the “weak” protagonist debate: unpopular opinions

Sketches -s 6

U N P O P U L A R   O P I N I O N

Sometimes when I am reading reviews, there’s complaints just like this:

❝ Well, so-and-so was a total whiny turd.  Like, she literally does nothing in the duration of the book except cower in the face of her nemesis until, like, the very end.  Like, please grow a pair, woman! ❞

– anonymous Goodreads review

You get me?  Okay, maybe that was a little over-exagerrated.  Believe it or not, I’ve seen reviews like this.  The point is, most people are always complaining about how “weak” the main character is, and that this fact spoils the entire book for them.  We’ve come to enjoy strong, courageous heroes/heroines so much that we forget the joy of reading the opposite side’s perspective entirely.  Just because the main character isn’t a ninja-star throwing assassin with butt-kicking action moves doesn’t mean they are “weak.”

There’s an enormous difference between a weakly-written character to a weak character, and I have a feeling most people don’t get this.  Weakly-written characters don’t seem real.  As in they are so poorly described that the reader cannot establish a connection with them.  You can’t really tell that character to grow a pair since the character has nothing to do with it, but rather the author (but don’t tell the author to grow a pair either; that’s just rude).  In my opinion, stories are suppose to be living, moving, and dynamic.  It may be a fictional world, but the characters inside of it are living and real.  Do you catch my drift?  It’s really hard for me to explain it through words.  Weakly-written characters are the ones that are just black-and-white on the page, one-dimesional, nothing more.  Well-written characters come off the page, and live.  

Flawed characters are far more real.  Just because the character makes stupid decisions and ignores the blatantly right path does not make them a “weak” character.  We all make stupid decisions.  It’s a fact of life.  Incorporating it in a story makes the character flawed, and flaws are what we can relate to because we face them all the time.  Sure, maybe they are weak physically, mentally, or spiritually.  Being strong in heart matters the most.  If every book was about a brave, valiant protagonist, how much fun would it be?  It’d be dreadfully repetitive.  Seeing the perspectives of different people of different worlds and cultures are fascinating and fun to read.  Whether it’s the victim, the villain, or the hero, it always comes down to how the author writes the character.  I’ve read so many books with “weak” characters that are beautifully done and captured my attention and heart.  In reality, that weak character of yours?  More like a poorly written one.

This was just a short rant.  Leave your thoughts down below so we can discuss; I’d love to talk about this with you!

love, linh









11 thoughts on “the “weak” protagonist debate: unpopular opinions

  1. I totally agree !! I think that the “strong perfect” hero is usually a lot less interesting than a “normal” character 🙂


  2. You are absolutely correct Linh! Not everyone has the personality traits that most people seem to worship (bravery, confidence, leadership) and characters should be the same. I love reading from a fresh perspective and getting to learn things in a different way! Also, as humans we always make the wrong choices, so we definitely cannot expect fictional characters to do things differently 🙂


  3. RAWR! Thank you so much for writing this discussion because it’s AMAZING! ^.^ There is a HUGE line between a ‘weak’ character and a weakly-written character and that’s all on the author, but the way to tell which the character is, is simply through the reader’s reaction.

    As quoted above, the person disliked the character because they were whiny and cowered in front of their nemeis. You hated them because they were ‘weak’ and yet that weakness evoked a response of disliking the character. Aka, the character was well-written. If you’re just like ‘this character sucks, but I don’t know why. I can’t relate to them. They don’t seem real,’ then that’s a poorly-written character. BIG DIFFERENCE!

    It’s quite annoying, though, for writers especially when readers don’t know the difference, because, frankly, it’s quite hard to write weaker characters. We want you to root for characters. We want you to like them, but making them weak isn’t something people generally rally behind. It’s a very difficult path to tread and yet, when a writer does it correctly, you’ll know. You’ll be so annoyed with the character’s personality because it’s realistic, not because it’s fake. *cough* A Clash of Kings *cough*

    However, I must say that the quote (real or fake) above, brings up another point: the sudden transformation. This has become all too common nowadays in YA lit. The main character starts off as a weak, well-written character, but transforms into a strong, poorly-written character because the change is so drastic, so fast that it doesn’t feel authentic. *cough* Dorothy Must Die *cough*

    This crap about demanding ‘strong’ characters is becoming just a cop out and such a vortex that authors are writing unrealistic characters. Sure, they’re strong, but they’re poorly-written. Why? Lack of character development. The character goes NO WHERE! If they start strong, what do they have to develop into? It stagnates the character’s personality and that, in itself, is boring to read.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Your response made my day, love! I have to agree with you on everything you’ve said. I really don’t like when everyone expects a butt-kicking character in every story, and not being able to relate to a character doesn’t mean they’re poorly written, nor is it a proper excuse to give it a poor rating. Thank you for commenting and reading! The Goodreads comment was made up, by the way lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Haha! I’m happy I was able to make your day. I really love discussion posts! ^.^ *has too much to say* >.>

        I think the worst part is that readers don’t know how to say what they want. They’re like ‘I want a strong character’. Authors think: ‘Oh! My characters is an epic fighter.’ What readers mean: ‘I want a character who has depth and emotion and is realistic.’ Or at least that better be what they mean because if we keep having an influx in the ‘strong heroine’ category, I’m gonna give up YA all together. Why? THEY’RE EXACTLY THE SAME! *Headdesk*

        Readers don’t know what they want. Really, they don’t. Authors need to realize what makes a character authentic and go with that and stop listening to the petty squabbling and whining of readers who don’t even know how to appropriate dictate their thoughts on the book in a way that makes them sound like they read the book *cough* Fake example above is all too common *cough*

        Oh, I knew the goodreads comment was made up, but I wanted to comment on that part anyway because it really is something I’ve noticed (hence my example). :p

        Dude. I could rant on this forever, but Imma pack it up and back out before I offend someone. *really has too much to say on this topic* :p


  4. No I completely agree! I’ve read books where the character has been mentally and emotional weak but is striving to better themselves and that results in making just as strong a character as if when we get a kickass heroine in a fantasy! Great post! 🙂


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