Writing Lesson #2: Developing Your Romantic Protagonists

This is one of my favorite stages in the romantic story outlining process. This is your chance to play God and create your own Adam and Eve. When you create romantic protagonists you must fall in love with them and care about them. There are two reasons why you need to care about your protagonists: A. You will be spending a long time with them while creating your story – so it is important that you enjoy your company. B. Readers can feel whether you care about your protagonists or not. If they sense the latter they will loose interest in your story from the beginning. With that said, do not ever fall in love with your story. Your story will go through changes and evolve, as your plot will proceed. Romantic stories are first and foremost a medium of entertainment, so whenever you write always think about the audience – your readers. Make sure that your final product, A.K.A. Romantic story, has all the right ingredients to make a story that readers will not want to leave until the end. To create such a good story you really need to invest in the foundation: your romantic protagonists, which I explain here, and your romantic conflict, which I will explore in the next lesson.

Here are four key elements that you need to take into account when developing your Romantic Protagonists:


Romantic protagonists should be polar-opposites to each other in order to create a great romantic conflict.  I will discuss romantic conflict in the next lesson. The polarity can be external: people from different backgrounds such as nationality, culture, religion, or social status. Polarity can also be internal: different traits of personality such as preferences, interests, goals, or hopes. The more differences your protagonists have between them the merrier. 


Bigger than Life

Most romance stories fall under the fantasy category, an escapism. Your romantic protagonists are people that readers can recognize in life, but to make them more interesting and fascinating they should be bigger than life. Don’t be afraid to equip them with above average looks, wisdom, and success, you will balance those traits with above average troubles (conflict and crisis). They should have weaknesses, without a fault or two we wouldn’t have a story, but in order to create a magical romantic world where your readers can forget about their daily reality, plump your protagonists up. For centuries humanity has been more interested in the life of the gods and goddesses of Olympus, or the Royals in Buckingham Palace more than in their neighbors’ life. It is not going to change any time soon. Even television reality shows emphasize the extra ordinary qualities of their participants to make them more appealing and interesting for the viewer. 


Your readers must like your romantic protagonists and care about them from the beginning, or they might not want to keep on reading your story. To create this bonding between your protagonists and your readers, you need to plant a piece of information at the beginning of the story that will make them likeable. In screenwriting it is called “pat the dog”. Volunteering, doing charity, caring for a young child or an older parent, surviving a disaster or an illness, and sacrificing personal will for the sake of the family are just a few examples of how to make your readers empathize with your protagonists.

Round Characters

When you design your romantic protagonists leave room for improvement. They should be “The Bold and the Beautiful” to begin with, but not completely perfect. During the story your protagonists will go through a journey where they will learn, evolve, and become better people. A protagonist might start the story proud and then learn to be humble, just like Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth in Pride and Prejudice. A protagonist can be cynical, bitter, and opportunistic at the beginning and through love he/she can learn to be loving, trusting, and become a philanthropist, like Edward in Pretty Woman. In literature the main characters should be round  - people who change through the story. The other characters are usually flat – they don't change.  They appear in the story to contribute to the plot but the story is not about them, they just function in their designated role.

Next lesson: Creating a Compelling Romantic Conflict

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