What Makes a Strong Lead Character?

by jeanineoloughlin

Thinking Through My Fingers

“Writing, to me, is simply thinking through my fingers.” – Issac Asimov

Lead characters or protagonists are what propel the reader through your story. Now what makes a “strong” lead character? Now a “strong” character doesn’t mean that they need to be a hero type, from my perspective what makes a good strong lead character is someone who has a strong personality and can make a strong connection with the reader.

When I’m developing characters I always try to work on imagining or visualizing their personality. How do they express themselves, verbally & non-verbally? A lot of this information is included in my pre-writing outlines, but when I actually start writing I find that the word choice I use to describe the character and the way I develop their voice has the biggest impact. In an early draft it’s not uncommon for a lot of my characters to sound the same and become this homogenous suite of names within the context of the plot. So as I’m editing i really focus on the voice of each character, trying to project their personality from the page to the reader. I them to draw reactions from my readers, are they likeable, are they annoying, do the readers hate them? If I’m not getting the right responses from my alpha readers I know that the personality isn’t strong enough, or perhaps too strong.

I’ll try and dig more deeply into the different character archetypes but just think that to make a strong lead character does not necessarily mean they have to be the hero type. Your character could be a victim or an anti-hero, but as long as they have a strong personality that the readers can connect with that is what’s important.

Happy Writing!