Are We Expecting Too Much From Protagonists? | Tea Time Talk


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 notΒ 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?


9 thoughts on “Are We Expecting Too Much From Protagonists? | Tea Time Talk

  1. Interesting discussion topic! I like the point you make about protagonists setting up the entire story. I totally agree that the protagonist is essential to the building of a story.

    On the other hand, I think it’s entire okay to expect “too much” from our protagonists. That’s just the personal preference of the reader. In fact, some stories are more interesting when our expectations are flouted and we disagree with or dislike the protagonist. I haven’t read Kierra Cass’s work, but I personally am not a big fan of Katniss from The Hunger Games. And yet, I find the trilogy incredibly compelling.

    The key for me is that the protagonist is realistic, which is different and not unrelated monumental task. This is probably why we can’t find a universally loved character—no one is loved by everyone. If there was a universally loved protagonist, that would definitely be a red flag for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I do like your standing! I agree about Katniss, she has never been exactly appealing to me either, but I do highly enjoy reading about the Hunger Games world. Having a realistic protagonist is definitely SO important because it often leads to a quite relatable character. Interesting that a universally loved character would be a red flag, but when you put it like that it totally makes sense. Thanks for this awesome comment! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Sometimes, I like to think hat characters are like people. Every one of them should be different. It’s never a perfect person, but it’s never the opposite either. I don’t know, that’s just how I think of it when I write my characters… Thanks for getting this topic out! πŸ™‚

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  3. I think it depends on the type of book for me. If I’m looking for a light romance, I don’t need totally original characters all the time–I just want a good story. But if I’m reading a fantasy novel, the character better impress me. It’s hard to root for a doormat of a character sometimes…

    So I am definitely guilty of expecting too much. My biggest problem with “cookie-cutter” characters is their lack of character growth as the series progresses. I’m one of those Eadlyn haters–talk about a character who never evolves despite all the opportunities to do so. America was the same way for me in the original series. Ugh.

    The Girl of Fire and Thorns is one example I can think of where the heroine started as a brat but evolved as her circumstances did. I ended up loving her character by the end of the novel.

    I also don’t expect to like every character I encounter (just like I don’t get along with every person I meet) and that’s just the way reading goes sometimes.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Ooh it totally depends on character growth also! I agree about Eadlyn and America, but I’ve yet to read The Girl of Fire and Thorns, but development is always amazing. I guess that was my issue with Rose from Vampire Academy, she never grew up! Great insights, thank you! πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love this topic, McKenzie! I’m not sure I’d say we expect too much from our protagonists, more that we expect the authors to provide us with a character that is unique and not entirely unlikable. This, however, depends on the perspective of the reader. Everyone has different preferences for a perfect protagonist, and authors simply can’t cater to every single reader. I, personally, don’t have a a particular profile for the perfect protagonist. I’m fine with any character, as long as they aren’t Mary Sues/cookie cutter, or characters that don’t learn from their experiences. I think as readers, we’re expected to have high expectations for our protagonists. It’s a natural part of the reading experience! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Azia! I totally agree with you, it is a natural part of the reading experience. It certainly would be impossible to cater to every single person, but you have a really good outlook on it. Characters that don’t learn from their experiences is a really good thing to want though!

      Liked by 1 person

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