Letting Your Protagonist Be Super and Human

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by Rachel Hauck

Did you see the movie, “The Avengers”? Did you like it? I did last year and wow! Another blow-’em-up New York City movie.

I think Hollywood needs to get more creative, but hey, that’s me. Poor NYC if anything ever happens to them as depicted in movies!

Back to “The Avengers”. Besides Ironman, Thor, Hulk and Captain America, there are new-to-me super heroes in the movie – Hawkeye and Agent Natasha Romanoff.

Natasha was one bad mamajama! She had “super power” out the wazoo. Meaning, she could do anything and everything. Like defeat her Russian torturers/interrogators.

Jump onto a flying machine and take out a bad guy.

All the while having neat hair and gorgeous make up!

Unfortunately, Natasha had no real flaw, no Achilles heel. Nothing that made her weak and need others. So wasn’t warm, likeable, or vulnerable.

In her opening scene, she’s being interrogated by Russians (so 1970s but whatever) tied to a chair. She appears vulnerable, weak, at the mercy of evil men, but we soon see she’s toying with them. When she gets a phone call (yea, I know, who answers a phone during an interrogation?) and learns she’s needed for a special assignment, she breaks into action, defeats the two bad Russians, all while tied to the chair.

Throughout the movie, she has no fear. No hesitation. No doubts.

And I didn’t like her.

Yeah, great she could take out a dozen of the enemy before drawing a deep inhale, but what made her like me? Nothing.

Nathasha Romanoff needed a real, human side, a flaw, a weakness, a man she loved who was captured by the bad guys. Or who didn’t love her in return.

On the contrary, some Christian heroines are weak, flawed, mealy mouth protagonist that seem to barely lift their heads off the ground.

Some of the heroes too.

If they are not too sweet and always apologizing, they are too boisterous with bravado and sarcasm.

What these protagonists need is a super power. A strength that keeps them going. A talent, gift, ability that gets them through a hard time.

A super power makes the protagonist “cool,” likeable and competent, allowing the reader to think that even though she may have just lost the love of her life to war, she’s going to make it through to the other side.

She has a “super power” too.

In Siri Mitchell’s “A Heart Most Worthy,” the protagonists are poor immigrant Italians in the early 20th Century America. They are living in a brand new country, can’t speak English, are at the mercy of their families, their customs and cultures, societal prejudice, yet they have a super power!

It gives the reader hope. “They are going to make it.”

What was the heroines’ super power? They could sew. It’s their avenue to confidence and freedom.

In “The Wedding Dress”, Charlotte Malone lived a lonely existence since being orphaned at the age of twelve, but she was good a running a bridal shop and has the amazing ability to dress any bride from the inside out.

This ability was what made her competent to the reader. It gave us confidence Charlotte was going to be all right.

The “super power” did double duty, letting the reader believe it was why the antique wedding gown was given to Charlotte.

The super power actually ties the story together in a small way.
What is the super power?

The thing your protagonist can do that no one else in the story can do. The thing that makes them unique and competent. A feature that is stabilizing to the protagonist or to others.

In “Dining with Joy”, Joy couldn’t cook but her super power was her charm, charisma, and the fact she was so good in front of the camera. It endeared her to people. It was why she did the show in the first place.

So, what’s your protagonist super power?

What can he or she do that shows competence?

What talent or ability do they have that gives them confidence?

What can super power will have the reader cheering for them?

How to create a super power:

1. Think of your protagonist. What are her unique skills and talents? What can he do that no one else can do. How does it relate to your story?

Go deeper than “she can love the unlovable.” That’s swell but will probably get her into trouble more than show her competence.

How about if she can detect lies and truth in the midst of the hurting? She is hard to bamboozle.

2. What kind of story are you trying to tell? Develop a super power that resonates with the theme or goal of the story.

In the Avengers, Natasha Romanoff needed to be super human at some level, about to defeat her enemies while tied to a chair. But she also needed to be vulnerable in an area.

Charlotte needed to be good at dressing brides or she’d not be fascinated with the wedding gown when she discovered it.

Joy had to be fab at entertaining viewers or she’d not be a TV host.


So, spend some time musing over your characters and assign him or her a super power. You’ll find it adds a layer of insight into your character and creates a multi-dimensional protagonist.

RachelLaughingRachel Hauck is an award-winning, best selling author of critically acclaimed novels such as RITA nominated The Wedding Dress and RITA nominated Love Starts with Elle, part of the Lowcountry series. She penned the Songbird Novels with multi-platinum recording artist, Sara Evans. Their novel Softly and Tenderly, was one of Booklists 2011 Top Ten Inspirationals.

A graduate of Ohio State University with a degree in Journalism, she worked in the corporate software world before planting her backside in uncomfortable chair to write full time in 2004.

Rachel serves on the Executive Board of American Christian Fiction Writers and leads worship at their annual conference. She is a mentor and book therapist at My Book Therapy, and conference speaker.

She writes from her two-story tower in an exceedingly more comfy chair.

She is a huge Buckeyes football fan.

Here latest release is Once Upon A Prince, the firsts in the Royal Wedding Series. Her next book, Princess Ever After, releases in February 2014.

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