Skip to main content
Palgrave Macmillan

The Protagonist's Journey

An Introduction to Character-Driven Screenwriting and Storytelling

  • Textbook
  • © 2022


  • Provides a new set of terminology to help students construct the interior and exterior arcs of character

  • Includes a diverse range of case studies, from Hollywood classics to contemporary feature films and television

  • Marks the first book-length study to take a Jungian approach to screenwriting

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this book

eBook USD 19.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book USD 24.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Other ways to access

Licence this eBook for your library

Institutional subscriptions

About this book

Character drives plot. Based on this principle, this book walks aspiring writers through the fascinating world of character-driven screenwriting. When a writer engages their characters, they start a process which naturally leads to the story’s structure and everything else that makes for a well-written narrative. Exploring the protagonist’s journey and their “unity arc,” Myers explains how a family of characters surrounds the protagonist and influences their transformation process. This easy-to-follow guide features activities that will help writers of any level develop their stories from concept to scene-by-scene outline. Based upon a popular workshop Myers has led with over a thousand writers at all levels of experience, this book is a must-have for screenwriting students, both undergraduate and graduate, and those looking at advanced story development.

Similar content being viewed by others


Table of contents (21 chapters)

  1. The Protagonist’s Journey as Narrative Imperative

  2. The Protagonist’s Journey as Family of Characters

  3. The Protagonist’s Journey as Screenplay


“Scott has one of the best analytical minds on the planet and his approach to writing is so compassionate and kind, you will absolutely benefit from this book.” (Jessica Ellis, 2018 Black List/Women In Film lab writer, What Lies West writer-director)

“I wish I had this book when I began my screenwriting journey. Kudos Scott. I love how you have used classic films as examples as well as TV. I'm already using your book for problem solving.” (Gary Scott Thompson (The Fast and the Furious, Las Vegas))

“Action is character. Scott takes a very simple and often-overlooked aspect of dramatic writing and skillfully turns it into a tour de force tutorial that is compelling, inspirational and practical. The Protagonist's Journey immediately joins the classics of screenwriting literature.” (Arash Amel (Rise))

“Scott Myers is a canny and thoughtful teacher of the craft of screenwriting, and brings all of his impressive knowledge, insight and experience to The Protagonist's Journey: this book is full of essential lessons for the novice, and crucial reminders for the professional.” (Javier Grillo-Marxuach, Writer/Producer, Lost, The Dark Crystal, The Middleman)

“Scott Myers is an uncommonly sensitive and erudite thinker and writer about the craft of modern screenwriting. I think so many writers at all stages of their careers will find nourishment in his character-forward approach, as well as anyone who is interested in the mysteries of storytelling or just plain loves movies. Great films are about remarkable, compelling, and challenging characters. This book offers both tools and inspiration-- it's a new, yet timeless, lens through which to view the question of how we tell film stories and why.” (Phil Hay, Crazy/Beautiful, The Invitation, Destroyer)

“I’ve been reading and learning from Scott’s column for years now, but The Protagonist’s Journey is his greatest achievement yet. It offers a smart, comprehensive guide to writing memorable characters and, most of all, reminds us that characters are why people seek out stories and characters, not plot, remain with audiences long after the credits roll. An essential read.” (Brad Ingelsby, Out of the Furnace, Run All Night, Mare of Easttown)

“Scott Myers’ analytical gifts deftly lay bare the narrative underpinnings of movies that we love. The Protagonist’s Journey is foundational for screenwriters, and even certain fiction writers. Myers illuminates a core principle of writing for the screen: All story rises from character. Bookstores have been too well-supplied with “paint-by-plot-point” screenwriting manuals that encourage schematic writing and single-trait characters. For me, it’s a keen pleasure to see Scott Myers’ fresh approach. He profoundly understands that the most essential thing in a performance-based art is our experience of the central character’s personal transformation, and what is gained and lost – inevitably – along the way. Myers draws from a broad grasp of classic, Aristotelian story-telling, as he expands our own understanding with deep insights that he has gleaned from masters of mythology and human psychology. What a resource this book is! I’m envious of the lucky writer who’s just starting out, with this book on their nightstand.” (Robin Swicord, Little Women, Matilda, Memoirs of a Geisha, When They See Us)

“The Protagonist's Journey is a nod of respect to the craft of screenwriting. Equal parts contemplative and practical, Myers' straightforward approach turns dense concepts into readily accessible ideas.” (T.J. Newman, author of the best-selling novel Falling)

“The chicken or the egg equivalent for screenwriters (and all storytellers) is what comes first: Plot or character. What should come first is reading Scott Myers’ book, The “Protagonist’s Journey. It’s a rare gem. A book that focuses on character development, and how characters impact the plot. Each chapter provides specifics of character using modern film and tv references. Too many books teach structure with the protagonist as an afterthought. The Protagonist’s Journey is a must-have, must-read for all screenwriters, and a must-teach for all screenwriting professors.” (Keith Giglio, screenwriter, Reba McEntire’s Christmas in Tune, A Cinderella Story; Professor, S.I. Newhouse School, Syracuse University)

“Scott Myers has distilled his years of successful screenwriting and teaching into convenient book form. Scott’s approach is a refreshing move away from static formulas and toward character-driven decision-making. Practical exercises provide strategies for brainstorming, breaking story, and creating characters with nuance and depth. Examples from accessible contemporary film and television run throughout Scott’s text, making this a book students will truly connect with. The Protagonist’s Journey will likely be widely adopted in screenwriting courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels.” (Theo Lipfert, Professor, School of Film & Photography, Montana State University)

“Every movie lives or dies by their characters and no one understands that better than Scott. Whether you’re a seasoned screenwriter or writing “fade in” for the first time, The Protagonist’s Journey: An Introduction to Character-Driven Screenwriting and Storytelling is required reading. The perfect torch to navigate the dark abyss that is crafting a screenplay. A masterclass.” (David Guggenheim, Safe House, Designated Survivor) 

“My training as a film and tv writer consists of one online class I took with Scott as my teacher. And the lessons I learned from him have lasted me to this day. Scott is a brilliant guide for anyone looking to get into screenwriting. Regardless of the genre, budget, or style of the film — character is everything. It is the bedrock of all drama, laughter, love, passion, and loss. Get to know your characters well enough — and they tend to tell you the story they want to be in. Scott’s book is an indispensable tool for unlocking scripts through character and a great tool for any screenwriter.” (Lisa Joy, Westworld, Reminiscence)

“In a sea of great books about writing, The Protagonist’s Journey stands out. Scott Myers has a gift for distilling information into its purest and simplest form, and this book is no different. We’ve seen so many books on screenwriting being framed through the lens of structure, and it’s refreshing to see someone tackle it from the most fundamental part of story: Character.” (Scott Beck and Bryan Woods, A Quiet Place) 

“In his decade of teaching, culminating with this book, Scott has pulled off a remarkable feat. He’s made a complete compendium of the screenwriting craft while continuing to encourage the antithesis of formulaic writing.” (Peter Craig, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Top Gun: Maverick, The Batman) 

“Scott Myers understands the craft of screenwriting. The Protagonist's Journey is an excellent resource for writers seeking to create more multilayered, evocative characters in their storytelling process.” (Scott Derrickson, Sinister, Deliver Us From Evil, Dr. Strange) 

“Finally, there is a screenwriting book that focuses on the most important and most overlooked element of good storytelling. The characters really are everything. The Protagonist’s Journey gives you the tools to craft emotional, character-driven stories that are the bread and butter of any professional screenwriter. If you want some genuine screenwriting advice, look no further than Scott’s book.” (Stephany Folsom, Toy Story 4, Paper Girls) 

“Screenwriting is not an innate skill (I wish) but story sense is, and every human has it. In this book, Scott mercifully provides an entrance to the craft of screenwriting through our natural sense of story and human behavior. Follow your protagonist, and her wants, needs, skills and deficiencies will lead you where your screenplay needs to go, so the book shows us. In guiding the reader/writer through understanding their protagonist, Scott shows us how to better understand ourselves, the #1 skill no screenwriter can go far without.” (Liz W. Garcia, The Lifeguard, Cold Case, Memphis Beat) 

“Scott has long been a bastion of screenwriting wisdom for me, and this book distills all his years of craft and structure into a roadmap for storytelling I wish I had when I started this business. It's quickly become my problem-solving resource for every time I run afoul of my story.” (Eric Heisserer, Arrival) 

“A fresh (and refreshing) way to look at storytelling. Scott expertly crystallizes the most important concept in screenwriting: that character and story are one in the same. I'll be keeping this book nearby so I can easily crack it open next time I'm stuck on a script.” (David Rabinowitz, Academy Award, BlacKkKlansman) 

“Scott Myers is a gift to screenwriters everywhere. Brilliant and energizing, The Protagonist’s Journey is a new bible for writers to take their awesome movie idea and evolve it into a living breathing screenplay. I absolutely loved this book and will be using it as an essential tool for making my next script the best it can be.” (Kirsten “Kiwi” SmithLegally Blonde, 10 Things I Hate About You, Trinkets) 

“The Protagonist's Journey is a remarkable book. Scott Myers is an extremely rare creative talent. A gifted writer and a brilliant teacher. You can learn so much from him. This is a special book.” (Shane Salerno, Armageddon, Avatar 2-5, New York Times bestselling author, Salinger) 

“We care more about the person driving the car than we do the road they're on. All too often, plot and so-called plot points become the drivers of narrative. What results are cruise-control stories that are formulaic and predictable. What Scott instead does here is guide the reader through an inside-out approach, starting with the unique wants and needs of the main character, and how the actions they take to fulfill them are what keep the reader turning to the next page.” (Chris SparlingBuried, The Sea of Trees, Greenland) 

“I can’t think of anyone more qualified in this field than Scott. The teachings on his blog helped keep me sane during my day job as I tried to break into screenwriting. And now his book is a top shelf must-have for any screenwriter serious about the craft. If you want to learn about how to build a better protagonist or understand what makes a screenplay great, Scott unearths the ingredients of the best scripts in the business and makes them palatable. His insight, expertise, and ability to break down character and story can serve as a guiding light to the next generation of screenwriters.” (Charlie WachtelAcademy Award, BlacKkKlansman)

“The Protagonist’s Journey is a superb resource for writers: sharp, engaging, and brimming with insight. Scott Myers illuminates techniques for character development that not only kickstart creativity, but enable writers to deepen their work and to craft gripping, emotionally satisfying stories. A gem.” (Meg Gardiner, author of the best-selling UNSUB novels) 

“If characters are the lifeblood of stories, The Protagonist’s Journey takes you directly into the heart of the matter. As inspirational as it is informational, Scott Myers has created nothing less than a path for writers to immerse themselves in the lives of their characters and enable them to drive the story-crafting process.” (Don Winslow, author of the best-selling City on Fire, Broken, The Border, The Force, The Cartel)

“The ‘Protagonist’s Journey is a focused, well-written, and welcome insistence on character development as the primary source of storytelling energy. Using Aristotelian logic, Jungian psychology, and Campbellian mythology to comprehensively explore and unlock the secrets of effective, character-driven screenwriting, Myers not only provides his readers with a clearly defined map on how to properly navigate story, but reveals, to this author’s approval, that plot without person is a journey to mediocrity.” (Dana Coen, Co-Executive Producer, JAG; Director, Writing for the Screen and Stage Program, Professor of the Practice, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) 

“When Scott Myers talks about screenwriting, I listen. So many writing guides focus on structure, but Scott persuasively preaches that well-drawn characters drive our best stories. In The Protagonist’s Journey, Scott gives us practical steps to shape powerful narratives around protagonists, offers a multitude of teaching illustrations from great movies, and gently invites us into this process he understands so well. It’s a terrific book I can’t wait to share with my students.” (Greg Garrett, Author of Bastille Day and four other novels, and of A Long, Long Way: Hollywood’s Unfinished Journey from Racism to Reconciliation; Professor, Baylor University) 

“Building on his vast expertise as a writer and a screenwriting teacher, with The Protagonist’s Journey, Scott Myers provides a comprehensive, contemporary standard work for screenplay analysis and its application, focusing on the core belief: that character is plot and plot is character.” (Carolin Große HellmannHead of Serial Storytelling / Professional Training Screenwriting, Internationale Filmschule Köln)

“Scott's book gives clear and valuable guidelines to develop organic stories that are driven by complex, empathetic characters. This is a much-needed book in a field that has long been centered on plot. Whenever I feel lost in a script, I go back to The Protagonist's Journey and use it as my compass to find my way through!” (Alireza Khatami, Award-winning writer-director, Oblivion Verses; Assistant Professor, Ryerson University) 

“You can tell from reading the first chapter of The Protagonist’s Journey that it was written by someone who knows how to communicate with an audience as varied in its interests as its abilities. With years of storytelling experience behind him, Scott Myers has written a book easily graspable by the beginning writer but complex enough to interest even the most sophisticated of writers. Everyone setting out to write narrative—whether screenplay, novel, or even history—will want to have Myers’ book along for the ride.” (Becky McLaughlin, Professor of English, University of South Alabama) 

“Maybe you have an interesting character, or a compelling premise, and then what? If you’ve ever struggled to integrate character with plot, The Protagonist’s Journey is for you. Scott Myers holds an unwavering lens on character (protagonists, supporting character archetypes, nemesis) and then leads us through an actionable framework for creating transformational plots. The result is an essential read for any professional writer, teacher, or student who wants their stories to journey purposefully.” (Ryan Woldruff, Associate Professor of English, Central Methodist University)


Authors and Affiliations

  • DePaul University, Chicago, USA

    Scott Myers

About the author

Scott Myers has written thirty projects for nearly every major Hollywood studio and broadcast network. He hosts, which Writers’ Digest named “Best of the Best Scriptwriting Website.” An assistant professor at DePaul University, USA, Scott is a graduate of the University of Virginia and Yale University Divinity School, USA.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: The Protagonist's Journey

  • Book Subtitle: An Introduction to Character-Driven Screenwriting and Storytelling

  • Authors: Scott Myers

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: Literature, Cultural and Media Studies, Literature, Cultural and Media Studies (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2022

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-030-79681-5Published: 29 March 2022

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-030-79682-2Published: 26 March 2022

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XXXVI, 339

  • Number of Illustrations: 117 b/w illustrations, 81 illustrations in colour

  • Topics: Screenwriting, Film and TV Production

Publish with us