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Main Character Energy

March 06, 2024 (Last Updated March 18, 2024)

Marcy G.

Does your protagonist have “main character energy?” In today’s zeitgeist, a person with main character energy puts themselves first and takes control of their own narrative. It’s an attitude or aura that conveys confidence.

The qualities of a main character in a book can vary widely depending on the genre, theme, and narrative style of the story. Several key qualities that often contribute to creating a compelling and memorable main character:


Develop a rich backstory for your main character. Their past experiences, traumas, and triumphs shape who they are in the present. Integrating elements of their backstory into the narrative adds layers to their energy and provides insight into their motivations and behaviors.


Distinct Personality Traits

Give your main character a combination of traits that make them stand out. Whether they're witty, sarcastic, compassionate, or fiercely independent, these traits should be evident in their actions, dialogue, and decisions. For example, In Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, the main character, Elizabeth Bennet, stands out from her sisters and her role in society by neglecting traditional gender stereotypes; she’s confident, independent, and rejects the societal norms of what women should prioritize.


Motivation and Goals

What drives your main character? What are their goals, desires, and aspirations? Understanding their motivations will shape their energy and guide their actions throughout the story.


Character Development

Allow your main character to grow and evolve throughout the story. Their energy may shift as they learn from their experiences, confront their fears, and overcome obstacles, leading to a satisfying character arc. Your main character should be dynamic and undergo significant change.


Flaws and Vulnerabilities

No character is perfect, and flaws add depth and complexity to your main character. These imperfections make them relatable and human, allowing readers to empathize with their struggles and root for their growth. Uncovering these truths about your main character is essential to overall character development.



While main characters don't have to be universally likable, they should be relatable in some way. Readers should be able to empathize with their struggles, aspirations, and inner conflicts, even if they don't always agree with their choices. The dynamic between the main character and the reader should be a deep one, otherwise the story won’t be compelling.



A strong main character is proactive rather than reactive. They take action, make decisions, and drive the plot forward, rather than simply being swept along by events or other characters. The best way to form this aspect of the main character is to carefully plan your plot ahead of time to make decisions about how your main character will respond.



Someone with main character energy should feel authentic and genuine, with behaviors and reactions that are consistent with their personality, background, and experiences. Readers should be able to believe in the character's authenticity, even if they inhabit fantastical or otherworldly settings.



Conflict is essential for character development and driving the narrative forward. Main characters should face both internal and external conflicts that challenge them, test their limits, and force them to confront their fears and weaknesses.



Someone with main character energy carries themselves a certain way. A memorable main character often has distinct traits, quirks, or characteristics that set them apart from other characters in the story. Whether it's a unique skill, a memorable appearance, or a compelling backstory, these distinctions can make the character more memorable and engaging to readers. For example, in The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen’s strong ability to hunt with a bow and arrow serves her well when she’s in the arena, making this skill essential to the success and uniqueness of her character.



Main characters that evoke empathy from readers are often the most compelling. Whether they're struggling with personal demons, facing external challenges, or striving for a noble goal, readers should feel invested in the character's journey and root for their success. A great way to map out your main character’s attributes is to start with a character web. The more you assign to the web, the more you will start to understand your character’s roundness and how they will respond to situations.



Resilience is a key quality for main characters, especially in stories with high stakes or intense conflicts. They should demonstrate the ability to bounce back from setbacks, persevere in the face of adversity, and continue fighting for what they believe in, even when the odds are stacked against them. What made The Harry Potter Series so successful was the fact that the stakes were SO high for everyone involved, but especially for Harry himself, who was at the center of it the whole time and persevered.



Finally, a great main character has depth and nuance, with layers of complexity that reveal themselves gradually over the course of the story. Whether it's through introspective moments, revealing dialogue, or unexpected actions, main characters should continually surprise and intrigue readers, keeping them invested in their journey until the very end.


So, next time you’re coming up with the next great book idea, think about main character energy and how you want your protagonist to embody that essence. By crafting a main character with compelling energy, you'll captivate readers and keep them invested in the journey from beginning to end.

Want more advice like this? Subscribe to our blog where we tackle a range of subjects, from introducing characters and writing prompts, to book marketing and formatting tips.

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