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No protagonist is the same. They all have their own unique personality that helps define the story they’re in. When readers read your thriller novel, they need to be able to identify with your protagonist and understand why he or she does what they do. It’s important that you develop a protagonist who has weaknesses, strengths, and character flaws so that it becomes easier for readers to connect with them on an emotional level.

What are the protagonist’s weaknesses, strengths, and fears?

  • Protagonist’s weaknesses might be that he/she is too emotional and needs to control their emotions more in order to succeed.
  • Protagonist has many strengths such as being very intelligent, having great observational skills, is good at problem solving etc.
  • Potagonist fears the unknown because they hate not knowing what will happen next or how it will turn out.

Here are some examples of weaknesses

Your protagonist may have one major weakness that is hardwired into his/her personality. This could be something physical like being afraid of something that will stop him/her from completing a mission.

This weakness could also be internal, like an addiction or low self-confidence that can cause the protagonist to make mistakes.

Sometimes the protagonist takes too many risks which can be dangerous because the antagonist wants them dead.

Your protagonist may be impulsive and reckless, doesn’t think things through.

Here are some examples of strengths



Strengths are the protagonist’s abilities or traits that they use to help them accomplish what needs done. They can be positive, negative or both and we see protagonist developing different strengths throughout a story because the protagonist learns from their experiences and actions whether successful or not.

Perhaps your protagonist has superior fighting skills that save him and his team from certain death.

Or maybe he has a photographic memory that allows him to recall an important detail later on in the story.

Your protagonist is courageous and able to make difficult decisions when necessary.

Your protagonist is quick to act and take chances.

Your protagonist is nurturing and has empathy.

Here are some examples of fears

Real fears

Protagonist is afraid of losing his family which makes him an easy target for the antagonist to manipulate the protagonist’s actions with threats against his family.

Protagonist also knows that if he dies it will leave his wife alone with their daughter without anyone protecting them.

Protagonist fears being alone.

Imagined fears

Protagonist is afraid of his own demons.

Protagonist might be aware of the fact that he has not always made good choices in life, and fears that he may die before becoming the person he strives to become.

Protagonist fears enclosed spaces.

How does the protagonist’s personality change over the course of the novel?


Your protagonist’s personality changes over the course of the novel because he/she learns to control their emotions more and becomes less afraid of what will happen next. By taking chances and finding success your protagonist becomes more confident. This in turn leads to clearer thinking helping the protagonist to act without hesitation in order to get things done more quickly.

As the protagonist becomes more confident he/she also becomes more capable. He or she gains the ability to take control of situations and make better decisions for themselves, which makes them feel accomplished as a protagonist.

How does the protagonist’s personality influence other characters? The protagonist’s personality influences other characters by giving them someone to look up to and follow. This is especially important when the protagonist leads a group of people who are trying to achieve a common goal. Through his/her actions the protagonist sets an example for others which inspires growth in those around him.

How can you develop a dynamic character?

There are several ways to do this. One way is by defining the protagonist’s past experiences and how they have affected him as an individual. You should also develop their current situation in terms of family life, work situations etc.

This is where internal (emotional) conflict comes into play – what they want vs. what they need or are afraid to do etc. However, another key component of developing a protagonist’s personality is his moral code, how he will react when he is pushed to the limit and what he will do in order to protect those that are important to him.

For example, protagonist A may be a very caring individual who is willing to risk everything for family members whereas protagonist B does not have strong ties with anyone other than protagonist C etc … this makes them weaker/stronger as characters.

Protagonist could be a little selfish sometimes, but also caring towards others at other times. They can do something really bad one day then turn around and do something heroic the next day as long as it fits with their personality.

You could develop the protagonist through their fears. Identify what the protagonist’s deepest fear may be, then address this in subsequent scenes throughout your story. This will help to create an emotional connection between protagonist and audience while also adding depth and intrigue to the story.

How does fear of enclosed spaces affect him? He can’t take public transportation, he prefers to walk everywhere even if it’s hot outside because his apartment is small and he doesn’t like feeling closed in. When there are too many people around or when someone gets up close while they’re talking, this person feels trapped.

Why do we need to know about this character in detail?

What purpose will it serve for readers to understand who they are, what they want, their motivations?

In order to understand why the protagonist is doing the things he/she does, your readers need to know about your protagonist’s background.

You may feel the protagonist is a hero for his/her actions but the protagonist would almost never feel like the main figure or one of the most prominent figures in a real situation. This is because of how the protagonist was raised and the fact that he/she has had to do some really bad things in order to survive or protect somebody else from getting hurt or killed.

Your protagonist is the character who will be driving the events of your story forward, and their personality isn’t just an aspect that you can ignore in order to get on with telling the rest of your novel. It should be an important factor in developing the protagonist’s character arc.

For example, protagonist has to have a reason why he/she is doing what they are doing and it should be something that you can relate to or understand too. He/She could just want money, but then there needs to be more of an explanation for how protagonist feels about having enough money for what he/she needs to reach his/her goal for it to makes sense.

The protagonist needs to be likeable so that the reader wants them to succeed, but at the same time they need to have an important flaw or weakness which is going to stop protagonist from achieving their goal without help – protagonist’s strengths are part of what will drive protagonist towards their goals, and also factor into how he/she reaches it.

How would you define your protagonist?


Is your protagonist someone who has made mistakes in their past but is trying to redeem themselves or someone who is more hardened by life and doesn’t want anything from anyone else?

Let’s say your protagonist is someone who has made mistakes in his past, but he is trying to make amends.

Start with his goals, weaknesses and strengths. Then discuss his personality development throughout the story; how he changes as events unfold in the plot as he faces significant conflicts and obstacles.

For example: He can become more confident or less afraid of his environment over time depending on what he experiences. His sense of humour and his relationships with other characters also change as protagonist interacts more. He starts off by being a loner, but he is trying to make amends.

Are protagonist’s strengths related to the protagonist’s weaknesses? I would say that protagonist’s strengths are not directly related to protagonist’s weaknesses because protagonist does have some strengths like intelligence which can be seen as a protagonist’s strength.

How do we make our characters more relatable through dialogue, reactions, thoughts, etc.?

Dialogue: Protagonist’s dialogue should be relatable to the reader. For example, protagonist could express emotions that a normal human being would feel in certain situations. It’s important to show the depth of these emotions. Your protagonist is not a robot after all, he/she will have emotions and make mistakes just like everyone else.

Reactions: Readers need to feel the protagonist’s pain. Make sure the drama lies in the protagonist’s reactions. His reactions are ones that help other characters grow and connect with protagonist as well since they also need to learn from or about each other.

Thoughts: Protagonist’s thoughts should be similar to protagonist’s dialogue since it is how protagonist communicates emotions and feelings.

To conclude, thriller novels are based around a protagonist who has his/her own personality which must come through in the writing of the novel. It should talk about weaknesses, strengths, character traits as well as dialogue, reactions and thoughts that help make protagonist who they are throughout the novel.

What is the difference between a protagonist’s personality and their backstory?

Backstory is what defines protagonist whereas personality is how protagonist changes through out the story. The difference is what they do with their life.

Backstory: Protagonist’s backstory is the part of their life that defines who they are in present time. It can be complex or simple, but it should always relate to protagonist’s personality and how protagonist changes.

Personality: Protagonist’s personality is defined by what happens throughout the novel; how the protagonist reacts to different situations with other characters. It’s important to make sure protagonist reacts to situations in his best interest, otherwise he isn’t a well-developed character.

In closing

Make sure the protagonist has a compelling reason for wanting to solve the mystery. Protagonist should be intelligent and resourceful. Protagonist needs flaws that make them interesting. Pick up the challenge to make your protagonist someone your readers will root for, cry with, and celebrate with. That will never be a waste of your time. You can do it 🙂



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