What is the Protagonist in a Story?

What is the protagonist in a story? Let’s discuss what a protagonist is, look at examples, and talk about how to write a protagonist!


Have you ever read a book or watched a movie and wondered who the protagonist is? For that matter, do you wonder what is the protagonist in a story? You’re lucky because that’s the question we’re here to answer! That question is the title of this article, after all. 

Protagonist definition:

The protagonist is the main character of the story. This is the person who experiences conflict and strives to overcome obstacles during the narrative. The protagonist usually undergoes a transformation during the story, growing as a person. Often the protagonist is heroic, but they can be ordinary or have some negative characteristics. 

Protagonist examples 

Now that we know what a protagonist is let’s discuss some examples from movies, books, and video games. 

Protagonist in literature 

Who is the protagonist of The Great Gatsby?

Who is the protagonist of The Great Gatsby?

The Great Gatsby tells the story of the protagonist Jay Gatsby, a wealthy man desperate to win the love of the beautiful Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby throws lavish parties hoping that Daisy will attend, but she always seems just out of reach. 

Gatsby’s Conflict & Antagonist  

Though he is the titular character, Gatsby is not necessarily the novel’s hero. He is a flawed man, ultimately brought down by his obsession and desperation. Nevertheless, he remains an intriguing and enigmatic figure, and his struggle to recover lost love resonates with readers. 

Gatsby’s primary antagonist is Tom, Daisy’s husband, who murders Gatsby at the novel’s conclusion. Tom is also an obstacle to Gatsby’s goal of winning Daisy’s love. 

Another primary character in the novel is Nick Carraway, Gatsby’s best friend, and the book’s narrator. Nick is the point of view character; however, Jay experiences all of the novel’s conflict and is the primary focus of the narrative. These factors make Jay the protagonist, not Nick. 

Protagonist in film

Who is the protagonist of Encanto 

Who is the protagonist of Encanto? 

Maribel Madrigal is the protagonist of Encanto. She is the youngest member of her family and the only non-magical person living in the enchanted Casita house. Maribel is a bit of an outcast due to her lack of magic powers; however, she remains a positive and empathetic young girl. 

Maribel’s Conflict 

Maribel is also the center of the film’s conflict as she has visions of the family home, Casita, cracking, and worries about her family’s fate. Ultimately, Maribel is the key to saving Casita as she brings her family together, many of them suffering from the responsibility of their powers.

Maribel’s argument with her mother, Alma, destroys Casita. Still, Maribel reunites her family with their lost member, Bruno, and directs them in rebuilding their home.  

Protagonists in video games

Arthur Morgan: Protagonist of Red Dead Redemption II 

Red Dead Redemption II tells the story of middle-aged cowboy Arthur Morgan as he and his gang try to stay one step ahead of the law. Arthur’s primary goal is survival as he participates in dangerous heists, prison breakouts, and the occasional barroom brawl.

Arthur’s Conflict & Antagonist

Dutch, the leader of Arthur’s game, and Dutch’s lieutenant Micah play primary antagonists to Arthur as they lead the gang into increasing peril throughout the game. Arthur’s conflict is compounded as he collapses in the street one day. He wakes up in a doctor’s office and learns he’s contracted tuberculosis- a disease that will eventually kill him. 

Arthur’s resolution depends on decisions made by the player. Still, all roads lead to a grisly end for this tragic hero.   

What is a Silent Protagonist?

A silent protagonist is a character who does not speak or otherwise communicate throughout the story. The term is often used in video games, where the player controls the character’s actions but not their dialogue. 

While the term can apply to any story, it is most commonly used concerning works of fiction that strongly emphasize player choice and agency. In many cases, silent protagonists are simply a reflection of the player’s own choices and values. However, there are some instances where the protagonist’s silence is crucial to the plot or theme of the story. 

 For example, a silent protagonist might be used to convey the feeling of isolation or loneliness. In some cases, the protagonist’s silence might also be used to create an atmosphere of suspense or mystery. Ultimately, whether or not a character is a silent protagonist is primarily up to the author or game designer. However, it is worth noting that silence can be a powerful tool for storytelling.

Opposite of a protagonist- Protagonist vs. Antagonist 

In any story, there are usually two opposing forces at work: the protagonist and the antagonist. The protagonist is the main character, typically fighting for something good or just trying to survive. 

The antagonist is the force opposing the protagonist, whether it be an evil person, a natural disaster, or bad luck. In many cases, the antagonist is also the source of conflict in the story. Without an antagonist, there would be no conflict. Most plots rely on an antagonistic force to move the narrative forward. 

For example, in the story of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Dr. Jekyll is both the protagonist and the antagonist. He is fighting against his dark nature, represented by Mr. Hyde. 

When reading or watching a story, pay attention to who or what the protagonist and antagonist are. The antagonist is the thing that keeps your main character from achieving their goals. 

How to Pronounce Protagonist 

How to write a Protagonist in Five Steps

A protagonist is the main character in a story, and writing a good one can be a challenge. There are a few key things to remember when creating a protagonist. 

Step 1: Make your hero likable. 

First, your protagonist should be someone that the reader can empathize with and root for. This doesn’t mean that they need to be perfect. Making your character too perfect will probably make your reader hate them- this phenomenon is called Mary Sue

The best way to get a reader invested in your characters is to make your hero an underdog. Stack the cards against your hero, and give them a seemingly impossible antagonist. People will identify with a character who starts from the bottom and grows as an individual through the narrative. 

Step 2: Make your hero relatable. 

Second, your protagonist should be relatable and believable, even if they have extraordinary qualities. Just like in step one, you want to brainstorm ways to make your hero imperfect. Give your character flaws and weaknesses. Even Superman has to deal with Kryptonite now and then. Flaws make characters believable.  

Step 3: Make your hero proactive.

Third, they should be active and driven, striving towards their goals. Initially, they may be reluctant, but your story’s inciting incident has forced them into action by disrupting their lives. So, give your hero a goal. Every decision your character makes is towards that goal. 

Step 5: Create a compelling arc 

And finally, their arc should be compelling and satisfying. That means your character’s goal is enough to keep a reader engaged. Whatever challenges get in your way should be challenging enough that it almost seems impossible for your hero to overcome. 

Some protagonists never achieve their goals, like in tragedies. Jay Gatsby never reunites with Daisy. Other heroes achieve their goals after considerable efforts and setbacks. We’re getting into the elements of the plot; read more about plot here.  

If you can nail these essentials, you’ll be well on your way to writing a great protagonist.

Protagonist with questionable morals or Antihero 

This is a typical crossword puzzle clue, and you’re probably thinking of an antihero. So, let’s talk about antiheroes

An antihero is a main character in a story that lacks the traditional qualities of a heroic figure. Unlike a hero, an antihero often has negative or morally ambiguous qualities. These qualities may include things like selfishness, arrogance, or deceitfulness. 

In many cases, an antihero is also an underdog who triumphs through sheer force of will or by unexpectedly defeating a more powerful opponent. 

The term “antihero” has been used in literature for decades, but it gained widespread popularity in the 20th century with the rise of stories that featured protagonists with dark and complex psyches. 

Today, antiheroes are a staple of popular culture, from comic book superheroes to TV detectives. Whatever their flaws, antiheroes continue to captivate audiences. Antiheroes offer a more realistic and relatable view of human nature.

How to pronounce protagonist: 

Protagonist synonyms 

Protagonist synonyms 

Protagonist is an interchangeable term with many others- most notably hero or main characters. Here is a list of protagonist synonyms pulled from thesaurus.com

  • central character
  • central figure
  • central player
  • hero
  • heroine
  • key player
  • lead character
  • leading character
  • leading figure
  • leading player
  • main character
  • main figure

 That’s everything we have on protagonists for now. But check out our “character” tab to read articles on heroes, villains, and all the characters in between!

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