The protagonist is the main character around whom the events of the narrative's plot revolve and with whom the audience is intended to share the most empathy. Protagonists generally suffer the most.
In a story, the protagonist often has an enemy that acts directly against the goals of the protagonist, called the antagonist. Interesting antagonists present challenges to the protagonist, have unique character of their own, and often have the same level of strength as protagonists do. The two are evenly matched.
It is a grave mistake to make an antagonist weak or easy to predict— it makes a story unexciting if the antagonist constantly runs away from the protagonist and constantly loses conflicts against the protagonist.
It is also a mistake for the two to predictably lose or win every minor conflict. Be sure to toss in unexpected twists to the outcome of a story. Readers tend to appreciate stories that they have no vague idea what the outcome will be.
They must be active, not passive.
They must have goals.
A hero may exhibit characteristics such as superhuman strength and endurance that sometimes makes him nearly invincible.
In modern fiction, the hero is often simply an ordinary person in extraordinary circumstances, who, despite the odds being stacked against him or her, typically prevails in the end.
- Aragorn (Lord of the Rings)
In fiction, an antihero is a protagonist whose character is contrary to that of the archetypal hero, and is in some instances its antithesis. Some consider the word's meaning to encompass an antagonist who (in contrast to the archetypal villain) elicits sympathy and/or admiration.
- Imperfections that separate them from typically heroic characters (selfishness, ignorance, bigotry, etc.).
- Lack of positive qualities such as courage, physical prowess, and fortitude, and generally feel helpless in a world over which they have no control.
- Qualities normally belonging to villains (amorality, greed, violent tendencies, etc.) that may be tempered with more human, identifiable traits (confusion, self-hatred, etc.).
- Noble motives pursued by bending or breaking the law in the belief that the ends justify the means.
- Arthur Dent - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
- Conan - The Phoenix on the Sword
- Yossarian - Catch-22