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?
Because 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.
Just 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.
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.
I play a lot of video games, basically.