The protagonist is the end all – be all of the manuscript. This person will be followed by the reader all the way till the end. There doesn’t have to be just one. How many heroes have won the day alone? Since all the focus will be on these people/this person, they need to have depth.
No one wants to read about someone who can’t do anything for themselves. Unless it’s a self-help book and the person finds a way to break out of the funk at the end. On the other hand, a protagonist that can do whatever they like, kicking massive derriere and taking names right off the bat is particularly boring. Yes we all want to be that type of person, but we prefer finding out how it is they got there. They need to be balanced and have not only the attributes that make them strong, but also have things they need to work on.
IE: Cathy writes amazing reports and knows what she’s doing, but unless she can get over her shyness, the world will never know that she has created a renewable resource that is free and easy to use.
A protagonist needs to grow and the reader has to see it. No one wakes up one day to find they can do what they’ve always wanted (unless they find out someone cast a spell on them, in that case, they need to find out why.) There is a process and if done well, the reader will feel it.
Questions you should ask your protagonist:
What are your strengths? Can you use them to obtain your goal?
What are your weaknesses? Are they worthy enough in the plot for the reader to route for you?
What are your goals?
What’s keeping you from your goals?
There are ways to break this down even further.
Like: What type of archetype are you?
Are you the hero, the anti-hero, the fool, or something else entirely?
The more you know about your protagonist, the more depth you can show in his/her/its journey.
What are your thoughts? Do you flush out your protagonist before you write or do you let them come to life on the pages?