After reading Psycop 1 last week I've been thinking about what really makes me like and root for a protagonist. Looking at my favourite heroes and heroines - Marcus Falco, Miles Vorkosigan, Kate Daniels, Elena Danvers, Nadia Stafford, Adrien English, Jaz Parks, Gen (from The Thief) - there is some common ground there.
So without further ado - my three favourite things to find in a hero/heroine.
Sarcasm, Painful Honesty, and not Shutting Up
Lol - I love me a sarcastic hero. Someone who has a withering put down always ready on the edge of their tongue. Someone who has a clever comment to deliver at a moment's notice.
...Jack said, "You saw my note, right? It said 'wait'."Someone who doesn't always keep quiet when perhaps they should because they just have to push it that bit further.
"That was a note? I thought it was a haiku."(Made to be Broken - Kelley Armstrong)
"I pointed out that he'd been no help at the ford. He pointed out that I had climbed a tree. I pointed out that I had no sword. He offered to give me his, point first." (The Thief - Megan Whalen Turner)Someone who doesn't always understand the meaning of too much information.
"...I can't think with my underwear stuck up my crack. I know it's a weakness, but it's just one of those things." (Bitten to Death - Jennifer Rardin)And if in doubt you can always state the truth.
"...Now she believes I'm a liar. Probably because I lied to her." (A Hunger Like No Other - Kresley Cole)
Keeping the Brain Switched On
One of the other attributes that I rank highly in a protagonist is whether or not they think. I hate when I read a book and start wondering at what point the hero put their brain into neutral. (Usually this happens to serve a particularly unbelievable plot point.) Smart people are sexy. People who keep their brain ticking over no matter the situation are fun to read about.
"I could tie you to the bed, you know."(Hmmm, perhaps this is a little linked to the previous point).
"No, you can't. It's round and you don't have any rope." (Twilight Fall by Lynn Viehl)
One of the things I most love about characters such as Miles Vorkosigan, Kate Daniels and Marcus Falco is that even when the situation is turning to complete shit all around them, their brains are still constantly churning over the possibilities.
"Hello, dove." He grinned at me. "Look at that: you don't have your pretty knife and I've got your hands. What are you gonna do now?"They can be saying one thing, doing something else and thinking something else entirely. It makes for an exciting and thrilling read.
I rammed my head into his nose.' (Magic Burns by Ilona Andrews)
Again this kind of links to the previous post in some ways - the character having their brain switched on- but it's also to do with the character behaving organically. I think it's important that if an author establishes a character will behave in a certain way that they are true to that. Put your character in the most awful situation imaginable but have them behave in a way that is true to them.
A brilliant example of this (and I'm going to write about it without spoilers because it just shouldn't be spoiled) is what happens to Miles Vorkosigan in Memory. Something awful happens. But it's been established since the beginning of the series that he follows this strategy of 'forward momentum' (keep going, just keep going). And up until this point it's worked pretty well for him. But in this case things just get worse and worse. He should stop...but he can't. As a reader you can see the inevitable disaster of the situation, but you also understand that Miles is behaving like Miles would.
So what are the attribues you most like your heroes/heroines to have? I have a copy of Phenomenal Girl 5 to give away to one poster to this thread. Winner to be chosen by random number at random.org on Saturday.