Think Aloud explores book-related discussions encompassing reading, writing, blogging, and perhaps newsworthy content. The focus is to push the boundaries, stretch the mind, and encourage dialogue within this community. Let’s all think out loud.
Are Protagonists Too
A supporting character is their own protagonist but we rarely see them as such.
I’mma just put it out there: Harry Potter would have been good as dead if not for everyone around him. But he isn’t the only main character with an ensemble following who would run into spears for their beloved hero.
The problem with supporting characters is that they aren’t always living as their own protagonist. It’s as though they’re penned to be guided by a narrative purpose to “protect their king”—end of story—where death is passable if it keeps the narrator alive. And I’m not speaking to the uncontrollable (“freak”) accidents; those I can let slide. It’s the conscious [but not explicitly written] choices made to stick by typically ungrateful revolutionists that raise some flags.
“Wait, it’s dangerous! Let me go first and walk into the spear. If I die, you’ll know that you should walk around the spear instead. *mumbles: tell my parents I–*”
This is exaggerated for effect…but how ri-damn-diculous is that? It’s as if no is not in their vocabulary. Like, dude, c’moooonnn.
Think about it: how often do we witness protagonists getting caught in some debacle that ends with everyone else bearing some mark of consequence? (Too often, right?)
I’m not asking for characters to flash the middle finger and peace out; nor am I saying that protagonists need to own up to their actions (i.e. that they ought to be the ones to die). It just doesn’t feel right when voices are represented [in action] as a means to push a narrative. Supporting characters ought to have that power to be selfish and say “fuck you” to the protagonist and yet not be invalidated for the choices they make.
Because if fiction is an amalgam of teaching moments, the message is kind of shitty to only consider yourself, as the reader and protagonist, inside a bubble of conflict where the only story that matters is your own. The reality is that much like your life involves doing protagonist-y things, you’re someone else’s supporting character and they are very much Player 1’s in their Game of Life.
So do what you must and save the world but those around you should also have the choice to say no to walking into battle, no to being a shield, no to being a voiceless pawn, and most importantly, no to walking into spears.
Some things for you to think about!
1) Tell me about your experiences with protagonists who seem to get their way and survive while everyone else gets maimed protecting them.
2) Which characters have displayed some of the worst invincibility complexes?
3) Why is it easier to accept the death of a side character than it is for the protagonist?
(I MISS WRITING DISCUSSIONS — and I hope this made sense. It wasn’t beta read haha :(!)
As always, think aloud.
I had this prompt idea in the works before I read The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness but have only recently fleshed out the ideas.