[Why I’d Be A Terrible Protagonist] – Reason #8: Death By Accidents

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:
Death By Accidents


The stairs to the final boss is more scary than the fight itself.


So I don’t know about you but aside from being very Canadian in that I apologize to everything by force of habit (see: bumping into a chair and apologizing to said chair), I also find myself enjoying the lingering and bruising side effects attributed to these events.

And that got me thinking: how do characters tiptoe mine fields of drama, fight monsters and villains in close corridors, and ultimately, save the world without unflattering missteps flubbing their perfect gravity defying hairdo and Special Snowflake status?

fall-down-stairs-gifBecause falling while running down a flight of stairs, stubbing your toe, or accidentally dropping a porcelain cup (which could otherwise be some ancient relic — who knows???) are all things that make living life so fun, so bitter, and so real.

Don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not trying to self-identify as a klutz because I would fight you in that I’m not (as would many of us I’m sure). But for the sake of using terrible examples to explain my point, how is there greater plausibility (and possibility) that a fossilized dinosaur can reanimate itself being the driving force for a a story’s conflict as opposed to getting a paper cut? Especially if the central plot revolves around going to school and dealing with friendships, romance, and the blah? I am certain this book is published.

Call me petty but the unincorporated actualization of these pockets of realism within any genre of fiction doesn’t scream “good luck” or “not accident prone” or “just careful” but is a silent nod to using deus ex machina tropes to propel the hero along so they aren’t enduring these obstacles. It’s a bit of a missed opportunity though. Humanity has this fascination with laughing at other people’s misfortunes; it allows us to gain a small sense of worth re: “lol @ this person because that would never/rarely happen to me…[therefore I am the best]”. This superiority is a character thing and not limited by genre.

friendly-fire-gifJust imagine a sword-and-gun fight in a science-fiction fantasy where friendly fire injures your buddy. “Oops“, I would imagine one’s reaction. Yeah, “oops” can happen. But does it? Of course not. That would be the cheesiest way to meet your maker.

Only shit happens. 

So while it might be a waste of space in any story, the representation of these moments of accidents add a “oh hey that’s me!” value than one would think. It doesn’t relegate anyone to uselessness as it is so often seen in media. They’re as much as a naturally occurring event as breathing itself. But you can call it fate or the cosmos playing puppeteer. Breaking a nail or stepping on someone’s shoe in front of you are things to revel in because it’s ultimately what would get me killed (or at least maimed or destroyed). Not the incoming aliens or some machismo ruler-lord-savior but a damn paper cut.

What a brilliantly sad way to go.

p.s. still not a klutz.


Afterthought Prompts:

1. What is the one clumsy thing that always happens to you?
2. As a hero/heroine, how sad would you be if that (the above answer) was how your story ended?
3. In what ways do you try to mitigate accidents from happening? Or is it impossible since they are “accidents”?

As always, think aloud. 


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Post Inspiration:

I play a lot of video games, basically.

20 thoughts on “[Why I’d Be A Terrible Protagonist] – Reason #8: Death By Accidents”

    1. I may or may not have been simply bitter that life was shitting on me re: breaking a cup loading into dishwasher (LIKE, SERIOUSSLLYYY THO) that I need unfortunate things — that make sense in the grand scheme of plotting — to happen to these characters as well to make myself feel like this is all “normal”. Hah.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m always the one stupid stuff happens to. I once passed out while running on a treadmill and had a really awesome rubber burn next to my right eye. I really hope that’s not how I go.
    Is it weird that I now kind of want a book written by you with you as the protagonist having the normal things protagonists don’t have happen to them happening to you? I’d pay good money for that book.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know how you passed out running on a treadmill (unless it’s by like exhaustion and the like) but yes, that is most certainly a possibility that could happen. “Dea: she died doing what she didn’t love.”

      My WIP story’s MC is almost autobiographical in a sense that a lot of shit that happens to him is often the little things (e.g. stepping on poo). Because, obviously why not. Life can be…wait for it…shitty.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Well, let me know when you publish this gem. Stepping in poo is always exciting. 😉
        Oh, and it wasn’t from exhaustion, unfortunately. It was from neurocardiogenic syncope. I’m really good at passing out. One of my not so many talents. Haha


    1. I am most certainly not asking for sweeping narratives about it haha, just a few blips here and there of “oops” mistake without the whole “oops [and therefore my best friend dies by villain”. More subtle comic relief stuff!

      Imagine if you dropped the One Ring while on your path to Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings. “Where’d you drop it???” “I DON’T KNOW…SOMEWHERE IN THE BILLIONS OF SETTINGS WE TRAVELED THROUGH MAYBE?”

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is such a great point, and one I hope authors start taking more into consideration. Like you said, it’s not that I want characters unnecessarily bumbling all over the place, but it’s nice for them to be a little more humanized than they usually are.

    And anyway, it adds a great deal of tension when a character’s doing something important and delicate, and totally botches it. I will 100% cover my face in horror and secondhand embarrassment every time that happens. What’s not to love about that?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Time to start the Humanize Special Snowflake Coalition, Liam…

      What I’ve noticed is that if someone flubs during a critical moment, another character ends up dead [as a placeholder for the protagonist]. Which sometimes makes no sense to me because they’re the ones who messed up, but…you know, FICTION.

      I’d also add to the mix people “remaining cool as a cucumber” when they do something embarrassing in public. The other day I slipped a bit on ice and my phone I was holding fell. Outside me: picks it up, no horror on face re: phone dropping, carries on listening to music. Inside me: OH MY GOD THE REPLACEMENT COST WHAT IF THE PHONE IS ACTUALLY DEAD NOW WHY HOW?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Does our coalition make buttons? Every decent coalition needs buttons.

        Oh, that’s as fantastic point—that other characters are sacrificed in place of the protagonist. I’d never thought about it in those terms. I’ll have to keep that in mind, and pay more attention when situations like this pop up.

        First of all, IS YOUR PHONE DAMAGED?

        Second, I am so jealous of your ice. Is there snow there too? Are you living my dream of a winter wonderland??

        Third, I grew up working with horses, and as a kid whenever I did something embarrassing in public (like trip), I’d blush furiously and remind myself that horses trip all the time and they just carry on like nothing happened. I’d seriously tell myself to make like a horse and not be embarrassed. (It didn’t help much.)


  3. Hahahaha I love this. In college, you would frequently hear me and my roommates say ‘ow’ and without fail it would be followed by ‘…..walked into the wall.’ Sometimes those walls just get in the way. I would be the worst protagonist ever because I am always getting hurt doing the simplest things. And I always apologize to inanimate objects too!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ahh how relatable this is! I’m no klutz, you know, just like you, but I end up always tripping over my own feet even on flat ground- don’t ask me how. That would probably be the cause of my sad ending too. Ruzaika: she tripped over her own feet. Great post, Joey!

    Ruzaika @ The Regal Critiques

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’d love to see a book character as bad as cooking as me. I once broke my toaster trying to defrost pancakes. Could you imagine a protagonist surviving a fearsome battle then setting off her fire alarm because she misread instructions of a box?


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