5 Different Character Traits Every Protagonist Should Have

5 Different Character Traits Every Protagonist Should Have

By on Aug 3, 2015 in Fiction, Writing & Editing


In every novel, or a short story, the protagonist is the most well rounded character. The protagonist usually has character traits that make the reader connect with him or her, as well as flaws that add dimension to the character and make the protagonist seem more real. However, the character traits mentioned below are the kind of traits that help move the story forward. They add motivations behind the attitude of the protagonist, and serve as causes in various cause and effect links that move the plot forward in any story or novel. Many actions that the protagonist takes, the decisions that he or she makes, are the result of the following character traits.

1. Curiosity

A curious protagonist will want to solve every mystery, every puzzle and will want to know things that he or she might not be supposed to know. This means that the protagonist will take action, look for clues, and that usually leads to them finding out secrets, and maybe even getting into trouble because of what they’ve found out. Humans are curious by nature – however, a protagonist needs other traits that will make him or her act and move the plot forward.

2. Self-preservation

Self-preservation comes right after curiosity because no matter how curious the protagonist is, if he or she falls into danger because of what they have discovered, it can become too much for them. This is when their sense of self-preservation comes in – and it makes the protagonist act in a different way than before, aiming towards escaping danger, or protecting himself or herself from harm. This doesn’t mean that the story, and the plot would stop completely, it changes the direction of the story instead.

3. Duty

Many protagonists have professions that come with a sense of duty – detectives, or doctors who will take every action to help those that need their help. And even kings and queens, and heads of families will want to protect their people. Duty is always accompanied by a sense of responsibility, but, duty by itself is also not enough to move the story forward. And this is where empathy comes in.

4. Empathy

Empathic protagonists are easy to like, and to connect with. Empathy completes duty and responsibility – the protagonist takes actions not only because he feels that he has to, but because he wants to help those in need. This motivates him to go above and beyond to solve a mystery, save a hostage, or, if the protagonist is a doctor or a scientist, find the right cure for a patient. Empathy makes the protagonist act and actually be a hero for the people that he wants to help and protect.

5. Leadership

Leadership almost goes without saying. The protagonist needs to be a leader to move the story forward. A leader will not wait for things to happen, but will take action instead. A good leader also takes care of the people he or she leads, and this is where the traits mentioned above come in, and complete the protagonist as a character. The protagonist that cares about the people around him has plenty to lose if he fails in his mission to protect them, and this helps to build the suspense. This also serves as a leash – it keeps the protagonist from taking actions that might put in danger the people he cares about, which puts him into situations that will ask of him to think everything through, which will make him grow as a person, and add another layer to his character arc.

Image credit: Tim Regan on flickr and reproduced under Creative Commons 2.0

Georgina Roy wants to live in a world filled with magic. As an art student, she’s moonlighting as a writer and is content to fill notebooks and sketchbooks with magical creatures and amazing new worlds. When she is not at school, or scribbling away in a notebook, you can usually find her curled up, reading a good urban fantasy novel, or writing on her laptop, trying to create her own.



  1. Character Traits of Every Protagonist – CHO LITERARY BLOG - […] http://e-booksindia.com/5-different-character-traits-every-protagonist-should-have/ […]

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