In storytelling there are some archetypal standards. The protagonist is your hero, the antagonist is your villain and the deuteragonist is your second main character. This has been the way since the primetime of our greek ancestors. But there are other ways to portray these characters.
Take for instance your protagonist. In ancient stories the protagonist is the hero that can’t do any wrong. Think of Hercules, the Power Rangers and Optimus Prime. These characters are all beacons of virtue, a straightened arrow and would only fight in self defence or in protection of another person. In modern times people may have gotten a bit bored of this archetype and a new type of hero has arisen: The Anti-Hero.
The Anti-Hero is a type of character that acts heroically but purely for self-service. One of the biggest Anti-Hero’s in the business is Deadpool. He does heroic stuff from time to time, but isn’t scared to screw his allies over if it is to the benefit of his goals. Even spider-man has seen himself switch from the protagonist to the antagonist when a symbiotic entity took control of his brain. During this time there was a brief period in which the symbiotic being started to control his body. His actions became erratic and less his own. This created a duality inside of him which was compelling to say the least.
Lastly we have to talk about the villain. In classical sense he (or she) is the exact counterpart to the protagonist. Think about the devil to your god, The shredder to your turtles or the Joker to your Batman. The Villains job is to create chaos, an endgoal or just annoy your hero. Within Star Wars we can see the transition between hero, anti-hero and villain within Anakin Skywalker in episodes 1 – 3. In 4 – 6 we can see his transition back to hero thus making his journey full circle.
There is much more to be told about the roll of protagonists, more than we could ever discuss. But if you take some of these examples, watch them and study them just a bit, you will be able to create a protagonist which is three dimensional and deep.
Let’s talk again soon.