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Middle Grade- Passive Protagonist??

Posted: February 28th, 2013, 11:37 pm
by alecbaldwin
I heard middle grade readers like active/go-getter protagonists. Do you think it would be a mistake to write a book where the 11yo protagonist's flaw is shyness, then over the course of the book he learns to be assertive? (Like the guy in the Kite Runner, for instance). There will be plenty of action throughout, but the older brother would be the one pushing the protagonist into these situations until the climax, when he stands up for himself.

Thanks in advance for your help people.

Re: Middle Grade- Passive Protagonist??

Posted: March 1st, 2013, 5:14 am
by Hillsy
Real broad rule of thumb here:

By Active it's generally not considered to be Active in a literal sense, more in terms of plot. At the start of the book the protag should WANT something and is trying to GET it (not necessarily the main theme of the plot). Even if his shyness is in the way, he should still be actively attempting to do something. There's a big history of the weedy, shy type and often they start the stories trying to do something, but their shyness is getting in the way (Talk to the girl, not get beaten up at school, get the medicine for a sick mother, become a policeman....etc etc).

Hope that helps - like I said a pretty broad rule....

Re: Middle Grade- Passive Protagonist??

Posted: March 1st, 2013, 11:24 am
by polymath
All readers prefer proactive protagonists. As Hillsy notes, a protagonist must have a want or a problem wanting satisfaction and at least one should be as artfully as practical introduced in an opening. In other words, a dramatic complication. A want is a problem; a problem is a want. Shyness, for example, is a problem impeding social and cultural interactions. Humans, being social beings by natural inclination, want meaningful human interaction; lack thereof is a problem.

You have put your finger on one quality a narrative requires: your protagonist changes as the dramatic action unfolds. Overcoming shyness, though, in and of itself, might not carry a narrative's drama (antagonism, causation, and tension). While overcoming shyness is a coming of age dilemma for middle grade audiences, it's an intangible, immaterial, and abstract force. A tangible want or problem accompanying overcoming shyness would add a degree of depth the audience could associate and identify with. In the course of satisfying the tangible want or problem, the protagonist matures: overcoming shyness.

Not only do readers prefer proactive protagonists, they also prefer protagonists whose wants and problems are largely of their own doing. Self-isolation away from parental and guardian supervision in order to satisfy wants and problems is a common and popular motif for middle grade fiction.

Re: Middle Grade- Passive Protagonist??

Posted: March 1st, 2013, 3:10 pm
by alecbaldwin
Polymath & Hillsy-

Thanks for your expert advice and insight. Much appreciated. Yes, my protagonist has a big want and his shyness is getting in the way. So even though he's not full of confidence & a leader in the beginning, he can still be 'active'= actively wanting and going after his goal, it's just his shyness flaw is getting in the way. So I think it will work. Awesome. Thanks for clarifying that for me.