Annoying Protagonist Kills Story

Can't sell a story based on premise alone. Maybe it's just me. I don't care how good the story sounds or how well written it is, if the POV character is annoying then I'm putting it down. Forever.
"There is nothing more important than character, for your protagonist is at the heart of the story" "(Creating Not Good But Great Characters)
Started reading Beneath Raven's Moon about a week ago. Here's the blurb on the back.
When the Raven swallows the moon darkness descends and sometimes people die...That's what Catherine Carmichael was told as a child growing up at Ravenswood, the foreboding mansion built by her grandfather on a remote peninsula in upstate NY. Now, 20 years after her father's sudden disappearance and her mother's spiriting young Catherine away to safety, she returns to the shadowy old mansion for the reading of her eccentric uncle's will. There, amid ghostly servants and disturbing house guests, she must confront a legacy of evil and an urbane, dark-haired stranger who sparks in her the passion she needs to unlock her family's secrets....
Sound intense. The author started throwing around Edgar Allen Poe and ravens and it took place in a Gothic mansion. I'm like, how can this go wrong?! Catherine, the POV character, drove a knife right through that story. She has got to be the weakest protagonist on the face of the earth.

Far too often she's shivering, having panic attacks over nothing and getting light-headed every couple of seconds and nothing has happened yet. I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt and plus I really wanted to like this story but I couldn't do it. She annoyed me so much! Pity, what sounded like a great story failed because of the protagonist.

I switched to another book and was really in to it. I didn't care for the POV character but it wasn't enough to turn me off the story. Then, the character travels back to medieval times with this guy and starts judging him based on how he treats his prisoners. I'm like hello, you're not in Kansas anymore. That's how they did things back then. You don't have to like or support it just accept it.

It annoyed me because I liked the male far better than the female. I was done when she went on a campaign to make this man release his prison and when he refused, she plotted to do it herself.

Even worse. Both novels are romance and I'm like, how can this guy actually like her?

I know what type of protagonist I love and they weren't it.

For me, I'm sold by the smart-mouth character with an answer for everything. They're good people, extremely loyal to those they care about but aren't exactly nice people. Morally questionable and slightly psychotic- they have no hang-ups about killing someone violently but won't do so unless that person did something egregious to them or someone they care about. They're aggressive, slightly arrogant with an extraordinary attitude problem.
I have so much fun writing these characters.

If characters are such an important part of the story, how can you make sure readers will like yours? You can't really. Molding a protagonist to your potential readers' likes is dangerously close to writing for the market. If most books in your genre have one type of protagonist you shouldn't feel obligated to put them in your story especially if you're driven to write something entirely different.

Writing and getting your story published is truly terrifying. Talk about leaping into the unknown. How nice would it be if we could see into the future and know just how people will react to our story? But, even if we travel through time and discovered a lot of people hate our protagonist, would we change them? I probably wouldn't.


  1. I'm with you. I like to read mysteries with strong, smart mouthed women protagonists. I recently watched an old Alfred Hitchcock movie, "Dial M For Murder" and I couldn't stand the protagonist because she was so wimpy and weak. This is surprising since Hitchcock's heroines are usually strong women.

  2. I like strong female characters too. Wimpy ones bother me. However I may be able to read an enjoy a book with a weak female lead if there is a very strong male lead helping her.

  3. I think for any story to work, the protagonist must go through a process of change. They should have flaws, but those flaws should be realized and the protagonist should overcome obstacles despite their flaws. It's what keeps them from being wimpy and weak.


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