It is easy to think of the principal character in a story as “the hero.” Many beginning writers tend to base their stories on the adventures or experiences of a hero. As writers become more mature in their craft, they may come to think of their central character as a “protagonist,” or perhaps a “main character.” And yet, through all of this, no consistent definitions of any of these terms have ever been agreed upon. Before we proceed then, it seems prudent to establish what Dramatica means by each of these concepts.
- A Main Character is the player through whom the audience experiences the story first hand.
- A Protagonist is the prime mover of the plot.
- A Hero is a combination of both Main Character and Protagonist.
In other words, a hero is a blended character who does two jobs: move the plot forward and serve as a surrogate for the audience. When we consider all the characters other than a Protagonist who might serve as the audience’s position in a story, suddenly the concept of a hero becomes severely limited. It is not wrong, just limited. The value of separating the Main Character and Protagonist into two different characters can be seen in the motion picture, To Kill a Mockingbird. Here, the character, Atticus, (played by Gregory Peck) is clearly the Protagonist, yet the story is told through the experiences of Scout, his young daughter.
From the Dramatica Theory Book