If you’re getting notes that your protagonist is passive, or if you know that your protagonist is passive because you keep having to write things that happen TO them instead of BECAUSE of them, you have a dealbreaking issue in your story.
These protagonist problems appear when story lovers write themselves into the story.
When you appoint yourself protagonist, it’s a story about you watching a story happen around you. Clues that this is happening include but are not limited to:
- Secondary characters jumping in to take the reins
- A protagonist with painless flaws who takes painless consequences
- A story goal that the protagonist is awarded rather than pursues
- Tension relieved early and often in reconciliation scenes before act three
- Protags who already have everything they need
If you can remove your protagonist from the story and the events still progress in order, then you have written yourself into the story as an observer.
Flip that around and put your protagonist in charge of it. Where is the center of the action you are observing? That is where you will find your protagonist.