[Why I’d Be A Terrible Protagonist] – Reason #19: Risk Aversion

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:
Risk Aversion


You’re asking me to take a bullet for you with such a stoic face…you’re–oh, you’re serious?


I’d like to think that I’m a pretty easygoing and open person to do shit with. I might bungee off a cliff, skydive, and try most adrenaline fueling endeavours so long as there’s a safety net for me to validate in my mind, with an effortless ‘no’, the answer to the question: will I die if I attempt this? 

Point is: if there’s this landfill of a void where “safety” and “breathing” and “fun” and “alive” ought to be, then you best believe I’m not diving headfirst into some heroic conquest. Because valuing my life (keyword: my) starts with me–so I will laugh in your face if you think I’ll willfully join some crusade for a half-baked cause I’m not so sure I believe in.

But I’ll play along and humour you a bit.

Let’s say I devoured some of that propaganda cereal and know of the doom and gloom faced by the world. How the hell is anyone going to successfully pitch to protagonist-me the need for my time and effort to assist in righting the path of wrong? Think about it: if I’m already running on borrowed time because of Sauron 2.0, President Snowflake, or Joffrey Baratheon Jr. being among our kind — meaning: the world is fucking terrible — don’t you think I may have already knew that and would have done something if I could and/or wanted to? To now be encouraged to throw away my last [potentially] risk-free days of doing absolutely nothing to join some arduous and physically taxing escapade toward death is just baffling.

To do it for free is even more radical.

It’s not that there’s a condition that incentives are required to balance the risk involved when dealing with uncertainty (as it pertains to life and death). Instead, it’s that something as immaterial as an “I.O.U” is bullshit–and frankly useless–to the dead version of me (unless plot twist: undead zombies? then we can talk terms).

All things considered, let’s imagine that we’re ho-humming along with the rest of our ragtag fellowship of the almost-dead. Just because I’ve joined the fray doesn’t mean there should be some expectation that I’m on autopilot to see the journey through. It’s a very human thing to not want to get hurt (let alone die) and it’s this aspect to fictional characters which fascinates me. There are countless protagonists who live by this unwavering promise to take that bullet or fight that battle knowing it’s for the good of the cause….

…and that’s not something that comes naturally to me.

Maybe it’s selfishness. Maybe it’s the fact that most individuals are strangers to my glorified Chosen One status. Or maybe it’s just this indescribable instinct and snap judgment to persist. To live. Call it what you want, sometimes the best hero version of yourself is the one who’s still living, and guess who gets to decide that?

Afterthought Prompts:

Now on to some things for you to think about:

How risk adverse are you? How do you measure it?

What would you do upon finding out that you’re the hero, the Chosen One, here to resolve [issue]?

As always, think aloud. 


connect: afterthoughtAn // twitter  |  anotherafterthought // goodreads


Post Inspiration:

Because I like to complain about the most pointless shit, I thought “hey, why not make a new feature out of it!” — and so with the creative inspiration of The Blacklist that features one new baddie each week numbered oddly, I thought this could apply somewhat to these prompts as well.

If you’re interested in guest posting for this topic (re: “I’d be a terrible/shitty protagonist because _______” then let me know!)

37 thoughts on “[Why I’d Be A Terrible Protagonist] – Reason #19: Risk Aversion”

  1. Love The Blacklist reference. This week’s episode was exactly what I was expecting. But anyways. Your post… I would be horrible because I would never put myself in danger. I’d say you first and then run the other way. I like being alive. Dead or gravely injured doesn’t sound fun.


    1. I won’t know how points I’ll have in this feature but at least it’s ambiguous enough to go on forever if I have the material for it. I don’t think anyone likes to die…or even get injured which is why I’m whispering “you brave, brave and kind souls” to the protagonists that run through hell and back to save the world haaah.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Love the points you make, A+, every author should read them. Proper and believable motivation to don one’s heroic underpants is vital to a story’s viability.

    You’ve got me beat in the adrenaline-rush activities; I’m more of a caffeine-rush-while-reading-safely-within-the-confines-of-an-air-conditioned-building kind of guy.

    That said: I’ve done a couple stupid and risky things to protect the people and things I care about. If some rando rolled up to me and begged me to lead some stereotypical YA rebellion, I’d lol and walk; if someone was threatening people I care about, I don’t know if I’d do ANYTHING to protect them, but I know I’m capable of risking myself without thinking twice.

    But yeah, no. Risking myself to bring down a bad government or something isn’t happening. We can all just suffer.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t know about that, Liam. Your all-knowingness to be the true ship in Throne of Glass; embodying the best of Chowder and Dora the Unexplorer will make wonderful protagonist material.

      Yeah, I can definitely see being put into strange situations that might be cause for irrational decision making leading to bad outcomes (rarely happens for them protags though).

      At least we can agree on suffering; particularly in this gross sunshine and heat (bring back Winter, Canada).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I think everyone has different levels of risk aversion in different spheres. My mother is a social worker and goes into some of the most dangerous neighbourhoods for her work, but she freaks out when she’s standing on a tall cliff.

    Me… In physical terms I’m not a big adrenaline junkie. I’m not interested in sky diving or bungee jumping, I don’t even want to THINK about learning to shoot a firearm… but in an ideological sense I would be down for leading a rebellion. Even in college and now in work, I’m not the one who shuts my mouth because I’m afraid of being targeted by superiors. (Pity that leading a rebellion would probably result in physical danger, so there’s that.)


    1. That’s a good point to varying levels of risk aversions based on the situation you’re in. Major kudos to your mother for putting herself in those situations though!

      I think the adrenaline escapades comes with the territory of leading rebellions and being that symbol for change; that there’ll be that chance of mortality for you or for someone else, and sometimes you just have to roll with it to have a chance at success.


  4. There is something instinctively human about wanting to live – I mean, it’s more likely you’ll actually change the system if you’re alive, no? Not everyone is born a valiant hero, intent on fighting against injustice. Maybe we’re a bit obsessed with the idea of revering one individual; the idea of one person, and one person only saving the day. Why can’t we all contribute so if anyone has to die, it doesn’t have to be you or me?


    1. Everyone might not be the prodigal hero but surely they’re the hero in their own right, yeah? That’s why it’s curious to me when characters throw their lives away for the cause only to die (and even worse when some protagonists don’t even weep or acknowledge their help sheeesssh). I think it’s also instinctively human to want to be part of the solution but also guarded enough that if it doesn’t work, the burden isn’t entirely on you but someone else (re “leader”).

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m even more terrible because I would be like, oh I’m the Chosen One?? Cool, let’s go on an adventure to return the ring and fight monsters. But then halfway through, I would be like oh I didn’t realize this required so much walking and energy, ok I quit, bye..
    I’m flaky like that woops.


  6. Great post! Not only am I risk averse, but I’m also a total wimp, so … yeah, SO not happening. Now, I could totally be the person who helps see the big picture and move pieces into place from a nice, safe distance from the action. I could totally be THAT person. But risk-taking protagonist? No thank you …


  7. I would love to think that I am courageous and willing to risk it all for the cause or to save my loved ones… but no. Years ago, I was in a situtation where I thought a dear friend was in danger, and I was completely paralyzed. (Turns out I also completely miss-read the situation, embarrassingly so, and he was totally fine. My friends have never to this day let me forget what an absolute wuss I am. It usually comes up in conversation at least once a year, after a few drinks… I will never live it down.)


    1. Embrace the wuss, I’d say! But haha that sounds like something I’d do–freeze in a do-or-die situation. I’m curious as to the “dishonorable” nature society tacks onto cowardice. Sorry we couldn’t be of help when help means being the sacrificial lamb…


  8. I like to think that I’m pretty much game for most things (well except for that extreme (sport?) where people meet sharks and the only barrier is cage). As for taking on the Chosen One status (though I think that’s never a choice for the fictional individual, haha) it depends on, like you said, the stakes (like am I risking my life?) and my team. Like if I’m the Chosen One, I better be equipped with a knowledgeable, trustworthy, and badbutt squad, which is a lot to ask. XD If not-I’d probably back out (and the author would have no story to tell). “Summer, the girl that bailed when she learned her team sucked.”


    1. You’ve basically described my reasons I am deathly afraid of critter-infested Australia LOL.

      That’s the funny thing about heroism; the sudden switch towards cowardice just because you want to save your own life? Geez, sorry we don’t want to die…!? But it’s sadly never a choice even though the moral of all stories should be that everyone is their own hero and they matter. Only it’s never like that. Like why?

      Liked by 1 person

  9. This is actually a fantastic sentiment Joey – why do all heroes in the story tend to have a reckless disregard for safety? It’d be more realistic if some people were like “nah it’s too dangerous, I want to live”. But yet everyone has this Gryffindor complex lol.


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