The Terrible Protagonist series explores reasons why regular humans (aka myself) would not fair well in the world of fiction.
Why I’d Be A Terrible Protagonist:
What Is a Map?
If Google Maps does not exist in a fantasy setting, well…goodbye, I’m lost.
Let’s be honest: I’d be a terrible protagonist not because I don’t have that falalalala devil-may-care attitude to run towards death with but because yours truly would get fucking lost within 10 pages.
Welcome to reason #12 as to why I’d be a terrible protagonist.
I’m not even talking about “stupid lost” either–like when characters venture into the wilderness for a weekend of tomfoolery and are suddenly running from a batshit crazy murderer (no thanks, I’ll do my camping via a screensaver campfire). Instead, I’m speaking to the fact that every damn character has this faultless built-in GPS hardwired into their brains so they “just know” where to go (and when to seemingly arrive by).
Which basically confirms that every character is a robot…A.I. doomsday is here. We’re doomed.
But seriously, this is some next-level Google Maps nonsense. I’ll be frank: I hark on books that lack realism when it calls for it. This is one of those elements typically glossed over. There’s a fine balance between ‘easy-peasy-no-consequence-journeying’ and ‘wow-haven’t-I-seen-that-tree-before?’ when protagonists jaunt from place to place as if the sensation of being lost isn’t a concept that exists. Know that I’m not trying to discredit the possibility of travelling without a hitch. It’s just interesting that protagonists are not only masterful Special Snowflakes or Broody McBroods but they have this unreal gift of satellite imaging their journey.
So all books are secretly SF-F then.
At this point, I’m waiting for leads to bust out into an arrangement of Vanessa Carlton’s A Thousand Miles because the certainty that they’ll get to Mordor (Lord of the RIngs) or King’s Landing (Game of Thrones) or even venture across Norta (Red Queen) is all but possible.
Is it all just coincidence? Good luck? Fate?
It’s difficult to argue against some cosmic concept like fate but I’m just going to say that as much as fate guarantees the protagonist will be gifted with a map, a sage-like stranger, or a friend who somehow knows the way, there is an equal opportunity for fate to be like “lol fuck you, let’s not show them the way and let them struggle.” Plus, I’m sure there’s some statistic from an old study that states 7.4 out of 10 people would fail to navigate a new setting without some geo-location assistance.
(For full transparency: I love stories featuring heavy travelling because inaction is as important as action in developing characters. But that’s on me.)
Look, I get that there’s a resounding opinion that no one would care to read about being “lost” — as seen in my previous discussion asking “Why are Heroes and Villains Never Stuck in Traffic”. I just think it’s a fair question for those in the protagonist’s ensemble to ask “so which way is north?” when the holier-than-thou-leader asserts the notion of “let’s head north”. The difference is in the details and it isn’t about feeling lost (when they aren’t) anymore than it ought to be about them actually being lost.
Now on to some things for you to think about:
On a scale of 0-10 (0 being terrible), how good are you with navigating the world (e.g. if you were to set foot in a foreign country)?
Now imagine yourself in another world where there is no Internet or computers (e.g. cellphones) to assist you — how would you go about being resourceful in navigating the world?
What’s your opinion on protagonists who seem to have all the answers and just know where to go and what to do?
As always, think aloud.
I had an interaction with a blogger a while back–I don’t remember who but I think it was Carolyn (?)–who gave me creative freedom to speak about this topic.
Moreover, I’m thinking I could expand this theme to be some long string of satirical discussions (I may branch it off and create a new feature instead — who knows) but I hope this is equally relevant as much as I hope it’s entertaining for you. And yes, the #12 is completely arbitrary.