It’s the first Wednesday of the month again, time for a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.
The IWSG January question: What writing rule do you wish you’d never heard?
My answer: There is a current trend in writing, almost a rule by now, to make a hero of the story faulty. Critique partners ask each other: what are your protagonist’s faults? They often say: he seems too perfect.
Many novels nowadays follow this trend and introduce faults to their characters, faults that are unnecessary to the story, faults just to make the characters ‘interesting’. Modern literature, both traditionally published and indie, has been peppered with protagonists who are drunkards or drug addicts or simply unsympathetic. How does that make them interesting? How does it engage the readers? I don’t know. I don’t understand this rule.
I have known a drunkard or two in my life. They are weak, pathetic creatures, slaves to alcohol, not able to be protagonists of anything, much less a satisfying story, especially when they dive into the bottle. They don’t inspire any enthusiasm, and I don’t want to read about them. Same with drug addicts, sick and sometimes cruel people, often ready to kill for their next fix. Neither cares for anyone or anything else. Neither solves problems for anyone. They just create them: in their lives and the lives of those close to them. How does it make them heroes of our stories?
I might be simplifying a little, but what is wrong with good people being the protagonists? They could still have problems, sometimes awful problems, and their struggles are hard and long, at least they are in real life. Who invented the rule to make the protagonists unpleasant in fiction? It doesn’t make sense to me. I hate this rule. I think it is a false rule and I don’t follow it in my stories.
If you look at the stories we all like, the most popular stories, their protagonists are often unbearably good. Think Harry Potter, everybody’s favorite boy wizard, ready to sacrifice himself for us all. Think Star Trek astronauts: Captain Picard and the rest of his crew. They are all truly good, decent folks. The authors didn’t make them drug addicts, and I’m grateful for that. They wouldn’t have been half so compelling if they were.
What do you think about this rule? Are your heroes faulty?