The Protagonist Will be Vulnerable
The next thing that the reader expects is that the protagonist with be flawed and vulnerable and never, ever perfect. Remember we were saying earlier that what we come to story for is that vulnerable piece, the stuff that we don't actually say out loud? Story is not about what happens on the surface, story's about what goes on beneath the surface, it's the difference between what you're saying out loud and what you're really thinking when you're saying it. And so, we expect that vulnerability. Again, if a story is about how someone who walks on the page and needs to make a change, stories are about how that change we're talking about like with Bruce Willis. If a character's perfect, why would they even need to change? We're looking for those things that make them vulnerable, that we don't talk, I hate the word flawed actually because it sounds like that our vulnerabilities are flaws and they're not. They're just things that we're not sure how other people are gonna take. And the proble...
m that writers have is that you're told, and I get asked this a lot. But I want my protagonist to be likable, I want them to be likable. So, likable tends to be taken to mean perfect, and perfect tends to be taken to mean in polite society, they would never do anything that would make anybody feel uncomfortable ever. So, that is someone who really is adhering to all of those rules. Now, if someone actually was like that, they would either be very, very, very shallow or really hiding something beneath the surface. And the problem is if you've got someone who always tows the line, they never swear, they'd never be mean, they'd never kick a dog, they'd never steal anything no matter what the circumstances are, that person can't surprise you. That person can never do anything unexpected because they are always doing what's expected of them. It's like there's the expression that you hear in life all the time, never let 'em see you sweat, right? We've all hear that expression, right? Everybody's heard never let 'em see you sweat. Well, that's polite society, that's the surface world. What does that imply? It implies that beneath that we are sweating buckets. Story is about sweating, stories are about sweating. It's about what we're really feeling. And that's why you have to be brave, it's hard I admit, to have your protagonist show their wounds or do something that really surprises us, they wouldn't want other people to know. For instance, imagine you've got a protagonist, now I just wanna set this up properly. Protagonist loves dogs, has always loved dogs. Had a dog since she was tiny, she gives money to PETA. And I'm setting this up for a specific reason because. So she gives money to PETA, she's always had dogs. She pets dogs, she house sits dogs, there's nothing she loves more than dogs. But, about three months ago someone moved in next door who has six yippy, yappy chihuahuas that bark all night long and she hasn't gotten a night's sleep in about three months and she's on probation at work and her boyfriend broke up with her and she's got a big presentation she's gotta give tomorrow and if she doesn't get a night's sleep tonight and she thinks if those dogs bark tonight, I am gonna buy a gun and I am gonna shoot every one of them. Now, she'd never do that, she'd never do it. I promise she'd never do it, but she'd think it. We come for thoughts like that, we come for those things that we don't want other people to know. We come for those things that we think, oh my gosh, if they knew that they wouldn't like me. Oh my gosh, that would tarnish the way I seem on top. And the reason we come for that is because, maybe not about dogs, but all of us have thoughts like that. That is that internal vulnerability. The point is is that for character, for us to be able to relate to anybody, they have to be vulnerable, they've got this, they have this vulnerability. Which basically means that in order to be likable, a character has to be vulnerable. If they're perfect, they're not likable. In fact, think about the perfect people that you know in your life. I don't know what we know any of them actually like personally, but the example I always like to use is you know they talk about Facebook. You've got so many, you haven't seen them since high school, but they've got the perfect marriage, they've got the perfect house, and they've got the perfect job, and their kids are always the perfect ones at school. And they go on perfect vacations and their holidays are great, and they wear those ridiculous Christmas sweaters. Everything in their lives is perfect and do you like them? You hate, they make you feel terrible. Why? Because it seems like they're perfect and you've got all this vulnerability. You can't relate to them and so you block them because who wants to be depressed about that? That is the point, gotta be vulnerable in order to be likable and in order to be real.