Monday, May 4, 2015

Character Building: The Protagonists, Part II

What makes a good protagonist?

I mean beyond the expected stereotypes and the archetypes that we can all describe within the boundaries of genres.

1. Likeability.  The protagonist should be someone we like.  Maybe not necessarily someone we would want to have in our family, but this person should be someone we would want to root for and to have a conversation with and watch from a creepy distance to see what they will do.  At the very least.

2.  Hubris.  Yeah, the Greeks had this one right.  I don't know why Superman is so interesting.  The only thing that makes him fallible is some foreign rock and his love of humanity.  And a woman.  This seems kinda dull to me.  Give me a hero who can't control his anger, who battles insanity and depression, who fights his own friends and family--well, now, this is an interesting protagonist in whom I can invest some time and interest.

3. Good setting, conflict, and supporting characters?  I suppose the best protagonists can be boring if we put them in dull situations and places with flat foil characters.  A lengthy pontification on this to come.  Hold your breath.

How does this all happen?  Flashes of genius?  Lots of practice?  Lots of painful revision?

I don't know.

When I meet a great protagonist, I want to see the chaos that surrounds them and obsess and imagine what the world will be like one hundred pages after their world has ended, but I also know that the genius of that character's world is inherent in those pages.

And yes, more often than not, I do not want to be this character's best friend.  I just want to watch them.

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