This week’s video warns about the pitfalls of creating characters who aren’t able to take readers into the thick of the action.
Video Transcription: Whether your book is a high-speed espionage thriller or a cozy romance, the element at its heart—the fuel that makes it run—is action. Something is happening to your protagonist—presumably, the something of his life. If not, why tell the story? And yet, the pitfall of a passive protagonist is easier to fall into than we might think. Sometimes, authors create characters to whom things happen, without also creating elements that allow the characters to act back in forceful and decisive ways.
For example, in a science fiction novel I read recently, the protagonist—the only human among powerful aliens—is forced into a reactive role from the beginning of the book right up until the very end. He stands in the center of the plot’s swirl of exciting activities—which include assassination attempts, political intrigue, and strange intruders—but the protagonist himself doesn’t do anything. He stands helplessly aside while other, more capable characters take care of business off-screen. The result, not surprisingly, is a dull and frustrating read.
If you find your main character spending more time reacting than acting, if he stands on the sidelines while others chew into the meat of the action, you may want to seriously reconsider the choices you’ve made about both your plot and your character. Because readers want to be right in the thick of the action, authors need to choose characters who can take them there. Try rewriting your passive character to allow him to take a more active role. Or, if that’s simply not an option, consider adding a few more POVs to include the action from the perspective of the characters who are involved in it. Not only will your book take on more heft and significance, it will also be that much more likely to hold your readers’ attention throughout.
Tell me your opinion: Does your protagonist take your readers into the thick of the action?
Related Posts: Are You Sabotaging Your Own Character?
Making Your Character Steal the Show
Are Your Characters Talking Heads?
Story by K.M. Weiland