What’s the single most important contribution you give your story? It’s not just the plot…

Let’s look at the logline.

“It’s about a guy who…”

Your character is it.

Try this. Take Dirty Harry, and put him in the lead of “Sleepless in Seattle.”

Completely different movie!

Take Die Hard, and cast Woody Allen as John MacLain. It’s suddenly becoming a comedy.

Take Ving Raimes and put him as John MacLain. Totally different movie.

Try this as a writing exercise. There are 9 persons in the Lord of the Rings. Take any of them, and make them the Ring bearer.

Or take Paul Atreides and make him the ring bearer.

Take Ged from A Wizard of Earthsea and make him the wizard instead of Gandalf.

How does the book change every time?

How do the dynamics change?

The first step of your plot is usually a mental picture of the protagonist. Luke Skywalker was one person in A New Hope. By Return of the Jedi, Luke is COMPLETELY different, and yet the same.

How would Return have been if it had been the whiny Luke from the first movie? The sarcastic and pessimistic Luke from Empire Strikes Back?

The first step to writing your book or movie is to have a half-formed idea on who your protagonist is. And most of the time, you’re really not aware that you’ve done it.

But deciding exactly who your protagonist is may be the most important decision you ever make.