The idea for this post (or what more likely be a series of posts) was born after I posted this book review, probably because the heroine in this book was a perfect example of a protagonist I don’t want to read about. So I thought about writing a series of posts about the different types of protagonists that drive me up the wall, make me want to throw the book at the wall, or just make me yawn and go, “Yeah, whatever.”
I think that it’s very important for me as a writer to be aware of what kind of protagonist makes me put a book down as a reader. So I thought I would share my personal pet peeves and ask my readers about theirs.
So without further ado, let’s start at number 1.
1. Too stupid to live.
This one that makes me grind my teeth in frustration and gives me the desire to whack the protagonist on the head with something heavy to put him or her out of their misery. All this protagonist does is make one stupid mistake after another during the whole book. Mistakes that land her in very dangerous situations, I must add. Amazingly enough, not only does she survive those situations, but she also refuses to learn anything from it. Special mention if those stupid mistakes are the ONLY thing that drives the story forward.
This one is just… GRRRR!!! I understand that a good story derives from characters making mistakes. But I’m a firm believer that there needs to be a logic behind those mistakes, and they must not seem like mistakes at the time. And no, rushing into the den of the enemy all alone and without telling anyone where you went (when your allies warned you about staying away, I might add) is never a good idea. There is no logic that can explain that apart from the idea that the character probably has a death wish.
Now I need to point out that I am not against the character making mistakes. By all means, let them get burned, let them do something and get smacked in the face by the consequences. But the characters need to LEARN from those mistakes, they need to EVOLVE. Those mistakes need to fuel the character progression. Otherwise it feels like this image here:
If all your character does is bang her head against the wall and doesn’t even pause to think that maybe finding a door or a window would be more productive… well, I don’t want to read about that.
Unfortunately, this trope usually goes hand to hand with another one of my pet peeves.
2. The “strong” female protagonist turns damsel in distress.
This is another cringe-worthy case where the protagonist is portrayed as a strong female protagonist, tough as nails, kicking butt and taking names all days of the week, doubly so on Sundays… Yet when push comes to shove and she finds herself in a dangerous situation (that might or might not have been of her own making due to stupid mistakes from point 1), she suddenly becomes completely useless. Queue the love interest / male side character(s) who ride on a shining steed to save the day.
I especially “love” the protagonists who can’t keep their mouths shut during the whole sad event and mouth off to their captors as well as their rescuers. If I was the antagonist, I would have gagged them, or just killed them outright rather than listen to that. If I was the love interest, I would probably rethink my priorities and the reason behind my affection toward this particular protagonist. Especially if she was kicking and screaming that she had everything under control and that I didn’t need to intervene while I dragged her from her imminent death… yet again.
This last trait of character brings me to the final point in today’s post.
3. Everybody loves her (usually for no reason at all).
We all have seen those protagonists. All the males in the vicinity seem to fall in love with them almost at first glance. They can do no wrong in their eyes, no matter how rude, pushy or disrespectful the protagonist are… or how many stupid mistakes they make throughout the book. Usually those books are also filled to the brim by handsome, strong men and the distinct lack of other female characters (at least positive ones). If there are other female characters, they usually hate the protagonist’s guts, are villains or sluts or both.
I think this distinct lack of positive female characters is due to the fact that they would paint our “perfect” protagonist in not a very flattering light, so instead of actually working on the character, some authors simply eliminate the competition. The Symphony of Ages books by Elizabeth Haydon are a perfect example of this – everybody loves Rhapsody, even those who say they hate her.
I’m always so sad when I stumble upon a book like that, especially if the characters show at least glimpses of personality from time to time. Imagine how more profound and tridimensional the protagonist could have been, if she had real female friends, was allowed to have flaws and didn’t have the whole male population fawning over her.
Pfew, so those are some of my least favorite character tropes, though definitely not all of them, because listing them all probably necessitates at least another post or two. Those particular characters drive me up the wall, but what about you? What kind of protagonists make you groan and roll your eyes or close the book and move on?