Some writers imbue their protagonist with quirky characteristics. Maybe it's a speaking tic (like repeating words) or laughing at all the wrong times, but quirk alone doesn't cut it for me. I want a character that walks that line. They are good but flawed.
Tipper Jones is the protagonist in my fantasy. I created her to be a head-strong, stubborn young woman and thought I'd got it right. Then a few writer friends generously agreed to read my novel and workshop it last summer, and boy did I get some stunning feedback.
I thought Tipper was strong. They saw her as pig-headed.
I thought she was sensitive. They saw her as clueless.
I thought Tipper underwent a character arc. They said she was static and missed a myriad of opportunities to change and grow.
How did I go so wrong?
I gave myself some time off after the last workshop to let the information settle. I needed emotional distance to understand this information.
A few months later, ready to tackle the next round of edits, I read through the group's wonderful comments and realized, these aren't bad things!
Pig-headed goes far beyond strength. It's a character with a pit-bull tenacity who will see her goals accomplished. Sure, she'll step on toes along the way and clash heads with her fellow travelers, but that creates tension and tension keeps a reader reading.
Clueless is ever so much more interesting than someone who is sensitive AND it allows room for personal growth.
Static is bad. This is one thing I'm in the process of fixing because pig-headed is okay in the beginning, but somewhere along the way Tipper needs to respond, not react. She needs to realize there are others involved in the same fight. Others with needs and goals just as important as hers. She needs to grow and change to truly become the "good guy" she's destined to be.
So, what do you think? What makes an interesting protagonist to you? Got a favorite you'd care to share? I'd love to hear from you!