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As With Any Story, A Ghost Story Or Other Supernatural Tale Requires A Good Protagonist

No. By a “good” protagonist or main character, we don’t mean admirable, nice, or even particularly sympathetic; we mean good in the sense of being interesting. Make your protagonist as dishonest or as nasty as you like; just don’t make him boring.

In far too many supernatural stories we’ve read, the protagonist is little more than a victim, a clichéd deer caught in the headlights. He or she knows something bad is going to happen; he or she either stands transfixed in horror or makes some feeble attempts at escape; he or she is ultimately, inevitably destroyed. The ghost, demon, vampire, or monster in the story has all the agency, so it’s a one-sided, uninteresting, predicable battle between pure evil and what is essentially a cardboard cutout.

We would argue that your central characters are even more important than than whatever sinister or disturbing being or force they’re forced to contend with. It’s their story after all—unless you’ve decided to craft your tale from the ghost’s or zombie’s point of view. You should therefore make them as lifelike as you can—as multi-dimensional, as full of fears and doubts and hopes, and in all other ways as realistic, as a real human being.

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