Friday, March 4, 2011
I hate passive protagonists--and why do I feel compelled to finish reading everything I start?
The protagonist in this particular book (The Box of Delights by John Masefield) is very much an observer. He really doesn't do much; his purpose seems to be to follow people around and see what happens. He seldom even reacts to what he sees. In one particularly obnoxious scene he has traveled to the past (sort of) at watches for two pages while a group of pirates debates how to go about killing him, and not once does he try to get away, struggle, scream, or even internally express fear over what he's hearing. I can't connect with this character! I would rather read about an active coward who's always running from things he could fix than someone who just watches everything in a deadpan sort of way.
Deadpan seems to be the style of this book, though. There are fantastic, magical, and wondrous things happening all around and nobody ever reacts to them. "You have something that can shrink us to the size of rodents? No big deal. The mouse is talking to us? That happens all the time. You don't think I should go back in time because I might not be able to return? Eh, I'll bet I can find a way." I don't feel any wonder at the magic in the book, because nobody else does. Add to this that there are few good scene breaks or stopping points and paragraphs run on for pages, making it feel like it takes forever to read, and I've really had to drag myself through this book. But again, even though I've considered it many times, I haven't returned the book unfinished. Perhaps I'm just obsessive. But I'm glad this thing is almost over.
This had made me realize that I need to make sure I never write this sort of protagonist. I don't think I do, but I don't want to annoy any readers the way I currently feel annoyed, so I need to make doubly sure that I never do in the future.