Your Protagonist’s Low Point

EVERYTHING WAS just fine for your protagonist.  They were living a normal life. It wasn’t a great life by any means, but at least nothing bad lurked on the horizon.

Or maybe that’s wrong.  Maybe your protagonist was doomed if they continued sitting around, not taking charge of their life. Or maybe an imminent threat loomed and they had no choice.

In any case, you, the author, came along with your call to adventure and changed everything.  Now there’s no going back. Your protagonist is on a journey whether they want to be or not, and before they even have a chance to succeed, you can almost be certain of one thing:

Halfway through the journey, they’ll hit the lowest point they’ve ever experienced.

I’m talking about rock bottom.  A state of sheer hopelessness. Like Christ in the tomb before the resurrection, or the man in black being tortured underground in The Princess Bride, or Wilson floating away from a sobbing Tom Hanks who sits adrift at sea in Castaway, or Andy Dufresne’s time in the hole in The Shawshank Redemption.

Not all story structures are the same.  Not all characters experience this low point in the middle of the story, but if you’re working on a first draft and you’re struggling to cross that halfway point, just think of all the ways you can derail your protagonist’s path.  Think of all the ways things can go wrong.

Crucify them.  Torture them. Make them experience loss.  Make them sit in the dark, alone, hungry, and fighting off hungrier rats.

Just a thought.  An evil, evil though.

With love,


5 thoughts on “Your Protagonist’s Low Point

  1. That got me thinking about my novel, The Crop-Duster’s Son.

    At first I was like, “Ben doesn’t really have a low point, at least not in that sense.” But after further thought, I’ve realized he actually has two, although each isn’t quite as low as the ones you mention. The first is when the war is at its worst for the bomber crews and the fighters that escort them; he feels like it’s all rote busywork, that the futility of war is starting to crush him flat. The second is just after he leaves the front lines a year and a half later, feeling for the very first time like a stranger in a strange land, utterly lost and alone.

    I probably could have tortured him even further on both occasions, and there are other points that threaten to grind him down, but considering I was going for the authentic war memoir experience, somehow it didn’t seem appropriate to do so. Going that extra mile could have easily ruined the vibe in any number of ways, dragging Ben’s experience down to video game player character levels (Call of Duty comes to mind).

    However, my current WIP definitely has at least one, maybe two, characters reaching their lowest points. The antagonist will very much regret it when the first gets over it, that much I know…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I kick my MC in the nuts early and often so by the time he realizes he has to do something, he’s in pretty bad shape. He saves the world (or brings together the right people at the right time to do so) and then I groin stomp him relentlessly in the denouement.

    It’s like Stephen King said (although I heard it long before he was given attribution):

    “When his life was ruined, his family killed, his farm destroyed, Job knelt down on the ground and yelled up to the heavens, “Why god? Why me?” and the thundering voice of God answered, “I don’t know Job, but there’s just something about you that pisses me off.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s