Some of us writers have our heroes/heroines on pedestals. They’re downright perfect, and can do no wrong. I get it.
Whether or not your protagonist is a goody two shoes in your story, it’s time for you to get some perspective on your characters and their tales. Do this by practicing an exercise wherein you take on the POV of a supporting character–or any third person who may or may not be part of your story (maybe even a narrator?)–and write an existing scene or chapter from solely their perspective.
While you do that, go ahead and judge the crap out of your protagonist – don’t hold back. Don’t be you, and don’t be the hero(ine). Become a third person, or a fly on the wall, and recount scenes from that third person’s POV. You’ll see your protagonist’s faults and nuances in a different depth than you had before. It will also help you shape interactions between him/her and other supporting characters, because you’ll be able to better see from others’ points of views, too.
A masterpiece that applies this concept or exercise, if you will, is the recently released Netflix series 13 Reasons Why. In a plot that’s all about showing audiences who all are to blame for the suicide of a high-school teen, Hannah Baker, the show goes above and beyond to deliver to us brief, but extremely insightful, sneak peaks into the personal struggles of each antagonist.
You’d think the characters responsible for a young girl’s suicide would be terrible people, right? Yet, in fact, most of them are so damn human, that you, at the very least, understand where they’re coming from, if not sympathize with and relate to them just a little – not that you’d ever admit it.
The brilliant thing is that seeing from so many supporting characters’ POVs, as well as the two main characters’, provides powerful, multi-faceted, and honest insight into even the good girl’s flaws and shortcomings. The series passes on quite a bit of blame, but it is not all favorable toward the victim either. “There are thirteen sides to every story,” Hannah Baker says; and goodness me, the series proves it.
There’s a lot to learn from the narrative of 13 Reasons Why, and it’s not all about the subject matter of the show. If you get a chance, check out the absolutely brilliant first season on Netflix. It’ll put a lot of things into perspective. It did for me.