What are some traumas, hardships, and challenges to put a protagonist through?

There are certain crimes I feel are unforgivable. They’ve happened to many people I’ve known. And when writing I use those to make my characters more tragic and sympathetic. But I want to Branch out as a writer. My goal is to create characters the reader wants to feel for.


Kidnapped as a child then raised on some bad end.

I will use this soon.

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Being accused as the killer of a friend? And the other friends accuse you have a good reason.

It can be that the you’re set up, acted “out of necessity,” or it’s just your true intention and find no reason to cover it up.

for more reading

The plot can shows yourself uncovering the truth that someone else set you up. Bonus points for “disguising as a new identity.”

Another variation is that you trully killed the victim, and now in a jail/dungeon/whatnot to atone the crime. Bonus points when a bigger threat shows up and “this is your chance to atone for your crimes.”
Even more points when people around refer to you as, “the ruthless killer,” or other similar demeaning titles, and embrace it.


facing or chasing a serial killer is kinda a classic . It has all the bodies pile up , the feeling hopeless , the scary heart wrenching drama …and the end can be good or bad .


The MC shouldn’t go through any hardships at all. They should have a perfect life where everyone loves them and they’re able to accomplish any feat with remarkable ease.


thats hardship in it self lolol…starring at your perfect reflection! oh no! hearing peoples gush over you! oh no! attending the best school , having everything! Oh the boredom !! suffocated by your family love …

that sound like some serial killer beginning to meh :stuck_out_tongue:


Losing Character/Love Interest A vs Character/Love Interest B.


You got a good main character? An obstacle for him to overcome? Friends become enemies, enemies become friends? At the end your main character is richer for the experience? [voice gets higher pitched as I talk]

Give him an annoying friend he is torn between helping and avoiding.


The biggest burdens are often financial. Whether that’s being underemployed for their skill set, having major bills, lousy personal finance, etc, the need for money can drive people to action. With that said, the things that make characters the most compelling are their own choices. Combined, the financial pressure creates sympathy and the consequent test of morals creates tragedy.


I think it would be interesting to see for a protagonist:

  • Being mute/deaf/blind: being blind would definitely take some playing around with, but playing as a mute or deaf protagonist would be a very interesting game play.
  • Not having an eye/hand/leg/foot: there are only a few games where I can think of this being an option or happening throughout the game.
  • And I second that being kidnapped one…I personally don’t think I’ve seen it in any game recently, if ever!

Gonna shoot the elephant in the room here. Victim of sexual abuse and really running with that concept. Maybe give them a nervous tick (scratches arms / rubs thumb on side of hand / paces / etc). Play with the concept and see how far it goes. Ex. I dealt with that as a kid and it screwed up my relationship with both men and women for years. I had very dark thoughts and it was hard to trust people. Quite honestly, even today it still affects me.

Point is you can really draw a lot out of having a character deal with a trauma like that. Do they run into their assailant again? Are they able to face them now without reverting back to that same 7 year old kid? What if their assailant has changed their ways and is truly repentant? Can your character find it in them to forgive that person?

Ex. I am currently working on a story where this may happen to your character. If it does, and you pick a certain fighter class (it’s a fantasy setting), you can go into a sort of blood rage where all you see are your assailants and you can actually fight them. The challenge becomes in how long or often you stay in that state, putting your allies at risk since “in game” the player won’t be able to differentiate who is a friend and who isn’t since they’d all appear as your attacker.

Stuff like that is a veritable treasure trove of plot development if you can stomach talking about such an obscene topic


That’s my go to hence why I’ve been trying to branch out

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I meant really digging into it. I haven’t read any of your stuff but most people that do include sexual abuse rarely get into how truly immense the ground that can be covered is.

I’ve read one game where the only notable factor that something had happened to the character was that they didn’t talk. That and some mild insinuation that they were a bit feral. Meanwhile you have a series like Berserk where the character doesn’t trust ANYBODY, primarily because the one father figure he had sold him to get raped. Similarly Alucard from a series called Hellsing is a murderous evil monster yet virtually none is attributed to the fact that he was raped by the equivalent to the pope.

My point is that there are a lot of traumas to play with: parents sold child to slavers, parents saw the MC as a monster and tried to kill them, MC saved a little girl from a monster and suffered because of it, MC nearly drowned as a child.

Tons of different ways to go if the first isn’t something you want to do.


Death of their parents?

Has that ever been done before?

How about an accident. The protagonist did something when they were young that hurt someone else badly. Especially if the protagonist never got caught. That guilt never goes away.



too many ‘avenge your mother , father’’ trope lol .


Always liked this one from Preacher-

Jesse- “The same guy who shot my dad dead in front of my face was the guy who taught me to fight. It tends to focus your thinking.”

Jody’s last words to Jesse- “Proud of you, Boy.”


Yup. As a teen, bullies made me desperate to escape this life. As an adult, irreparable career destruction makes me daydream about aliens or fairies taking me away.

Disconnecting someone from their life is a great way to start a story.


There’s always the “everyone hates him/her because even though he/she saved a life that day it lead in losing many others” so basically it’s the protagonist is shamed upon because they saved someone close to them but left others to die in a result troupe.

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I think a challenge to a protagonist would be a frame -up (frameup) or setup. Let them talk their way out with the court, judge, juries or go to jail and be miserably happy?

And if they go to jail, make them have to deal with brutal guards and fellow prisoners, a corrupt warden, problems outside too. Inescapable prison is a common trope. So is the world outside changing while you’re away. I saw a book yesterday at the store called The Forever War that took this to an extreme (soldier spends hours going through a portal and fighting, when he returns centuries have passed).