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Thursday, 30 December 2010

Dysfunctional Protagonists

I've recently read an article in Writer's Forum Magazine by Vanda Inman suggesting that while we must be able to believe in our story characters as real people our heroes should be quirky .

It is said that to get your characters right, provides 50-70% of the success of the story. The right kind of sympathetic characters are vital to make the story believable.

This got me thinking about the personality of various popular children's heroes.

Of course while Harry Potter by J K Rowling wears glasses and has a lightning scar on his forehead, he's essentially an ordinary young boy and all-round-good-egg. Neville Longbottom is a great character, the likeable underdog, who comes into his own at the end of the series, which is heartwarming and empowering.

William in Just William by Richmal Cromptonseems to possess a bizarre logic that makes him appear as if he suffers from 'Semantic Pragmatic Disorder', but then maybe he was one of your favourites?

Then there are the eccentric and wild tomboy-ish characters such as Pippi Longstocking
by Astrid Lindgren and
Katy in What Katy Did by Susan Coolidge.

Having recently read three novels by a popular YA author, my feeling was that her MC's always apeared unbelievably self-absorbed, which doesn't appeal to me. While a protagonist should have flaws to make them human, surely it's the baddies we want our readers to hiss at rather than the goodies? We want our readers to love our main characters.

In adult literature I can think of Hercule Poirot as an acceptably eccentric, popular character.

Who are your favourite quirky characters?

Have you given your main characters eccentric and unique traits?

Are they human with relatable and interesting flaws ?

Hmmm, I shall have to rethink mine, perhaps!