Tag Archives: sympathy

Storyssentials: Protagonist

Ever watch a fat soprano shatter a wine glass with her voice?

It’s called resonant frequency – the pitch at which something vibrates. Everything has it – the table I’m typing on, the car keys hanging from my carribeaner and the engine block on my car that, judging by the smell of burning rubber, may or may not need a check up.

Friggin’ serpentine belts…

Vocal chords vibrate a column of air to its resonant frequency, allowing the sound to fill your mouth with song and then enter the world by leaving your sound hole. I wonder if musical mothers ever use that phrase in vain? “Shut your sound hole!” If the frequency exiting your sound hole matches the exact resonant frequency of, say, a glass? BUM-CHINSH go shards and wine all over your table.

The glass says “that sounds like me” and explodes in an emotional encounter. Protagonists are the songs we writers sing, the notes that resonate deep in the caverns of our readership’s soul. Each of us is a glass begging to find something that “sounds like me.”

Protagonists come good or bad, evil or righteous, living right or dead wrong. They can be rich or poor, powerful or weak, accepted or rejected. Regardless of looks, they must resonate. They must sound like us often enough that when their story finds the breaking point at climax, we too shatter. Analysts dub that phenomenon “catharsis” – our human desire to discharge emotion in one satisfying purge.

I offer four solid words to describe protagonists: volition, ambition, predisposition, qualification, and fortune. Continue reading

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