In every story there is a protagonist, also called the hero. The protagonist is the main character of a story and the protagonist must want something.
What Your Character Wants - Intent
Begin by deciding what your main character wants. The want can be a goal, a wish, or a strong desire. Since you are in the beginning phase of planning out your book, this should be a very broad statement:
Protagonist wants to find true love.
Protagonist wants to win the marathon.
Protagonist wants to solve a murder and catch the bad guy.
After you have decided on what your character wants, you need to decide on the setting. Where will your protagonist be living your story? What country, state? Is the setting urban, suburban, or rural? These factors will help define your main character.
Deciding on your character's appearance before writing your book helps you remain consistent in describing your character. Make a list of how the character looks.
Is your character male or female?
How old is the protagonist?
List the character's physical appearance.
What is the character's name?
Does the character have any annoying habits?
Is there anything unique about your character's appearance?
Give your main character a history, even if you don't use the material in your book. Your character's history is what drivers her to act and do the things that she does.
Give details about the character's childhood.
List likes and dislikes with a brief explanation for each.
Every good story needs conflict. A conflict is something that stands in the way of the character's goal.
Using the examples of character wants, we can decide on the conflict:
Protagonist wants to find true love. - Another woman stands in the way.
Protagonist wants to win the marathon. - Has an injury before the race.
Protagonist wants to solve a murder and catch the bad guy. - The murder doesn't make any sense.
At this point in the plot planning, keep your statements broad. You will be able to fill out the details later after you have created a basic map of the plot.
For the main character to be a true protagonist, he must take action and solve the conflict. Giant eagles cannot swoop down from the sky and save him at the last possible moment. He must take action and solve the problem himself.
Make this a brief statement. For example:
Protagonist wants to solve a murder and catch the bad guy. - The murder doesn't make any sense. - Protagonist finds a missed clue.
The conclusion is how the story will end. Again, make this a brief statement. Example:
Protagonist wants to solve a murder. - The murder doesn't make any sense. - Protagonist finds a missed clue. - Murderer is caught.
You should now have a rudimentary outline for your novel based around your character. With this skeleton, you can begin to flesh out motives, barriers, actions, catastrophes, and the conclusion using the plot structure of your choice.