The Terrible Protagonist series explores reasons why regular humans (aka myself) would not fair well in the world of fiction. Click here to see other reasons why!
Why I’d Be A Terrible Protagonist:
The masses look to me for an inspirational speech before the final battle…and all I’ve got is “Uhhhh….”
So I don’t know about you, but thoughts in my head don’t always match the sound coming out of my voice box. And it’s not that I’m tongue-tied in not knowing what to say, it’s that often times I ain’t got anything to say. If I do, it’s overthought to the extent that the conversation is long passed.
It’s silence that comes out.
But not speaking goes against one of the Golden Rules of protagonism: to be unabashedly vocal about what you believe in. That’s the hallmark of being a protagonist (even if said words end up causing supporting characters to die and infrastructures to collapse). Because it’s not about being loud. It’s about getting the message across.
It’s difficult to defeat the Final Boss without the camaraderie of people by your side. With dialogue being the starting point to the connections we make with fellow resistance fighters to overthrow the government or student peers to help us solve the murder-mystery, we need to be able to put a voice behind the action; to inspire and encourage and lift the collective power to “protag”.
We need to talk; to say more than “hello”.
But here’s the thing: while I may have thoughts to unleash into the world, what actually ends up happening is people’s discussions tend to tangent into several (and I’m still stuck on the thought from 10 minutes ago). So then I get to the point where I have withheld dialogue (red flag: unreliable narrator) and who’s to say that others will want to hear this delayed thought–that it will be reciprocated? I would agree that part of the battle is in knowing what should/could/would be said but the greater part is knowing who’s listening.
In the grand scheme of protagonism, there tends to be a premium put on protagonists being vocal and displaying candor openly. Moreover, readers award heroes for their one-two punch of inspirational blurbs, sassy humor, or directness in tackling prejudices. We gravitate towards dialogue that makes us feel something.
It’s when I extend these ideas to protagonist-me, well…as much as I’d like to think I’m self-aware and a great active listener to reciprocate a conversation, it’s hard to say that I wouldn’t be scrutinizing every word choice, the tone in which it’s delivered, or even if I should say anything at all. Part of it could be the fear of backlash because while I have full control of what could be said, it’s near impossible to ascertain how it will be received. And do my fellow teammates even care? It’s concerns like these that often deter me from saying something/anything because my brain is hardwired to overthink and overthink and overthink and overthink—
—and by the time I’m ready to say something witty or to impart wisdom, all I’ve got is a glorious “uhh”.
Does that inspire confidence in my fellow comrades? Probably not. So I totally get why people wouldn’t follow me into the fray. I wouldn’t follow me either. But here we are, at the front lines, in the battle for everyone’s lives. And though my mind is pretty exhausted with the struggle and regret of words not said, maybe you can bank on me being present with everyone else and sometimes actions can speak louder than a protagonist’s words.
I am pretty Hufflepuff after all.
Can you relate to overthinking what you want to say?
Do you say it anyway or just keep it to yourself?
How have you inspired people with your words in your life? Did it take you a long time to formulate what you wanted to say?
Are you a terrible protagonist too?
Conversations move faster than I have the capacity to vomit the words in my head. This post was beta read by my bud C.J. at Sarcasm & Lemons.