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false protagonist

In fiction, a false protagonist is a literary technique, often used to make the plot more jarring or more memorable by fooling the audience's preconceptions, that constructs a character who the audience assumes is the protagonist but is later revealed not to be. A false protagonist is presented at the start of the fictional work as the main character, but then is eradicated, often by killing them (usually for shock value or as a plot twist) or changed in terms of their role in the story (i.e. making them a lesser character, a character who leaves the story, or revealing them to actually be the antagonist).

A false protagonist is a red herring in the form of a character. Especially in film and literature, the false protagonist may begin as a narrator. In video games, a false protagonist may initially be a playable character, only to be killed or revealed to be the antagonist. Due to the episodic nature of television, it is possible to accidentally create a false protagonist, when an actor leaves a series prematurely or becomes busy with other projects.

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  • Part of Speech: noun
  • Synonym(s):
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  • Industry/Domain: Literature
  • Category: Genre
  • Organization: Wikipedia
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