Recent feedback on one of my scripts suggested that one member of my ensemble supporting cast should become the protagonist because she was the “most interesting character”.
However, in my opinion, she was too badass to be the protagonist.
“What?” you say. “What’s wrong with interesting, badass protagonists? You are filling your head with Jane Austen nonsense!”
Well, hang fire, let me explain. And secondly, Jane Austen wrote interesting, badass, compelling and FUNNY protagonists. (She also makes for an excellent protag in that film with Anne Hathaway and James McAvoy.
The protagonist is the central character of a piece. It is her story. More than that, she undertakes a journey in that story that changes who she is as she rises to meet its challenges.
My badass character didn’t change. She was badass at the beginning and she was badass at the end. She was the Han Solo of the story.
The character I marked as my protagonist was flawed and suffered from his mistakes and finally got through to the end.
So you cry: “But what about dual protagonists? Make them a duo of awesome! He can be the wussy one and she can be the badass one!”
Dual protagonists are awesome. Castle, the TV show about which I cannot say enough good things, is a brilliant example of a dual protagonist story. Castle and Beckett are both flawed compelling badass characters, but she struggles with her failures over her mother’s murder and he seeks meaning in a life of rich extravagance. They are two characters who change and evolve. But then they’ve had four seasons to do it in.
In my Cyber Crime Sleuth novel, the story is told from the perspective of my streetwise ex-con with something to prove. He goes through the wringer during the novel (as good protagonists should), finds a niche for himself, and develops into an upright pillar of the community (sorta).
Meanwhile, my agoraphobic hacker unleashes her skills on the investigation. She’s a talented genius at the start and she’s a talented genius at the end, so does she fit the bill? Absolutely – because she goes through an emotional journey that shows her that being a talented genius is all very well, but there’s more to living than that.
In the end, you have to feel for the protagonist. You have to invest in them. However, they can share screen space with badass, interesting characters without those folk becoming the central character.