In the movies, there are always “extras,” those people who show ups in scenes so the restaurant is full, the streets are busy, or the grocery store has customers. The “extras” don’t really have any role to play, other than being in the background. In an action or horror movie, the extras don’t fare very well. In fact, things normally end badly for them.
For an extra, the world they occupy is acting upon them. They are not acting on that world; they’re just going through the motions, even though nothing they do changes the plot or improves their circumstances. The script is written for them, even though they have no lines, and their fate has long been determined. Extras are disempowered.
The protagonist has a very different role. She is acting upon the world that she inhabits. What she says and does has an impact on the people and circumstances in which she finds herself. She is capable of heroic feats of mind and body, with solid thinking and solid action, even when she gets herself in trouble. The protagonist is empowered. So is the villain, for that matter.
It’s more interesting and more fun to be the protagonist than to relegate yourself to being an extra.
You are taking the role of the extra when you believe that the world is acting upon you, and not the other way around, believing that you have no power to change the plot into one in which you are a player—or maybe THE player. When you decide you are the protagonist, the plotline shifts.
When you absolve yourself of the responsibility of accepting that you are the writer, the director, and the producer of this thing called life, you cause yourself to play a bit role in someone else’s production—instead of taking the lead and making your story your own. The fact that you believe that this production is of your own making, you recognize that you can change the plot line at any time, regardless of your past, and regardless of your age.
If the story were to end in the middle chapters, the protagonist isn’t likely to have obtained what she wants. The reason the protagonists always win is that they continue their pursuit until they get what they want. No great story ever has a protagonist that doesn’t have to discover something about themselves, change, and grow in some way to succeed.
No one ever knows what happens to the extras in a movie. They have no plot line, and they do very little to help themselves.
You are the protagonist in this story you are writing. We are all watching to see what kind of great adventure you are going to create.