Thursday, June 21, 2012

Avoiding the Stupid Protagonist Syndrome

Have you ever read a book, watched a movie, or seen a TV show in which a character makes a stupid choice? Not a mistake. A mistake would be yelling at your mom when she hasn't done anything because you've had a rough day. That's a mistake we as human beings make, and help our characters become three-dimensional. A stupid choice is if a character puts themselves in a dangerous position for no good reason when they know there's danger.
A comment I often see on Goodreads reviews from low ratings is the reviewer complaining that the main character is "stupid." And they then go on to list the stupid things the character does. I've read some books lately which made me think, "Wow this character is stupid."
So how do we avoid our own protagonist from being stupid? I think that this clip from The Office explains it:
Just ask yourself "Would an idiot do this?" If you look objectively and see that yes, an idiot would do it, then don't have your character do it. Easy peasy. In theory, at least.


  1. Amen to this post, sister. Almost all of the YA I've been reading recently has made me want to bash my head in with the book because of something stupid the MC did. Like, did you REALLY have to be all self-sacrificing? Did you REALLY have to give up that easily?

    The Office has it spot on. Consider that advice written over my desk, just for reiteration ;)