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Developing an Engaging Protagonist: Lessons from ELEVATOR BABY

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At the centre of every film is the question, who is the film about? The “who” is the protagonist. Remove the protagonist, and you will be left with no story to tell. It is why this character is also referred to as the main, lead or principal character. To help you further, allow me create a mental picture; I present to you a lady who thinks the world revolves around her waist – she is the “who” in the midst of so many other activities. I hope my attempt at creating a visual example captures it? No? Ok, let’s move on quickly.
For every film you have seen, the experience of the protagonist is why you sat through the entire film. Once you start, you are made to journey through the experience of the main character often intercepted by other characters. It is why you get so wrapped up sometimes in these experiences, that you simply and unconsciously reflect the emotions of the protagonist. Therefore, after identifying the importance of a protagonist to the success of every story/ film, it is valid to look at ways to develop interesting and engaging principal characters.

About ELEVATOR BABY
Written and directed by Akay Mason, and under Niyi Akinmolayan’s production company, Elevator Baby is a 2019 Drama that tells a simple story of a privileged young man, Dare William, with a godawful attitude. Dare finds himself trapped in an elevator with Abigail Kuforiji, a pregnant lady, with extra burden of secrets. Still trapped in the elevator, Abigail goes into labor, leaving Dare with no choice but to deliver the baby himself; even with no history of medical training.

Getting into it
From the synopsis, it is clear that Dare William is the protagonist of the film, Elevator Baby. Akay Mason keeps Dare’s experience right in front of us, using the simple plot structure of a beginning, middle and an ending. The beginning is the character set up, where we are introduced to Dare and the kind of person he is. The middle takes us straight to the conflict, where his mum having had enough of Dare’s irredeemable behaviour cuts him off his allowances. The end is the resolution, where Dare delivers a baby in an elevator and becomes a hero of some sort.

When you therefore talk about the protagonist’s journey, there are three essential elements:
The Character’s Goal: This is the desire or better put, the pursuit of the main character. There is usually an initial goal, that gets suspended in an attempt to reach an eventual goal. Dare William’s initial goal was just to get a job and be independent, after getting into a fight with his mum, who has been his financier. While pursuing this goal, he his trapped in an elevator with Abigail, who is heavily pregnant. When Abigail starts to labor, Dare abandoned his initial goal, focusing on how to get help for Abigail and the unborn child. The journey of the character makes the character very interesting, as a result, we continued to follow him all through to the end of this new journey.

The Character’s Flaw: This is something within the protagonist that must first be conquered by the protagonist, in order to finally achieve the new and eventual goal. For Dare, it is his rudely attitude towards his step dad, who is a medical doctor. While the contractions came thick and fast for Abigail, Dare finds himself between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. He suddenly realized that his contempt for his step dad must be quickly put aside in order to save Abigail. He went with the Devil in this case (his step dad), and achieved his new and subsequently very rewarding goal.

The Character’s Arc: This is simply the protagonist’s notable growth, especially with regards to their flaw(s). When you look at Dare at the end of the Film, you are most likely to fall in love with the transformed and grown Dare than the Dare who at the beginning of the Film was rude, flamboyant and childish. Following the journey of Dare, and identifying with him at every point of his development and growth, makes him an interesting protagonist.

The Wrap
If the story is about the protagonist, then the protagonist must be engaging enough. Nobody would want to follow a boring experience for 90 minutes or more. Employ these three elements like ELEVATOR BABY has done, and watch your protagonist develops into an interesting character every time you write a story.

Written By: Emmanuel Adebayo

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