What makes a memorable character? Is it how they dress? How they act or how their moral compass points? I like characters to have a good moral compass. Not perfect, mind you, as no one is perfect and you have to make characters relatable. But I don’t like the protagonist to be a scumbag, even if in the beginning they are and have a huge character development.
What I like to see is a character’s moral compass get shaken. Their morals tested. Nobody wants to hear a story about someone who doesn’t do anything or nothing has happened to them. You seek advice from someone who has experienced what you’re going through, not someone who has a clean slate, so to speak. At the same time, however, you want to hear about someone who has faced those odds and gotten back up. They’ve conquered their conflict and became stronger.
That’s what must happen with your protagonist. They may wallow in self-pity for a little bit, but they have to get back on their feet and finish the fight. That’s what people want to hear stories about. Where would the film Braveheart be without the love of William Wallace being executed? James J. Braddock and his victory over Max Baer in 1935, during the Great Depression?
For every hero/heroin, there is a conflict that is set before them that they must overcome.
It’s the same in life, isn’t it? Life is really just one great big epic, with you as the protagonist. Each conflict is for you to prove your worth. As my father once asked, “Are you made of tungsten or aluminum?” Tungsten is one of the most hardest materials on the planet, and it has not only the highest melting point, but also the highest boiling point, in its free element (chemical element not combined or bonded in any way to other elements).
When a crisis comes up, when the rising action begins in your story, what are you going to do when the climax occurs? Or perhaps a better question would be in what condition will you find yourself? How the climax begins and ends with the falling action will determine how the protagonist is viewed in the resolution of the conflict/story.
Conflict can be Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Self, Man vs. Machine…the list is almost endless. The conflict usually found is Man vs. Man, someone comes against the protagonist or their interests, and they’re forced to do something about it.
Plot is people. Human emotions and desires founded on the realities of life, working at cross purposes, getting hotter and fiercer as they strike against each other until finally there’s an explosion—that’s Plot.