protagonist, meaning you can write things. Pe...

ople will do it all the time. It's like, but this big dramatic thing is happening and believe it or not, birth, death, the fall of the Roman Empire, there is no drama in it if it's not affecting someone who we care about, who gives meaning to it. Because an awful thing might be happening up here, but it might be good for your protagonist. So we don't know, we don't have a scorecard. Is it good, is it bad? I have no idea. It's just a thing that happens. And that's what happens. A story without a protagonist is just a bunch of things that happen. And the great thing is, as we'll discuss, since the story belongs to the protagonist, those things that are gonna happen in your story, the plot, a lot of them, your protagonist probably brought on herself before your story started. So the protagonist is the lens. And you might be thinking, well, wait a minute, a protagonist? Can't you have multiple protagonists or dual protagonists? And you can, but almost always there's one, what I like to call alpha protagonist. There's one person whose story it actually is. And everyone else's story, they all have their own stories, their story's arc, but everyone else's story is there to move that person's story either forward or back, you know, that help them or hurt them. And really ask yourself whose story is it? With multiple protagonists, usually the others, even though they have, again, their own arcs, their own story lines, they're there. And you can tell, you can see, watch. My advice always is, because we're talking about as readers, look at books that you've read that have, seem like they have multiple protagonists, and see if you can find, wait, whose story is it really? And almost always, you can find a person. In that book I was referencing the one by Celeste Ng, Everything I Never Told You, it has, I believe, five point of view characters. And we go deeply into all of them. But there really is, I think, one alpha protagonist, and I would say the protagonist of that book is Lydia, even though Lydia is dead, like from the first page. But it really is her story. So whose story is it? The other thing you wanna think about is you really do want that protagonist to get onto the page really early and in the beginning because we are going to assume that whoever we meet in the beginning is the protagonist. So who is your protagonist? That is what we're looking for. And again, watch when you read. You are looking for this in the first page. Who do I have to root for? Whose story, who's going to give meaning to everything that happens?

Class Description

We’re hardwired to come to every story tacitly asking one question: what am I going to learn that will help me make it through the night? We’re looking for inside intel on how to best navigate the unpredictable, scary, beautiful world we live in. As a result, there’s a set of specific unconscious expectations readers have for every story — expectations that have nothing to do with the surface plot or how beautifully the story is written. By decoding your reader’s hardwired expectations – and how to meet them -- you’ll be able to create a story that will rivet readers from the very first sentence.

In this session you’ll learn:

  • The truth about the writing myths that are holding you back, and why story trumps beautiful writing every time.
  • What it is that actually hooks and holds readers, and how to create the underlying foundation from which a riveting story organically springs.
  • One by one, the specific expectations that readers bring to every story, which together create a set of guidelines that will help you keep your story on track.
  • Why, as a storyteller, you are one of the most powerful people on the planet.

Reviews

Emmanuelle Halliday
 

I appreciated the differentiation between plot and story. Inspiring and usefull throughout. Thanks Lisa.

Emmanuelle Halliday
 

I appreciated the differentiation between plot and story. Inspiring and usefull throughout. Thanks Lisa.

Annick Ina
 

I loved this class. I'm reading Wired For Story at the same time, and this course is a great way to introduce and somehow simplify the concepts before digging deeper and going into more detail in the book!