Hey all! Welcome back to another Tea Time Talk, where I ramble about various bookish (and sometimes non-bookish) things. I hope today’s discussion will be entertaining, because I want to talk about our expectations for protagonists. Are they too high? Are they actually achievable expectations? Perhaps we’re just too picky?
I like to think there are unwritten guidelines that us readers like our protagonists to follow. My personal preferences are a strong, bold, slightly humble, and sarcastic leads. These are the types of main characters that I like to read about the most, because it’s a personality that I can relate to.
While I have certain characteristics that I enjoy reading about, I also love to see unique characters that stick out in my mind. If they have too much of a “cookie cutter” personality, I get bored of them and they aren’t very memorable.
Everyone has different expectations for their protagonists, as everyone has different tastes for what they like in a person. So how is an author expected to meet every readers own guidelines? I honestly don’t think they can.
When it comes to disliking characters, I’ve noticed that there always seems to be characters that are universally disliked, such as Eadlyn Schreave from Kiera Cass’s Selection spin offs. In reality, Eadlyn checks off almost every one of my guidelines since she’s strong, bold, sarcastic, and definitely a unique personality. However, she is the farthest from humble and acts like a spoiled brat. Every single review that I’ve read states how much the reader dislikes this character.
However, it is much harder to find a character that is universally loved. The perfect example seems to be Severus Snape from Harry Potter. By the end of the series, you either love him or hate him. Personally, I do not like Snape at all, but that’s a discussion for another day. This also applies to protagonists.
The main character of a book helps set the entire story, so liking or disliking the character can have a drastic effect on your overall enjoyment of the book. So, authors obviously want to write a story with the most loved protagonist in the world, but are our expectations for said protagonist impossible to achieve at this point?
When going into a book, I expect to like the protagonist. I expect them to have certain qualities that bring them out from the surrounding characters. Yet, I expect them to be different from the many other protagonists I’ve read (but not too different like Eadlyn). At times, I feel like this is a reasonable request. But when you apply these expectations to every reader, it suddenly becomes a monumental task.
So, I’ll leave you with this simple question to ponder. Are we expecting too much from protagonists?