Monday, 20 September 2010

What Turns You Off in a Protagonist

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about what turns me on in a protagonist, so it seems only fair to write about what turns me off.


This probably ranks as number one for a lot of readers. So hardly surprising that it makes the top of the list. I think you can forgive a protagonist a lot, but stupidity is a hard one to let go. Characters should be allowed to make mistakes it's one way in which they grow and develop. But there does come a point when (if the character is constantly making mistakes and not learning from them) you begin to question if they don't deserve all the grief they attract. At that point it's usually difficult to regain any empathy you might have had for them at the beginning of the story.

Not Listening

In a way this is linked to stupidity. But when a character doesn't listen to what another character is telling them, or interprets what they are being told in a completely bizarre way it can become annoying - to put it mildly. As the reader you can 'hear' what the other character is saying. And if the character is being told something logical and interpreting it in an illogical way - it's patently obvious. If I as a reader can work out what's happening, then I think the hero/heroine should be able to as well.

I think the stupidity thing and the not listening, mainly happen because the author needs the plot to go in a certain way, so the characters serve the plot rather than the plot serving the characters.

My last turn off is a little hard to describe. But another annoying trait is if a character is 'up themselves'. Lol, I'm not sure that this translates very well. But it's almost a kind of smug vanity - a sense of superiority that isn't justified.

So these are my protagonist turn-offs. What about yours? Is there anything a hero or heroine does that really annoys you? I have a copy of Finders Keepers by Linnea Sinclair to give to one commenter on this thread. Winner to be chosen by random number at on SAturday.


Jenre said...

Oh yes. Stupidity is my most hated trait in a protagonist - although I suffer it more in a man than a woman, for some reason.

I remember a while ago reading a Judith McNaught book (possibly Once and Always). There was a long and torturous route to the h/h getting together, filled with lots of TSTL behaviour from the heroine. Then finally, after they had married and should have been heading towards their HEA another character turns up and feeds her a load of lies (or half truths) about her husband. Does she confront her husband and ask for a explanation like any sensible woman does? Of course not. She ups and leaves without explanation, leading to a forced separation which went on for about 100 pages (I skipped forward to check). At that point the book hit the wall and I couldn't be bothered to find out whether the silly woman reconciled with her husband. He didn't deserve her suspicions and stupidity and I could no longer bear to spend any more time in her head.

So yes. Stupidity and not listening or jumping to conclusions based on what someone else has told them or what they've 'overheard' and not asking for clarification are big no-nos for me.

LesleyW said...

Jenre - on more than one occasion I have found myself saying to a book - as if the characters can hear me :) - will you two just TALK to each other!

Chris said...

Not entering the contest. :)

Stupidity and not talking to each other/not listening to each other are my biggest protagonist peeves. Also, excessively perfect protagonists annoy me, mostly because they're rather dull.

Sarai said...

Sadly stupidity is number one and it happens a lot more often then I'd like.

I agree with the not listening too. I'm having a hard time with the Rachel Morgan series for that reason. The whole first 2 books she is obessed with Trent. He had to of done it. I'm going to get him. I don't care what the evidence says or my friends or anyone who is smart b/c by golly I'm right and they are wrong. And then whoops they were right...

I guess that is kind of a two fold problem not listening and believing they are always right until WHOOPS they aren't. Lord talk about banging my head against the wall

Sullivan McPig said...

Stupidity can be annoying, but my main petpeeve is:
Bitchiness (big surprise after my rant a while back.)
Also on my list:
bigotry (Anita Blake in the first book of the series is such a vampire bigot I couldn't read the rest of the series)
And lack of empathy

Holly said...

No need to enter me. ;)

Stupidity is a huge one for me, too. @Jenre, all of McNaught's books are that way. Filled with angst and unnecessary drama. Hello, communication!

I'm also with Sullivan McPig - bitchiness. I still haven't figured out when it became ok, even encouraged, to be a bitch. A woman can be strong and independent without being mean - or stupid - about it. Authors needs to strike a better balance, IMO.

Great post!

Jenre said...

Holly: Yeah, after the second of her books I realised there was a pattern emerging and didn't bother to read any more :).

Some people just love her books though, so obviously there's a market for stupid heroines ;).

Tracy said...

Not entering, but thanks. :)

Of course stupidity is a given. I can't think of any reader that likes that in a protagonist.

Not listening. That is such a huge one! I hate when the person that is supposed to be listening is so worried about themselves or what they're going to do, etc. that they don't hear the other person. So frustrating.

Great topic.

LesleyW said...

Chris - yep the dreaded Mary Sue is also very annoying.

Sarai - believing they are always right is a definite wall-banger.

Sullivan - I think bitchiness for the sake of it is not an attractive quality. But I have to admit I do like a little bit of sarcasm.

LesleyW said...

Holly - thank you. Stupidity is definitely coming out the biggee. I kind of thought it would.

Tracy - I think not listening is very frustrating for readers. Because you can 'hear' what the other characters are saying. It makes it hard to suspend disbelief that the protagonist can't hear them.

Sarah said...

Definitely stupidity! Not being willing to listen to even good ideas.

Sarah M

booklover0226 said...

I agree with the posters, stupidity and jumping to conclusions without all the facts...DUMB, DUMB, DUMB!

Tracey D

LesleyW said...

Sarah - some protagonists just seem to have one track minds - their way is the only way.

Tracy - jumping to conclusions is another biggee. And another one that has me yelling at the book. Lol - I admit I also do this to television protagonists much to the amusement of the rest of my family. And sometimes to their despair. :)

LesleyW said...

Tracey - sorry in the above post I should have included an e in your name.