Active, not reactive – OR – C’mon, do something!

Never has a call to action been more necessary
Never has a call to action been more necessary

As you work your way through your latest draft, among the numerous questions to keep in mind is “Is my main character the one driving things forward?”

It’s a common complaint: a protagonist who is too passive. How do you make sure they aren’t?

Start with this: Do they make things happen or just react to them?

Your story is about this character going through some ordeal as they try to achieve their goal. Are they taking the steps needed and doing what they have to in order to do that?

Their normal routine has most likely been drastically altered. How are they reacting to all these changes while trying to get things back to normal?

How does the character factor into each scene? Are they having some kind of impact? Does the outcome of each scene depend on them? Does what they do here get them closer to reaching their goal?

A scene can be about them even if they’re not part of it. Maybe it’s the other characters’ reactions or the ramifications of what they’ve done.

You don’t want a main character who just sits around, waiting for things to happen. Get them out there and throw them right into the thick of it.

2 thoughts on “Active, not reactive – OR – C’mon, do something!

  1. This is a great point, and not just because it’s one of those “screenwriting rules” you have to follow without really knowing why. I saw this in a script I was peer-reviewing recently… the main character was in every scene for the first 20 pages or so but I felt like I didn’t know anything about him. He was always just a passenger. Someone else was always driving the scenes (because somebody has to be). So, in turn, the main character was just a faceless name to me. Not what you want for your hero.

    • Exactly. I’ve always felt that part of the point of Act One is to not only learn more about your hero, but to also get the audience to want to be on their side.

      An unmotivated hero won’t motivate the audience to want to see them succeed/reach their goal.

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