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Who Are Your Protagonist, Hero, and Lead characters?

I was working on the outline I had wrote for my first noveland made a curious little note in the revisions notebook that got me to thinking:

Chapter One Must:
Present my world
Identify book’s hero/lead/protagonist

After I had wrote that I realized that the three were not neccessarily the same person in my story, and that got me to re-thinking the definitions of the words.

My quick note on what they could identify in the story:

  • Hero
    • The most heroic person in the story, the person who takes risks and drived the action of the story.
  • Lead
    • The person that the story is about.
  • Protagonist
    • The person who most opposes the antagonist.

If you look the definitions up online then you will find:


  • a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities.
    • “a war hero”
    • synonyms: brave man, champion, man of courage, great man, man of the hour, conquering hero, victor, winner, conqueror, lionheart, warrior, paladin, knight, white hat; More


  • an advocate or champion of a particular cause or idea.”a strenuous protagonist of the new agricultural policy”
    • synonyms: supporter, upholder, adherent, backer, proponent, advocate, promoter, champion, exponent, standard-bearer, torch-bearer, prime mover, moving spirit, mainstay, spokesman/spokeswoman/spokesperson”the EC is a great protagonist of deregulation”

Narrow that to leader:

  • the person who leads or commands a group, organization, or country.”the leader of a protest group”
    • synonyms: chief, head, principle


  • the leading character or one of the major characters in a drama, movie, novel, or other fictional text.
  • the main figure or one of the most prominent figures in a real situation.”
    • in this colonial struggle, the main protagonists were Great Britain and France”
    • synonyms:chief character, central/principal/main/leading character, chief/central/principal/main/leading participant, principal, hero/heroine, leading man/lady, title role, lead, star, (leading/key) player, (leading) figure, leading light”the very first line of the play is spoken by the protagonist”

So, my conclusion is that while the three are often used to mean the same person, the character that the reader is to be cheering for in the story, they are not neccessarily the same person. You could have one character who is looked to as the leader and so is the person who will have the most impact on the direction the story will go in, a second person who takes up the fight when there is trouble or who places themselves at risk going out into the world to get things done, and a third person who has the most reason to be trying to stop the antagonist from getting what they want.

This is exactly what I realized I have in my story, and I think that looking at my POV characters as identifiable lead, hero, and protegonist, I will be better able to drive their arcs in the story.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this idea and on how you percieve these character identifiers or others.

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