Saturday, February 8, 2014

Heroic Qualities -- or the Makings of a Protagonist

I don't know about you, but when I think of some of my favorite books, I remember the main characters.   They are different.  They are special.  Even if they seem normal, there is something inside of them that sets them apart.  That lets us root for them.  That lets us remember them.

Heroes are partially made by the events they come in contact with, but great heroes have special qualities that are apparent from the beginning of the story. These qualities help us care.  These qualities get us to care about the main characters.

Here are just a few examples of some of my favorite characters in books and two qualities that I admire in them.  These aren't necessarily the top or most obvious traits, but but I personally like about these characters.

  • Atticus in To Kill a Mockingbird.  Driven.  Integrity.
  • Phedre in Kushiel's Dart.  Smart.  Sensuous.
  • Anne in Anne of Green Gables Optimistic.  Kind.
  • Dresden in Storm Front (Dresden Files Series) Honorable. Helps Others.
  • Lyra in His Dark Materials Cunning. Tenacious.

Also, many of these good traits end up getting in their way.  Dresden rushes into situations that are over his head in order to help people.  Phedre can be a bit too sensuous (well, she is a courtesan) which gets her in very interesting and dangerous situations and causes friction with her lover.  Atticus is so determined to do the right thing for a wrongly convicted man but this puts his children in danger.

Any strength taken too far can become a weakness.  Persistence can become obsession.  Optimism can keep people from seeing life's realities.  Integrity can become unbending.  Each character's strength taken too far can be their greatest weakness or if not a weakness, can add consequences and conflict.

  1. What are some of your favorite characters?  What are two traits that you admire in them?      
  2. Can you add one or two of these traits to your protagonist?
  3. How can each of these traits cause problems for the protagonist?

2 tidbits:

Suzi said...

I've never really analyzed my characters like this, but it'd help to establish who/what they are.

Maybe I don't do it because I don't really analyze books I'm reading. For me, it's more of a I liked it or I didn't. I usually don't critique the books in my head--unless I really disliked it. Then I might think more about it.

And I don't write reviews, because if I did, I'd probably have to think harder to give a good explanation.

Lauren said...

I didn't critique books in the past, but now I find that, as I read, I can't help but analyse what is working and what is not. I'm not sure that it's a good thing as I am not able to "turn off" the writer when I read :)

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