Friday, July 23, 2010

Who are your favorite protagonists and why?

I recently had a good discussion with an editor friend of mine that left me thinking about protagonists. Protagonists are tricky business. You ever read a book where the protagonist is so frustrating that you just want to smack her/him upside the head with a hammer the whole time? Maybe knock some sense into them? At times, a character is too one-dimensional, only acts one way. Maybe you simply can't relate to them because they lack depth of genuine feeling. But, I suspect that most of the time we get so pissed off because said protagonist is one that we've grown to care about, to love, and we're frustrated with or for them, rather than AT them. Maybe they have no self confidence... maybe they have too much! But the one factor that makes a protagonist stick with us is their humanity--their flaws.

Who wants to read about someone who always says the right thing, always does and feels the right thing? None of us do, so how is that relate-able? You want to feel like they are real. You want to understand what's going on in their heart, even if the author of the book is subtle about laying it all out, so that, where the other characters only see the surface of things, YOU know better. You see the secret relief, agony, bliss, regret, passion, where the surrounding characters cannot.

So, this has me wondering. Who are your favorite main characters? I don't care what genre or period of book you choose, and you can have more than one favorite. I'm just interested in knowing why you love who you love (and hate who you hate, for that matter.)

I'll go first.

Harry Potter. LOVE him. He can be annoying and emo, it's true, but it's just part of the hell that is this character's life and adolescence, so, who can blame him? I think most HP fans out there have the same relationship to the character, so, I'll bet you Potterheads know what I mean. But, I love HP because he's flawed. He doesn't always make the wise or mature decisions, but he's a brave, believavle kid with a good heart.

Bilbo Baggins (from The Hobbit.) Now, if ever there was an annoying character it's old Bilbo. He's curmudgeony, skiddish, afraid of adventure and rather lazy. But, he's a lot like real people I know, and best of all, he goes through a huge character arc. He goes from coward to hero by the story's end.

Cliche, maybe, but Elizabeth Bennett from Pride and Prejudice. I love her because she's so ahead of her time, she's passionate, she's idealistic, and she's a strong-minded individual! (Note I say individual, not woman, because she's better than most I've read, male or female.)

Jane Eyre, from Jane Eyre. By far, hands down, she's my favorite, because the author (Charlotte Bronte) built such richness of emotion and heart in such a subtle, deeply reserved package. Jane goes through hell after hell, and you feel the fear, the passion, the anger, and you see it go from childhood, where she wore it on her sleeve, to tempered and polished over time. You see her character develop into this amazing person who listens with such sincerity and non-judgment, though she lives in a world that could use her practical insight more than anyone else's. She also harbors more passion than any other romantic character of that era that I've ever read so far. She is silent and silent and silent, and then her heart just explodes all over the reader and you say "GO, Jane Eyre! You get yours!" Love this character.

All right. Your turn. Who do you love and why? We'll compare notes...


KarenG said...

I was on twitter when you sent out your link here. We share the same protagonist faves I think! Love HP and every one of the protagonists in Roald Dahl books. Love Jane Austen's altho I'm currently reading Emma, who is now my fave. Jane Eyre is UNBELIEVABLE!! Every writer should study her as a model of a MC!

Jen said...

Karen, I agree about Jane Eyre! Her character is so well developed. C. Bronte never tries too hard with Jane. She lets the story evolve the character naturally. And it's so heartbreaking, but she ends up being amazingly strong and patient because of it. Read Jane Eyre, folks!

Lale said...

I really love Dru from Lili St. Crow's Strange Angels series purely because of her flaws- she's so incredibly human that it makes it easy to connect with her even though she's in a very different situation to us!

Jen said...

Lale, this is exactly how I feel! No matter what the story is, no matter how out there and crazy, if the character is human in emotion and shortcomings and strengths, if we can struggle with them, then we can feel for them. I love to be inspired!