And I find myself wondering how this happened. How did the storytellers settle on that person as their protagonist? They don’t hit any of the benchmarks of being a hero—either in the protagonist or heroic sense. They’re not even a good character in a general sense. So why are we spending all our time with them?
When we end up with protagonists like this, it’s the storytellers falling back to default mode. We’re not making any changes or adjustments of our own, we’re just going to pick up the story and run with it as-is. It’s factory-settings storytelling, so to speak.
For example, our protagonist should be the character we spend the most time with, right? Well, we’re spending the most time with, uhhhhh, that guy. So he must be our protagonist, right? Yeah, definitely our hero. I mean, there’ve been six chapters about him so far.
But there’s more to someone being my protagonist than just awkwardly being the center of attention. They have to be an active part of the story. Really, they need to be the active part, because if I’m focusing on them it’s their story. And, seriously, why would I focus on them if there was another character doing more to drive the plot forward? If somebody else is doing more, it’s probably their story and I should really be focused on them.
But again… there’s more to it than that. To be a good hero, someone needs to be a good character. Sure, they can have some flaws, but they should have some strengths, too. As A. Lee Martinez once pointed out, there’s more to be being a good person than just not being a bad person. In the same way, there’s more to being the hero than just not being the person in the background.
And we all want to be better than adequate, right?
Oh, and hey– next weekend is the Dystopian Bookclub (a.k.a. We’re All Gonna Die!) at the Last Bookstore in LA. We’re reading Lilith’s Brood by Octavia Butler, and if you start soon you could have it done in time to join us for wine and snacks and interesting discussion.
Next time, I want to go over some numbers with you.
Until then… go write.