Creating A Protagonist With Dark Secrets

Writing a fiction novel, staged in 2021 in Southern California is completely different from writing Young Adult fantasy. I had planned to create a main character who is not perfect, to not only extend the tension within the story, but also, because it’s important for the entire plot.

That means, I literally created a flawed protagonist. Flawed, but still sympathetic; imperfect, but still loveable.

I read plenty of books where I enjoyed reading about flawed characters. Some of them have dark secrets that are revealed. I didn’t want my protagonist to be perfect! Far from it… but then, that particular dark secret is a crime. How much of a disadvantage is that for the story?

There are quite some flawed famous beloved characters in history:

Elizabeth Bennett, protagonist in ‘Price and Prejudice’. She’s loveable, an independent and proud woman of her time (within permitted limits)… but she’s prejudgemental and a bit too arrogant at times and needs to work on herself to correct her. Do we love her less for that?

John Blackthorne, protagonist in ‘Shogun’. He’s good looking, even though the Japanese protagonists within the book call him ‘Barbarian’. He is highly intelligent, a strong and resilient character… but he sacrificed his entire ship crew except seven or eight of them, to fulfill his need for adventure, and he cheats on his wife. Do we love him less?

Indiana Jones. Our hero, our fighter for the good, against an entire military-power behind the ‘Fuehrer’… He loses as many times as he wins, but he would never give up. He’s flawed, vulnerable and still we love him.

John Wick – an absolutely deadly assassin, who comes out of his retirement to get back to the ones who killed his dog. He mows his opponents down by the dozen again and again – and still, we would do anything to keep him alive.

There are many more examples, but I’ll leave it up to you who you would add to the list. (Please, leave your favorite flawed hero in the comments, I’m curious)!.

But can we love a criminal character? What is it that makes our character interesting? The flaws, the humor, the mood, the attitude… but a crime?

Now, am I crazy to worry about that? Without the crime there would be no story, and still I ask myself, ‘what is everyone going to think about this protagonist’? Will the readers still love that character as much as I do? Oh yes, I grew up like that, always considering how things look like to others. But in my book; in my story? (Yes, I know, talking about crimes and John Wick, it might seem a bit narrow-minded to worry about my little character and story. But I can’t help myself. It’s my work, and it’s upon me to tell the story, right?)

Let me know your thoughts on a flawed protagonist.

Picture courtesy of IndieWire.com

5 Ways to Keep Your Protagonist Proactive – Written By Janice Hardy

on Writers in the Storm blog:

Get your protagonist up off the couch and into the story.

When I was six, I wrote a series called Dog City that followed the adventures of a team of dog archaeologists as they searched for a lost city of, you guessed it, dogs. It was all of four books, bound in aged cardboard from the backs of legal pads, and custom illustrated.

Laugh all you want, but that series had a more proactive protagonist than the “real novel” I wrote twenty years later.

Those industrious little puppers had goals—to find that lost city and fetch a rare magical item that would save the world from evil dinosaurs (it really should have been mailmen, right?). My “real novel” had a protagonist who was being manipulated by gods for a variety of reasons, and there was a prophecy she didn’t want to be a part of, and some romance, and an evil sorcerer, and a curse…you get the picture.

Even written in crayon, the dog story was better because it had a protagonist actively trying to achieve a goal and resolve a problem, and not just a protagonist who only acted when something else forced her to. My six-year-old self knew what the story was about and who was driving that story. My older self did not.

That’s the difference between a proactive and a reactive character, and why some novels flatline even though the scenes are filled with exciting problems.

Continue reading HERE

What is an Unsympathetic Character? Must a Novel’s Protagonist be Likeable? – Written By Anne R. Allen

One of the things that will get you an automatic rejection from most agents—and a swift toss to the DNF pile from a lot of readers—is an unsympathetic character. Especially an unsympathetic protagonist. Personally, I have to admit if there’s nobody in a story I care about, I’m out of there after ten pages or so.

But what do we mean by a “sympathetic character?” What makes us care?

The truth is the protagonists of our most popular books, plays and films are often people we wouldn’t like to hang out with in real life. Some are pretty toxic.

From “wily” Odysseus to Don Quixote, to Heathcliff, Becky Sharpe, Scarlett O’Hara, Dexter Morgan, Walter White, Lisbeth Salander, and the “Girl on the Train,” we are fascinated by morally ambiguous characters who make bad choices.

But don’t these successful works negate the dictum that a protagonist must be sympathetic? Nobody wants these people as their BFF.

Continue reading HERE

Romance, Seduction, Taste – A Sexy Male Protagonist

I’m a writer of paranormal romance, working on the sixth book in my series, currently, even though the first book still needs to be published.

Now lately I have realized that my romantic male protagonists  are very attractive – all of them. (Of course, I measure my taste here, so please don’t hold it against me).

Then I started thinking: I’m an avid reader and occasionally read the one or other steamy hot romance novella. And I never even once read a description of an unattractive protagonist. They all were described as extremely good looking, and of course, they need to be. Otherwise, the entire book would be kind of weird.

A quick example. The Twilight Series. Edward Cullen was described as beautiful, breathtaking, Angel and so on. Would this series have been only half as successful if the protagonists had been merely mediocre or even having some obvious flaws?

Now, let’s be honest, which one below here is the ‘better’ Edward Cullen?

 

Picture courtesy of: https://comicvine.gamespot.com

picture courtesy of http://www.pinterest.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I don’t want to be unfair here. To each her own, right? What I find attractive is not necessarily attractive to another woman.

But what all these men in books have in common is the fact that they are well groomed. It’s always refreshing to read about a man who showers. And who knows that a nose hair trimmer is not only good to foam up milk for the cappuccino. (Not to talk about the fact that a nose hair is only a nose hair as long as it’s inside the nose. When it grows out, it’s a mustache).

Men should, in fact, be trimmed. It’s every woman’s personal taste to find a man with either more or less hair attractive. Let’s see. I consider armpit hair that can be plaited not particularly sexy. But hey… if it can’t be trimmed, for whatever reason, at least the guy should use conditioner. But that’s only a detail.
Having a look at a hairy chest, who can say which one of these would I consider my protagonist?

 

picture courtesy of http://www.google.com

picture courtesy of http://www.google.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In my case, it would be the right one – probably because that sexy hairline from the belly button down South would drive me crazy. But not the too much hairy chest, just the right amount. I wouldn’t be too happy caressing my man’s chest and finding dried ice cream from the last beach trip, croissant crumbs or Lego stones in there… Trim or waxing once in a while wouldn’t do any damage. At least some guys knew then what we women are going through to be beautiful for them.

Or what about a trim in the ‘Southern Region’? And I don’t mean the thighs or feet. I’m more talking about the – uhm – bell tower. I think to keep it carefully trimmed, and in order, isn’t asked too much, is it?

I mean, rainforest aside, it doesn’t need to look like a bare-nosed wombat. Just sexy and clean.

I mean, after all, I knew one man, Holy Smokes when he took his undies off I thought he was smuggling a beaver!

 

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Okay. I think I have been pretty open about my imagination of sexy protagonists. But now I’m curious. I’m sure there are characters on the evil side, the bad ones. Do we always describe them as unattractive? What are the features to ‘make’ them unattractive or the antagonist? How are you doing this in your book?
Thank you for your advice.

What Happens To My Characters I introduced?

So far I introduced three of my characters to the public.

November 13, 2015, a short article on ‘Writer’s Treasure Chest’ was published. It looked like an entry of a demon called ‘Ethel.’ Ethel is hard to describe, very hard. I think it might be a good idea to refresh the memory here.

December 4, 2015, I was introduced to the followers of The Story Reading Ape, and the introduction is still in his “Hall of Fame.” Thank you, Furry Friend. Since I’m not yet published, I decided to interview one of my characters instead: Simin Arnatt, a woman guarding many secrets. If you like, please re-read the interview here.

December 15, 2016, I published an interview with one more of my characters, a shadow named Rapha Golden. It seemed that interview was quite successful. Rapha can charm a woman into ecstasy, I know. Just in case you don’t believe me, check it out here.

I ensure you, none of these characters are wasted or created only for P.R. purposes. They are in fact characters showing up in on of my books. (In my case, novellas).

When I published the interview with Simin Arnatt, I knew she would be one of my protagonists. I did not whatsoever know that the shadow Rapha Golden would become a bigger character than I had expected him to be. They both are currently woven into a story of passion, jealousy, and cruelness and I’m not sure yet how this will end. But I’m soon going to find out.

The big secret is Ethel. I’m currently working on the fourth, the fifth and the sixth novella in the series – and Ethel still hasn’t shown up. I regret this very much, and I hope this character, which I somehow got a liking of, will fit in somewhere soon.

I know, Ethel is my character, my creature, my possession and I could build more strength, but then it wouldn’t be Ethel anymore. Ethel is weak, a bit helpless, a bit evil, a bit of everything – but just “a bit.” Ethel isn’t a protagonist, not the main character. I figure I’ll wait and find out where to create a spot for Ethel.

Have you ever created a character you liked and then found out that you don’t know what to do with this character? Or that the character you created is the worst opponent you could have made and you hate him? Please, let us hear it.

 

 

 

Picture courtesy of: http://weknowyourdreams.com/single/book/book-03

My writing progress

BP_NB
Picture courtesy of http://www.google.com

 

From April 24 through May 6 I was spending time in California with a wonderful friend of mine. She is awesome, and I love her! Her backyard is like an ointment for my soul. Sitting there, hearing the soft lapping of the pool water calms me and gives my heart and soul all the relaxation it needs. Occasional squirrels make me smile, and my fantasy has the chance to unfold fully.
Within this paradise, I continued writing my pre-novel novella I had planned to finish.

 

The moment my pen touched the paper, it wrote, nearly by itself. The story took form, and the protagonists developed. Only a short while upon my return I completed the first draft.
Right now I am typing the novella into the computer and hope it will be completed soon; then I will start my first round of editing.
I’m very excited! I am an author.

 

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