Monday, May 18, 2015

Relatable Protagonists

Note: I have never before left Blogger to publish a post for me, so when I went away with my family to Barcelona (Catalonia! Almost like a real-life Prisoner of the Pyrenees :) Has anyone else been to Spain? Leave a comment to say where you went!) I was hoping it would all work out as it's meant to. Sadly, the post didn't publish at all. Here it is now.

At root, stories are about people responding to their environments—whether those are situations of physical strain or mental tension, or both. As readers, we want to have a main character (protagonist) we can stick with through thick and thin.

Protagonists that are
  • heroic
  • smart
  • strong (physically, mentally, or spiritually)
are great, and we can enjoy seeing the world from the perspective of someone who has a special skill that we don’t have.

Besides the epic qualities, though, we need to see a few down-to-earth flaws too. We want to pretend that if we were in the protagonist’s shoes, we might also have a shot at scraping through his challenges and coming out victorious. In other words, we love a character who is relatable on some level.


One of the most relatable characters I’ve come across is from a John Buchan yarn, Huntingtower. The chubby, retired greengrocer Dickson McCunn has misplaced romantic notions about what adventure is like, and sets about planning one for himself. His walking-holiday through Scotland becomes a thing of the past as he is drawn into a real-life adventure—and realizes he’d much rather settle into an armchair with a book and a cup of tea than scramble about the glens trying to free a princess.

“Old” McCunn’s character was a pleasure on many counts. Like me, he can’t run for miles, likes mellow poetry, relishes classic tales of bravery, and is lost for words when politeness and honesty are at odds. The thoughts and emotions that assault him were just the ones I would have encountered in his place. Ultimately, the only reason he stays the course of the task, despite being sorely tempted to make a dash for the safety of home, is his sense of duty.

He is so ordinary, in fact, that one wonders how he could be a protagonist at all. His special skill—the mind of a businessman and a heart for taking responsibility seriously— is what makes the other characters come to appreciate him and miss him when he's absent.

It’s your turn! Who's a protagonist you admire and why? Is there some aspect of his/her character that you are able to relate to?

Caitlin R. Hedgcock is a Christian author who aspires to use storytelling for God’s glory. She lives with her family in England's picturesque county of Hertfordshire. Visit her website or Facebook page to find out more.


  1. Great post! Protagonists are so much fun to talk about. The first protagonist who comes to mind, for me, is Elinor Dashwood from Sense and Sensibility ... I admire her for, among other things, her strength of character, selflessness, and genuine politeness. She struggles when she faces less-than-ideal people, but I can relate to her restraint ... I tend to be very restrained and try to put my best face forward when it comes to difficult situations and outsiders. I find it easier than letting my true feelings show---there is less mess to clean up! : )

  2. Those are good characteristics for Elinor ... and I know just what you mean! This quote comes to mind: "Swallowing angry words before you say them is better than trying to eat them afterwards." - Nancy Campbell

    Thanks for commenting! :)


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