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How to Nail Your First Three Pages

Lesson 6 of 9

Who is the Protagonist?

Lisa Cron

How to Nail Your First Three Pages

Lisa Cron

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Lesson Info

6. Who is the Protagonist?

Lesson Info

Who is the Protagonist?

The next thing, that you wanna get and think about is who is the protagonist? You want to get them into the action almost immediately because here is the thing, everything that happens in your plot, everything that happens, is going to get its meaning and emotional weight based on one thing and one thing only and that is how it affects the protagonist. Meaning, what everything happens in the plot, the meaning to all of that dramatic action, solely comes from how is it affecting your protagonist because otherwise, you could have something big and objectively dramatic happening, but we as readers, don't know what is a good thing, is that a bad thing? The way that we know if it's good or bad , is based on how it's affecting your protagonist. So without a protagonist, we have no skin in the game. When you think of it this way, your protagonist is your reader's avatar, within the story. When we come in, we know a story is gonna be about, like I said, a big problem it's an unavoidable proble...

m, Whose is it unavoidable to? It's unavoidable to your protagonist, it's not just a big giant problem in the world, that's unavoidable for all of us, because who cares about that? It's your protagonist who matters. Your protagonist, without your protagonist, there is no meaning and there is no yardstick and there is nothing to root for. Think of it this way, you always hear people saying, or you never hear people say, Whose plot is it? You hear people saying, Whose story is it? It's about the story and the story belongs to the protagonist. All meaning comes from how it's affecting your protagonist. Without the protagonist, birth death, all the Roman empire, will be completely neutral. And so you wanna get your protagonist onto the page, as soon as possible. If you can get the protagonist onto page one, that is great. I am not saying you inherently have to, but you really want to, because otherwise we're trying to figure out why is this going to be important to me, why is this going to matter at all. Now, sometimes, when you have dual protagonists, you might say what if I have a dual protagonist or multiple protagonists, then what do I do. Really, I believe that even when you have what's a multiple protagonist there's one protagonist who's what I call, your alpha protagonist. That is the person, who's story it actually is. And everyone else's story, even though they might have really fallen complete stories, are there, to complete and to force your protagonist to go through what she needs to got through, throughout the story and in order to act. For instance, as I said I think a minute ago, in everything I never told you they're five point of view characters, I would actually say if you asked me, that the protagonist is Lydia, Lydia herself. Even though she's already dead. As you can tell, a lot of backstory in this way. Even though she's already dead, because that's the question we go forward with, Why would she put herself in that position? How did she get to be that person? And we find out everything we find out about her parents and her brother and her sister and her friend Jack, based on how it is affecting her and created the struggle in her, that led her to what happened when she died and why she died. And we get that. In fact the penultimate chapter of the book, we are in Lydia's head, as she died and again spoiler alert, we find out very early in the novel that she's drowned, is what's happened. And we find out exactly what it was and what it meant to her in the penultimate chapter of the book. We are in her head as it happens. So she is the protagonist. In this book, what about dual protagonist she might say. Can we have real dual protagonists, two equal protagonists. And you can, but I still think almost always there's what I would call, an alpha protagonist, for instance this novel, all the bright places, has what you might think of as dual protagonist, as it's told in two first person narratives, Finch is one and then the other is a girl named Violet, who we are about to meet and if you asked me I would actually say that it's Violet who's a protagonist, not Finch, even though we've met him here. Luckily, we're going to meet her before the end of page three, so that's all really good. But the reason that you wanna be careful of this, is you wanna be careful if you give us someone who's not the protagonist on page one, we gonna assume that person is the way when we first read that. I assumed that Finch was the protagonist. It took me a while, to get into the book and go no wait, she's the one who's really gonna far he's there for her, not the other way around. See you wanna be careful, that, the rear is willing, to go through that hand off. Then suddenly when they realize this someone else's story, they make oh no I was really attached to that guy, I'm not so interested in this one, so, you know I can still have a snack. So the next thing we need, is we need the protagonist. That's who we looking for, that person's story, that person is gonna be our avatar within the novel.

Class Description

Writers know that the first three pages are the most crucial when it comes to hooking the reader. You have to stoke the reader’s curiosity, making them not just want to know what happens next, but have to. It’s biology! Not only that, but the seeds of everything that will happen in your story are planted in the first few pages. No pressure, right? And to make the task even more daunting, ironically, most of what writers are taught to do in those three pages end up locking the reader out, rather than luring them in.

We’ll debunk myths that may have been leading you astray, zero in on exactly what readers are wired to expect in those first few pages, and how to get it onto the page. And the best news yet: the last thing you want to do when first writing those opening pages is make them “beautiful.” The biggest fear that keeps writers from getting past the first sentence is believing that it has to be “perfect” right out of the starting gate. Not only doesn’t it need to be, it can’t be. Big sigh of relief!

In this session you’ll learn how to:

  • Duct tape the critical inner voice to a chair so you can really write.
  • Create the five essential things your reader is wired to expect on the first three pages.
  • Plant the seeds of what’s to come beginning on the very first page.
  • Avoid the crippling myth of “holding important info back for a big reveal later.”
  • Make your reader have to know what happens next.


Elise Loyacano Perl

I rewatched this recently to help me as I was getting ready to write my first few pages. Very helpful guide in focusing on important aspects of how to hook the reader. Lisa Cron is clear and engaging. I highly recommend all her classes.

Caleb Koh

I love and immensely enjoy Lisa Cron's classes! They are packed with so much insightful information, palpable exhilaration and courageous authenticity. She provides enormous value at a fraction of what she SHOULD charge! This class is no exception. Thank you, Lisa, for all that you do here at creativeLIVE.

Jacquelyn Dohoney

A friend of mine recommended this class to me and I'm so glad she did! Now I know exactly how to reorganize my first chapter!