Saturday, November 26, 2011

Saturday Discussions: Character Pet Peeves

After finally putting my fourth novel to sleep for a month, I've been second guessing every single thing I've written. And what I've been thinking a lot about lately is my main character and what makes her special. Since I've been thinking about this, I've been noticing it a lot more in other novels and trying to think about what makes a main character good and reversely, what doesn't.

That's why Jessica from The Midnight Bookworm and I want to talk about our top main character pet peeves. These are the things that makes my skin crawl and threaten to ruin a novel for me. I'm sure I'm missing a few but this is a somewhat completely list of my least favorite things!

1) Smart Girl, Bad Choices- This is the number one thing that will make me angry when I'm reading. I hate when I know that my main character is a smart girl but for the sake of plot or jealousy or sheer dumb-assry, she decides to do something totally out of character. Usually that author will make them pay a price for this but then it just feels like a loosely shaded plot device.

2) Too Wishy-Washy- I don't mind a good love triangle. Heck, I don't mind one that's so good that I'm a little unsure which is a better choice and it would be completely unreasonable of me to want my main character to know exactly who she wants. But I don't like when they are so wishy-washy that they refuse to make a descision about anything or anyone. And once they do, I want them to stick with it out have a damn good reason why they don't.

3) Too Whiny- I expect character's to have problems and I expect those problems to be at the center of their minds. But I don't want to spend 300+ pages with someone who is all about the pity party. I'd rather have an active heroine who is out making her problems right than one who is crying about it all the time.

4) Too Self-Absorbed- Likewise, I'm not into a character that is so self-involved that they can't see that someone else is suffering, especially if it's obvious to me as a reader. I don't mind if the character realizes that they've been to wrapped up in their own problems and aims to help their friend but when they excuse not being there for someone because they have to save the world, they've lost a few points in my book.

5) Too Perfect- On the complete opposite end of the scale, I'm not happy with someone if they don't have any problems either. I don't want to read about someone who is beautiful with a great boyfriend, a happy family, the best best friend and no money problems. Mary Sues are boring unless they are proving some bigger point.

6) No hobbies and/or friends-I understand that some characters aren't going to be social. But I will never get the character that doesn't have a single friend or hobby. The friend thing can slide if they have just moved into town but he/she needs to have something they are passionate about. Most of my favorite characters love something whether it be sports, photography or even something nerdy like gaming. Without friends or a hobby, the character is just boring.

7) Trust Issues- I don't mind characters who have a problem trusting people because they;ve been vurned. But what I don't like is when a main character has been best friends with their BF forever or have had a serious, steady relationship with their guy and will still believe someone else over them. If the author has worked for a long time to build trust between the characters, I hate when they let their main character disregard all of that for the plot's sake.

As I'd mentioned, this is probably not all of my pet peeves but it's a large majority of them. One or two per character I can let slide, but once these traits start piling on top of each other, I've got some major problems. I want my lead characters active, intelligent and able to take care of themselves. When I crack open a book, I want to be going into a life that has already been fully formed with people they love and experiences they've already had. That is what makes a truly good character.

Some of my favorite main characters are:

Katniss from The Hunger Games- I loved her because she didn't have time for any of my pet peeves. She was always on to the next thing in order to survive, trying to stay on the same page as people who have been playing the games much longer than herself. She had people she loved and relied on and she was a powerful chick!
Tris from Divergent- I love Tris for many of the same reasons. She knows what she wants, has a passion for life and isn't willing to pet everything she has into a goal.

Mara Dyer from The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer- Though she does dwell on her problems, she has a legimate reason to because she's trying to figure out what's wrong with her. She's smart, quick as a whip and though she doesn't trust easily, when she does she puts her whole heart into it.

Herimone from Harry Potter- It was obvious from the beginning that without her, the boys would be completley helpless. Intelligent, awesome and fearless, Herimone has a passion like no other heroine.

So I want to know, what are some of your pet peeves for main characters?


  1. One I came across lately is sort of a combination of #s 4 and 7, I think - the main character that has her own trust issues so does destructive things to her friends' relationships but expects them to always support her. Then of course, they always forgive her very easily since she's so damn likable and perfect. So add #5 in there too. ;)

  2. I have a lot of yours too! A big one for me is that I hate when there is a female character who is seen as this suddenly incredibly beautiful girl by all men around her. I have a hard time believing a character with that type of beauty has never been compliments about her looks until she's moved to a new place etc.

    <a href=">A Written Rhapsody</a>

  3. Great post Amber! I really hate it when MC's make terrible choices as well, it's as though the author wanted the plot to go somewhere, and that was the only way-but it's so unrealistic when it's totally out of character!

    I hate indecisive MC's as well, I'm a pretty decisive person so anyone the opposite of me in a novel really irks me.

    I think you probably picked out most of my pet peeves yourself! Katniss and Tris are two of my favourite ever MC's, along with Dru from the strange angels series. I think they all have an inner-strength, bravery and a resilience in common that I really admire and relate too.

    The Cait Files

  4. Haha great post!
    The books I'm reading has a whole lot of 2,3,4 and 7--I don't know how I'm still reading >_<

  5. You totally nailed it. I've seen too many (esp. YA) books with these major character issues that piled up and destroyed the whole thing for me. It's harder to write than it seems, though! And don't worry about second-guessing yourself. I do the exact same thing!

  6. Haha. Hmm, well all the one's you posted!
    But I have to add mine.
    I HATE when the main character is too into shopping! Or clothes, make-up, but you know, in an annoying way, where they worry too much on what they wear. Plain girly-girl- Not really my type.
    Also, when the main the protagonist is too obsessed with her boyfriend, or friends and expects to be saved. Of course most stories are like this, but the girl has to step up her game! And become a role model. :D


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