32. The Lazy Protagonist & The Recipe For Bread/Story

The beginning storyteller’s biggest problem.

Lazy protagonists.

Maybe not lazy.


Protagonists that don’t push the story themselves. The story is happening to them, not because of them. There’s a difference.

And this is a mistake I made over and over for a long time. It’s a rookie mistake that I still see a lot of writers doing.

Note — I’m talking about protagonists. Not narrators. No Nick Carraway’s here.

The protagonist is the deeply-flawed son-of-a-bitch who is the root of the mayhem. They’re the ones who strive to make something happen. They’re the ones who push the buttons that make the puzzle of the story slot together.

Sure you can start with something happening to the protagonist, but from when the story gets going, they need to take the reigns.

It clicked for me when I wrote my first novel.

I’d written a lot of short stories, y’see.

You can get away with it in short stories. You can play with the format. Get all crazy like. But in a novel, you have to create something deeper. You have to create a character who’s going to go through some sort of change in the story.

Here’s the recipe/formula/structure:

1.) A character.
2.) Wants something to happen.
3.) Somebody or something else doesn’t want that to happen.
4.) The character decides to try.
5.) They succeed or fail. 
Bonus point:
6.) You write about it.

Thanks to Take Off Your Pants for helping me with that.

These ingredients will bake a nice loaf of bread. They will give you that wholesome filling experience. Run your favourite stories through that formula and you’ll see where they line up.

Of course you can mess that formula up and make your own crazy concoctions … but this is one that works.

You want to make something different? Go for it. Make banana bread.

But it’s going to taste a lot better if your protagonist is active.


Find this post useful? Great. Now stop being a lazy protagonist and give us a recommend you cheeky monkey.

Luke Kondor is a filmmaker and writer. He started writing on his computer in his early teens and never looked back, and now he’s got really sore eyes.

He’s part of the digital story studio — Hawk & Cleaver where he helps to create the best new stories for you to watch, read, sniff, and absorb.