How to Write a Deuteragonist
- Decide whether your story needs one. As we’ve seen, many stories have no deuteragonist – they have more of an “ensemble” cast. These structures are equally compelling; it’s all a matter of how you want to write. Would you rather focus on two characters above the rest, or have a more fluid cast of characters?
- Make your deuteragonist a foil for the main character. That is, the deuteragonist should be strikingly different from the protagonist in some way. The specifics, of course, depend on your individual storytelling choices. But try to come up with some key differences between the two characters, and highlight them in the story.
- Don’t be locked into simple relationships! The most compelling stories are the ones with lots of twists and turns, so try to keep some flexibility in the relationship between protagonist and deuteragonist. Maybe they start as enemies but become friends. Maybe they are brothers at the beginning, but slowly drift apart over the course of the story. This is a great way to show character development!
When to Use Deuteragonists
A deuteragonist is a character in a story, so mainly they’re found in creative writing (especially fiction and creative non-fiction, not as much in poetry). If you’re looking for inspiration in writing a creative story, you may start by creating a pair of characters: a protagonist and a deuteragonist. Then think about what kinds of stories might emerge from their interactions. What conflicts might ensue? Will the two characters like each other? Do they have differing goals in life that might put them at cross-purposes?
In rare cases, there may be reason to use a deuteragonist in a formal essay, particularly in history class. If you’re writing an essay about a particular historical figure, it may help to identify a secondary character who can act as a deuteragonist. For example, if you’re writing about FDR, you might want to use Eleanor Roosevelt (or Joseph Stalin!) as a deuteragonist. If you choose to write this way, though, make sure that you’re still writing an argument and basing it on facts and research. Don’t get too distracted by trying to work in literary devices.