There are many points to consider when creating a protagonist. What do they look like? What are they good at? Are they smart, or funny, or kind? But considering all of this, the one thing I believe should be avoided at all costs, is the Mary Sue (or Marty Stu if male).
The Mary Sue character is the ridiculously perfect, perhaps overpowered character, whom you cannot fault in any way. As an author, it is easy to fall into this trap. We love our main characters and want them to be perfect. We want our characters to woo our readers with their brilliance just as they are wooing us within the setting of our minds.
So why is this a bad thing?
Mary Sue is boring. Yes, she may have incredible abilities. Yes, they may be smart, and beautiful, and loving. But, no one wants to read about perfect people, at least not for long.
Such perfect characters are not relatable. No one is faultless in reality, so why should your protagonist be any different. Your readers will not be drawn in and captured by your character unless they have traits that make them human. So brainstorm. Do they have a physical illness or disability? Are they easily angered, paranoid, or selfish? Perhaps they are inhibited by their environment, such as their socioeconomic status? There are many ways in which you can FLAW your protagonist and in doing so, will instantly make them a more relatable and a more interesting person to read about. You will give your protagonist areas to learn and develop as a character, and hence will hold the attention of your readers who will now want to watch them grow.
So, when creating characters for your stories (not just your protagonist), give them issues. Scar that shiny image you have in your imagination. Your stories will be all the better for a bit of roughing up!
Scarlett Van Dijk
A Writer's Tale
Scarlett Van Dijk
Writer of young adult, fantasy series, the Sky Stone series, poetry and short stories.
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