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Creating An Interesting And Flawed Protagonist For A Series by Janet Pywell

It is a joy to welcome fellow crime writer, Janet Pywell to my blog today. Janet has generously offered each of my readers a free copy of her novel Masterpiece which is Book 1 in her Mikky dos Santos thriller series. Thank you, very much Janet. Now its over to you.

I am a sessional tutor on the MA & BA Creative and Professional Writing courses at Canterbury Christ Church University (CCCU) and, I have my own one-to-one Novel Mentor course where I help writers develop their novels for publication.

After finishing my MA at Queen’s University, Seamus Heaney Centre in Belfast, I began my first crime novel The Golden Icon, which was to become the prequel to my Mikky dos Santos thriller series.

My protagonist, Josephine Lavelle, is a fading opera diva with one last chance to sing Tosca but her plans are derailed by a blackmail plot instigated by her ex-husband.

Having written the first book I knew I wanted a different protagonist that would sustain me through a series.

Characters are the most important part of any novel and it’s crucial that you spend time understanding who they are; their likes & dislikes and how they might think and behave. Character-based fiction is very popular and if you can nail your characters then your novel will be stronger.

What makes your main character interesting and engaging or abhorrent?

Not everyone is perfect, so your main character should be flawed. For example, in my Mikky dos Santos thriller series, Mikky is a talented artist, art forger and photographer. Her tattooed body is a canvas of artwork.

In the first book Masterpiece, she is morally corrupt and plans to forge a well-known stolen painting — Vermeer’s The Concert. She’s intelligent and she understands art, history and photography but she’s flawed in as much as she lacks the values found in family unity, love and security. She has hopes and dreams and the reader can understand her inner conflict.

They can identify with her emotions and this is what engages my readers.

In my Ronda George thrillers, my protagonist, Ronda is an ex-army veteran. She is also a kick-boxing champion and Masterchef who is recruited as the ‘eyes and ears’ for Europol to track down those involved in illegal crimes and schemes. She’s abandoned by her boyfriend who’s stolen all her savings and, she lacks self-worth and confidence.

Although your protagonist must be flawed, it must be a flaw that the reader can accept.

More importantly, the protagonist must have a sense of self-awareness and by the end of the book they must change. It can’t be a tiny, unnoticeable shift — it has to be seismic. A big heroic and difficult task must bring about complete change.

Stakes matter, so make them realistic and plausible.

Your protagonist will also struggle with inner conflict: their feelings and emotions towards the events that happen to them and to other characters involved so you must consider, what motivates your characters? What makes them happy or sad? In knowing your characters intimately, you will be able to describe their actions and reactions to the hurdles and challenges they face.

You can be creative with your protagonist and anti-hero, and their circumstances and interacting lives.

Don’t be afraid to create a villain who is doing the wrong things for the right reasons. They may have a skewed moral view of the world or be principled in the extreme.

In Stolen Script, Mikky is charmed by a narcissist, Nikos Pavildes, but he’s hiding a dark secret and he isn’t giving up the Torah easily. You must know the anti-hero and their point of view really well, and that way their conflict will be more real.

Do your characters have a past? Do they share a similar background? Have they been lovers?

In Truthful Lies, Mikky meets ex SAS hero, Peter. Although they have a deep connection and their friendship grows, their actions complement each other. By introducing Peter, who has different opinions and strong perspective, I was able to let the reader know certain details of the plot through their conversations and interactions. Arguments and disagreements will stand out and entertain the readers and, they can explain plot or specific decisions that your characters make.

It’s helpful to use a character profile for your protagonist and one for all your characters.


  • The character’s name and description

  • A summary of the character’s storyline (a few lines)

  • The character’s motivation (what do they want abstractly?)

  • The character’s goal (what do they want concretely?)

  • The character’s conflict / obstacles / hurdles (what prevents them from reaching their goal?)

  • The character’s epiphany (what will they learn by the end of the book. How will they change?

  • A one-paragraph summary of the character’s storyline

Be flexible. You may need to revise any of your characters traits, ambitions or aims as they interact wit other characters and your story grows.

It doesn’t have to be perfect. Your characters can and will change and that’s the fun of writing!

The Author

Author Janet Pywell’s storytelling is as mesmerizing and complex as her characters.

Janet's latest novel Someone Else's Dream is a heart-warming, uplifting, feel-good novel about courage, integrity and friendship.

In her international crime thriller series – art forger, artist and photographer Mikky dos Santos is a uniquely lovable female: a tough, tattooed, yet vulnerable heroine who will steal your heart.

Each book is a stand-alone exciting action-adventure novel, set in three uniquely different countries/ locations.These books are a must-read for devotees of complex female sleuths – an emotional female James Bond.

Janet has a background in travel and tourism and she writes using her knowledge of foreign places gained from living abroad and travelling extensively. She draws on all her experiences of people and places to create exciting crime thrillers with great characters and all the plot twists and turns any reader could ask for.

She researches meticulously and often takes courses in subjects to ensure that her facts are detailed and accurate and it is this attention to detail that makes her novels so readable, authentic and thrilling.

Click here to subscribe to her newsletter.

Click here for more information on The Novel Mentor

Janet Pywell’s recently published non-fiction book: Ten Simple Steps for Writing Your Book

The Links

For all Janet’s books — Amazon Author Page:

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1 commentaire

Sophia Anyanwu
Sophia Anyanwu
11 juin 2022

Beautiful blog, Val!! Blessings.

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