Welcome to the blog of science fiction author Eileen Rhoadarmer--where science fiction and Mommyhood collide!

Friday, March 4, 2011

I hate passive protagonists--and why do I feel compelled to finish reading everything I start?

Just a reminder that Doomology: The Dawning of Disasters is now available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble!

I'm (finally) nearly finished reading a children's Christmas book recommended to me by our children's librarian as research for my own Christmas book, and I have to say that I'm hating it.  It's nowhere near the same style of book I've written and it's old (1935) so it's not really helping me in the who's-publishing-good-kid's-lit-these-days department.  But for some reason I finish reading 99.5% of everything I start, even if I don't like it.  Why?  I'm not really sure.  It's just something I do, perhaps based on a sense of seeing things through.  I don't walk out of movies or plays either, and I tend to read nearly every article even in magazines, even if they aren't of particular interest to me.  I could probably free up a bit of time in my life if I could rid myself of this habit, but so far, no go.

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.


Cyndy Rhoadarmer said...

Do you think that the need to finish a book is somehow connected to mothers through the ages telling their children to finish what's on their plates? Just a thought (as a daughter and a mother).

Linda said...

I used to feel the same way and would finish any book I started, but no longer! I finally convinced myself that some were just not worth my time, and can now return them to the library without guilt. Sometimes I will skip to the end and read that just to be sure it ended the way I assumed it would- and that is something that horrified me in my younger days!

I will still read for hours on end if the story is a good one, so it's not just my attention span slipping :)

Mom said...

My mom had a system for reading a difficult book. She would read the last chapter which would cause her to wonder how it got to that point. That resulted in her going back to her stopping point and continuing. I have tried that, but it usually doesn't work for me. My solution is to stop reading it. There are way too many books and not enough time as it is.

CNHolmberg said...

Yeah. I give a book three strikes (sometimes less) before I stop reading. Some don't make it past the second chapter.

Have fun with your oldies. XD