Perfect Protagonists

Published May 22, 2012 by Ms. Nine

You’ve created the perfect protagonist.   He’s attractive, has a strong moral code, no physical limitations, and is highly successful.   He’s hard at work saving the world, rescuing the girl, and doing the right thing all the time.  But he’s exhausted.   So are his readers.  But he’s so perfect he won’t even tell you how tired he is.  Give your protagonist a break!  Perfect protagonists aren’t perfect. 

Let’s say the protagonists has to do something, something he’s expected to do.  But this time, this one time, the protagonist just can’t perform.  Is the world going to end?  Is someone going to die?  Then try letting another character take up the slack.

Like this.

     “Hey Yogi,  look over there.”  Marvin pointed to the six deer grazing under the mulberry tree.  “Go get ’em!” 

     The shade under the back porch and Marvin’s chair rocking had lulled Yogi into a state of semiconsciousness.   The black lab perked up his head.  His sloppy eyes fixed on Marvin’s.  He panted, but didn’t  follow Marvin’s finger.  Instead, he rested his head back on his paws.

     Marvin sighed,  “Come on, Yogi.  I can’t cotton to these deer going after my corn.  You know I can’t afford a fence – you’re all I got.”  He wanted to yank Yogi up by his collar, give him a nudge, a kick even.  But Marvin was a practical man.   Yogi  had worked the fields all day chasing away the deer and countless rabbits.  After doing his job for seventeen years, that old dog’s gotta be tired.

     “Alright, Yogi.  I can see you ain’t moving off this porch.”  Marvin stood up from his chair and put down his beer.  “I don’t blame you, not one bit.  So I’ll do it this time.”

     Yogi picked up his head again and wagged his tail a little as Marvin ran, arms wide, making loud turkey calls.   The deer scattered off,  just as if Yogi had chased them himself.  

See?  It’s okay to let another character take charge.  The perfect protagonist needs a break!

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4 comments on “Perfect Protagonists

  • I worry about my characters getting a little too perfect, too. I have my two romantic leads have a couple of argument just to keep them from being too sickly-sweet. (Then, they get involved in a menage a trois for good measure.)

    Also, my male protagonist occasionally kills people. They deserve it, of course, but it’s no modern person’s idea of justice.

      • Actually, yes, he does kill them perfectly. If they’re human, he puts them to sleep–permanently–and if they’re a vampire, he gives them a couple of rifled slugs from his Benelli pump-action .12 gauge straight to the heart, or he cuts out their throat in a quick, single motion. It’s as quick and humane a death as a vampire’s going to have.

        Rather kind of him, really.

        He does have to torture one vampire, but he really has no other option. And, as someone else points out, “Anselm didn’t cut off anything that wouldn’t have grown back.”

        Now, that’s ethical.

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