This is a continuation of last week’s post where I talked about some of the protagonists I don’t want to read about. After that post, I had an interesting discussion both on Twitter and Facebook about the different tropes that rub the readers the wrong way, so I decided to continue the series.
- Miss Perfection.
This protagonist is absolutely perfect. She has the perfect looks, and usually through no particular effort of her own. She has the perfect family. She has the perfect job, which she is very good at (even it this job is just being an administrative assistant). She has no flaws, of the author gives her a quirky but rather endearing flaw.
For example, I read a book a few years ago about one of those perfect heroines. I think the author realized that she had made her protagonist a bit too perfect and decided to compensate this by making her clumsy. It would have worked too, except her clumsiness never manifested itself during moments where it could become a handicap or add tension to the story. She could trip and fall walking down the stairs every time she was with her love interest and the poor guy had no choice but to dive and catch her, but God forbid her fumbling with her gun or tripping an alarm during a critical action scene. This made her clumsiness seem very tacky and unnecessary.
My problem with perfect protagonists is that they are extremely boring to read about. Perfection leaves no room for character growth. Plus, I don’t know about you, but I find it extremely difficult to relate to perfect people. Not mention that they just don’t feel “real,” because perfection doesn’t exist in the real world.
I much rather read about flawed and broken characters that feel like real people than perfect cutouts from the glamor magazine covers.
- The Chosen One.
There is a legend, or a prophecy, or the ravings of a mad fool foretelling the coming of the Chosen One and our protagonist fits the bill. Or everyone around her thinks that she fits the bill.
Now I have no problem with the concept of the Chosen One per se, but I do have a problem with the execution. Most authors feel like if their protagonist is the Chosen One, they don’t need to work that hard to make her a unique and fleshed out character anymore, because hey, she will still save the world (prevent a war, marry the prince, bring peace and prosperity, underline whatever fits the current story).
Often it leaves the reader with a very boring protagonist who just floats with the current towards their inevitable fate, and we don’t understand why all the supporting characters fawn over this non-entity. The protagonist makes no decisions or mistakes, doesn’t grow as a character, but relies on everyone else to get her where she is supposed to go.
Ironically enough, these books have a lot of secondary characters that are much more interesting and fleshed out than the protagonist, probably because the author actually had to think about their backstory and behavior since they weren’t the Chosen Ones. Those characters I wouldn’t mind reading a book about.
- Mature professionals behaving like hormonal teenagers.
You see these protagonists a lot in fanfiction, but I’ve encountered a few specimens in actual published book as well, much to my amazement.
These protagonists are positioned as thirty-something professionals who are very good at their job and who have seen and done everything under the sun, and are supposed to be hardened if not jaded. Yet their behavior does not add up. They throw tantrums like a five year old that had been sent to bed without ice cream. They go into full blown hysterics or spend a good part of the story moaning about the horrors they saw or did, the unfairness of life, their scared past and other angsty stuff.
In some extreme cases they lash out without thinking or get extremely jealous or disparaging of other female characters, especially if they dare even look at their love interest. And my absolute “favorite” – start suddenly admiring the masculine physique or their companions / antagonists right in the middle of the action. Really? If you are in the middle of sword fight and your brain is busy undressing your opponent, chances are very good that you’re gonna end up with a sword in your stomach. In other words, they behave like hormonal teenagers, not mature women.
Now I am usually more tolerant of that in fanfiction because most authors are teenagers, so that’s how they think and how their peers behave. They simply don’t know any better yet. But to see this in a professionally published book? Even if it’s targeted for the young adult market, the author does her audience a great disservice by presenting them with such protagonists as role models.
So there are some more of the protagonists that drive me up the wall. What are your thoughts about this? Do you agree or disagree? Any other particular tropes set your teeth on edge? I want to hear from you.