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Character Agency

Character Agency, what is it?

There are two types of characters, Active and Passive. Who or what might those be?

An active character like your Main Character (MC) should be making decisions. These decisions drive the story and plot forward.

In one of my stories, the MC is a young lady who almost becomes passive. She just wants to grow up and live a normal life.

A normal life doesn’t seem too much of a plot. When we learn that she has been trying to do this for centuries, then our interests are piqued.



The MC was around when the Kraken was Poseidon’s pet. Athena and Poseidon got into a bit of a tiff when he slept with her twin sister Medusa in Athena’s temple. Waiting for her chance, as the gods became more passive, she was shocked to learn that humans and gods were cavorting. The gods created hybrids, upsetting the balance of power. Magic, controlled by the gods, was now in jeopardy of infiltration from these ‘hybrids.’ While searching for the rogue gods, Athena witnessed true love and decided that she wanted to experience it herself.

This is the buildup of the story. Athena, now Bethany, having chosen to be the child of humans, is raised much like everyone we know.

While Bethany is unaware of who she is, her mother more or less drives the narrative, while she grows up. This was the moment when a major flaw was pointed out to me.

I had given all of her ‘agency’ to her mother.

Who is the story about?

  • Was or is Bethany still an active character? Yes.

  • Can she have decisions made for her and still be an active character? Yes.

  • Should she have more agency? Should she be making more decisions? Probably.

This is why you should have critique partners and beta readers. It is also why you should have an editor who does this for a living.


Passive characters are boring. Nobody wants to read about a character that the author moves from place to place.

In the following blog posts, we will talk about the different parts of this novel from plot points, breaking points, and story structure. There are many other aspects we will delve into as we craft this story from the ground up. Conflict, another part of the process, will be explained in detail as we progress. If you follow this blog, you will be part of the development of writing ‘Magic and Mayhem.’

In summary, an active character is one who makes decisions and drives the story. A passive character is much like a prop. A store clerk or waiter who performs some function or provides some random bit of information would be a passive character unless of course, they become part of the overall plot. Maybe they are the real murderer.

If you have questions or comments, leave them below.




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