5 Reasons Your Protagonist Deserves To Die

Protagonists are like beautiful people – we all want one, and want to be one. 😜 

Unless, of course, the beautiful person is fatally flawed. Not in the traditional sense (flawed characters make for great fiction), but flawed in an “Now I hate you and hope your offspring flunk out of preschool” kind of way. 

Most of the time, we read books to cheer on the hero. We want them to win. 

Unless they commit one of these 5 deadly sins…

There are certain very specific things that disqualify a protagonist. In fact, there are 5 things that instantly make any protagonist deserving of a slow and (might I add) painful death. 

Think of it as the literary death penalty. 

Without further ado, here are those 5 reasons for instant character sentencing: 

5 Reasons Your Protagonist Deserves to Die

  1. They Don’t Act 
  2. They Are Dumb
  3. They Miss The Obvious 
  4. They Are Not Good 
  5. They Are Too Perfect 

Let’s take these one by one, shall we? 

They Don’t Act 

These are the protagonists that sit on their duff and wait until something happens to react instead of being motivated, passionate characters that do things to reach their goals.

They are passive characters that inspire passivity in readers. Not good. Not. Good.

They Are Dumb

They make stupid mistakes that anyone with any sense could avoid, like searching for the source of sounds alone in the dark with only a flashlight – after four of their friends have been brutally murdered by being alone and in the dark.

Dumb character choices lead to disinterested readers. 

Dumb choices break the illusion of reality, damaging author credibility.  Trust is essential to good storytelling. 

They Miss The Obvious 

This could be called “they are dumber”. These protagonists miss the blindingly obvious, either solutions to their problems or painfully obvious clues to solve a mystery. 

This also erodes credibility and adds a layer of comedy to an otherwise potentially great story. 

If readers notice something, characters should, too. 

If readers think of something, characters should, too. 

Unless, of course, there is some reason *previously* given for the “lack of awareness”. 

They Are Not Good 

These protagonists are so bad they make you want to root for the antagonist. Their personality or actions – or both – are so repulsive that they instantly turn off readers.

Kick a dog? Burn them at the stake! 

Hurt a child? “Bring out your dead!”

They Are Too Perfect 

These are the Saturday Night Live “beautiful rich white people with problems.” They have it all and they can do it all. They are Superman without a ktyptonite weakness. 

As it has elsewhere been said, “No one wants to see superman fight Tiny Tim.”

And here’s one just for the fun of it: 

Christopher is out fictionally assassinating unworthy protagonists. Follow him on Twitter or your protagonist dies. @Chris_Kokoski


Christopher Kokoski is a speaker, trainer and author of Wicker Hollow and the Past Lives novel series.

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Posted in books, creativity, screenwriting, writer, Writing

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