I’m seven chapters into a story I’m writing, and have a good idea how the plot should go for not only the rest of the book, but for one after it, and I’ve realized that my main character doesn’t have much agency. He does stuff, but the current plan doesn’t have him actively influencing the story much. The story has perspectives from other characters who do have a more active role, but for some reason the main character got the short end of the stick. Do you have any suggestions for what could be done at this point?
Hey Allen, thanks for writing in!
It’s difficult to give specific suggestions without reading your story, but here are a few broad options you could try:
- Give the protagonist something special that’s essential to the main plot.
- Frodo wouldn’t have much agency in LotR if he didn’t have the ability to carry the One Ring.
- Luke would be fairly unimportant in Star Wars if he didn’t have the Force.
- Make the protagonist more competent.
- A lot of heroes lack agency because they don’t have the skills to meaningfully affect the plot.
- Steven quickly gains new powers to make him more useful in Steven Universe.
- Adora is already a trained soldier in She Ra, then she picks up a magic sword and becomes the rebellion’s main warrior.
- Increase the protagonist’s social authority.
- Another issue that can relegate heroes to the sidelines is if they have some boss or superior officer telling them what to do.
- Moving them up a few places on the org chart can give them the authority they need to actually make decisions.
If none of those work, it might be worth looking at some of the characters who do have agency and see if any of them would work as the main character instead. We also have a few posts that might help:
- Character Agency: It’s What the Sexy Lamp is Missing
- Five Stories Where the Heroes Lack Agency
- Agency and Proactivity
- How Storytellers Use Proactivity and Reactivity for effect
Hope that answers your question, and good luck with your story!