I’ve been feeling awful inspired to talk about some protagonists lately and there’s so many possible discussions that I wanted to start out basic. So, today we’re talking about the good, bad, and the dangerous parts about our main characters in books. This all started while reading various reviews, talking with friends and my own reading/writing experiences, and from that I’ve come to the conclusion that we hold our protagonists to almost ridiculous standards. In a way, it makes sense, a strong lead can make or break a book, but let’s discuss the different aspects of those leads.
Because of these standards, many novels have fantastic protagonists that we all love to read. They’re strong, independent, possibly witty/funny and typically have pretty relatable traits. These standards are also pushing writers to improve their skills and create these characters with lead like personalities, but not make them perfect and still try to make their character unique to others.
These expectations also help us bloggers because we know what qualities make a great protagonist and if one doesn’t live up to how we feel that certain character should be, it forces us to possibly adapt or it gives us an interesting topic to blog about. Sometimes it’s nice to be able to say that we found a unique and interesting lead, even if we didn’t like them.
How many times have you read a book where the lead is a timid young adult girl who has to grow into her own shoes and end up saving the world? Quite honestly, the answer to this is typically a lot. Having such high standards causes lots of repetition in protagonist traits and it can get tiring to feel like you’re reading the same character over and over.
Even though we might not like to admit it, we all secretly hold our protagonists to this standard. Sometimes, I’ll even catch myself comparing one character to my favorite character from a completely different book and it takes some effort to give that individual character their own chance.
I highly appreciate when I come across a protagonist that I find completely different from anyone else that I’ve read before and that’s the kind of character that stick in my head, however, authors can reach a point where their protagonist is too out of this world and they become unlikable, which just conforms protagonists to this invisible standard even more.
Authors like to mess with this fine line and one of the most recent examples I can think of is Kiera Cass’s Eadlyn. When I first started reading The Heir, Eadlyn was one of my least favorite characters I’ve ever read, and if she didn’t go through some of the transformation that she did I probably would’ve stopped reading the book.
However, this danger zone is what makes unique and memorable characters. Writing good characters nowadays is finding that perfect balance of good and bad qualities and finding a way to perfectly tread the waters of the danger zone.
I invite you guys to join the discussion! What do you feel like makes a strong protagonists? When has an author gone too far with a character or do you think that’s possible? Do you find yourselves giving protagonists an invisible standard to follow or do you truly try and judge each character as their own?
Personally, I now realize that I do need to try harder to judge each character as their own because every author deserves to have their character shine for who they truly are. I also hope that this will create some new and interesting topics to discuss and analyze in my book reviews. Thanks so much for trying out this new type of post with me!