So, in May, one of our themes we are focusing on is ‘coming of age’ stories. To put my finger exactly on what this meant, I did a trusty little Wikipedia search to which I found the following:
‘is a genre of literature…that focuses on the growth of a protagonist from youth to adulthood..[these] stories tend to emphasise dialogue or internal monologue over action. Often set in the past.’
Popular coming of age stories that you might have heard of (as listed by Goodreads) are:
- The Harry Potter series
- The Fault in our Stars
- To Kill a Mockingbird
The Perks of Being a Wallflower
and many, many more, this was but to name a few.
I was then interested in finding out more about this genre and the characteristics that go with it. I found a really interesting PowerPoint presentation on coming of age stories written by Patty Payette from the University of Louisville. I found out that coming of age stories had roots from German literature and were known as Bildungsroman, directly translated as a novel of formation/education. The famous German author, Goethe, is usually attributed to the birth of the Bildungsroman with his work ‘Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship’.
Payette continues to explain some of the features that we typically find in a coming of age story:
- Loss of innocence
- Having to learn how to become an adult and be part of the adult world
- Start to see that the world isn’t as simple as they first thought, not everything is as good and innocent as they first thought.
Top Five Tips for Creating a Good Protagonist
A protagonist is your main hero/heroine in a novel and usually advocate, and are the leader of, a particular cause or movement.
- That the protagonist has a problem that needs to be solved and only the protagonist can solve this – no one else!
- Your audience needs to be behind your protagonist – you want them to care about your character and be rooting for them from page
- In order to do point 3, your protagonist will probably need to have something to lose, hence acting as a motivating tool, forcing your character to take risks
- From the word go, your audience need to know your main character inside out, we need to know their goal and we need to be able to relate to them.
- One of the most important things about a protagonist is having that character progression, remember your character is going to start as a child and finish as an adult so we really need to see that the experience they have had has changed them