How Does Your Protagonist Stack Up?
You know your protagonist. Presenting your favorite character to the reading public and differentiating him or her to readers is challenging. You want your readers to like your protagonist as much as you do.
I decided to do a little experiment. I chose some relevant or similar protagonists and compared Argolicus
The first step was choosing other protagonists similar in some way.
- Good detecting skills
I spent several days adding and removing protagonists from the list. My aim was to attract readers who might like Argolicus.
The notes were my first impressions.
Inspector Jules Maigret – Argolicus used to have as much authority, but now he must rely on his acumen alone.
Commissario Salvo Montalbano – Not as volatile but certainly as doggedly persistent. And, yes, his helper, Nikolaos, sometimes gets the bits he misses.
Cadfael – As compassionate without the religious fervor.
Father Brown – A certain naȉvete which allows people to share intimacies. Bernie Gunther
Gregor Reinhardt – None of the angst, but keen observation skills and an ability to navigate political infights.
Gordianus – In the thick of politics, but centuries later.
Falco – At the other end of the social strata, but equally keen to solve a problem.
Commissario Guido Brunetti – Unencumbered by family matters, Argolicus must still navigate a political maze.
Brother William of Baskerville – Argolicus is well read and bookish, but a novice in theology.
World and Ethos
Looking at the comparisons I was struck how each of these engaging detectives is surrounded by a world readily recognizable to readers. And, that each protagonist has an ethos that carries him through the obstacles in the world.
I decided that the world of early 6th Century Italy is the milieu for my protagonist but not necessarily the selling point. The protagonist, especially as sleuth, is the central selling point.
When I first published the Argolicus Mysteries, I thought of them as historical stories. Reflecting on the reviews I notice that the character and the setting are what draws readers.
After doing the protagonist comparison, I came up with a new description.
Meet Argolicus, a learned man, who turns detective at the bidding of neighbors who know him as trustworthy, wise, and fair. His tools are the logic of Aristotle, the self restraint of Epictetus, the theology of Arius, and the empirical insights of Marcus Aurelius all sharpened to an edge by wry humor and ferocious curiosity. He collects evidence, deciphers politics, and digs into the deepest secrets of the human heart.
I found this experiment revealing. Comparing my protagonist to others in the genre helped me form a clear description to engage future readers.