Saturday, July 21, 2012

Dumb Characters

Over the past months, I’ve begun to notice certain things in books that I hadn’t before. I’m normally an easy going reader – I don’t pick up on plot holes, inconsistent logic, and fails of that nature. Even when I do notice them, I usually suspend disbelief and what not, keep reading, and don’t let that ruin the experience.

But that attitude has begun to fray at the edges. Now when I notice them, I roll my eyes, tisk tisk, or just curse at the character (sailor fashion, otherwise you’re doing it wrong, matey). What’s really getting to me lately is dumb choices. Not ill-informed ones – I get it if the character makes a bad choice because he or she didn’t have all the information provided to us as readers. What I mean is stupid choices, having something glaringly obvious slap you in the face and go wondering where that extremely strong gust of wind came from. It’s having two delineated paths and choosing the one which will obviously create the most problems, only to then have the character painted as this witty, clever PI, for example, and very successful right up until someone wrote a book about them – at which point they apparently had their common sense removed and replaced by a watermelon. Hmm... watermelon... Anyway!

An example of this would be Percy Jackson* and the Olympians. You see the character (young 11-12 year old if I remember correctly, so I guess that’s an excuse) finding out he’s an Olympian, has powers and starts a special school, his best friend is a faun, yadda yadda yadda. The first book is the first year of school, and I get that he’d be stumbling and coping for a year after finding out he's Poseidon’s son (that comes out later on). But then came book two, and he’s still being surprised and caught flat footed by events. For the love of Zeus (see what I did there?), if you have a 3 month summer break (between book 1 and 2), pick up a damn book and read up on mythology! Watch old movies! Watch Hercules, Clash of the Titans, or something! How can you walk into a house with a garden full of stone statues, a woman opens the door with a wrap over her hair and sunglasses, and NOT SEE WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN?!

Ok. Calm down. Keep ranting like this and you’ll scare off these good people. *deep breaths*

Another example would be Tarnsman of Gor. About a third of the way in, the main character gets thrown off a flying beast by a woman and barely survives, landing on a web in a forest. He then finds the woman that threw him and saves her from certain doom. I can tell you right now, you throw me off a flying whatever, I’ll let you get eaten by a slobbering beast ten times out of ten. But that’s not all! She then falls into quick sand, and the hero rescues her, only to have her try to stab him in the back. What does our intrepid, Dreadful Pirate Roberts-wannabe (I’ll ignore the fact that the book came out before the movie, thank you very much) do after this act of betrayal? Leave her stranded?! Kill her before she kills him?! Nope! He lets her live after taking off a veil and seeing just how fraking cute she is. Oh barf! I remember rolling my eyes so hard at this point I got whiplash (got this one from my girlfriend, Nina - pretty funny, so credit where credit’s due) and quit the book. I have my stupidity limits. At least I got that out of the experience. I have a stupidity limit – who would have thunk it?

It’s things like this that have led me to a new rule: if the main characters makes a stupid choice only to move the narrative in a certain direction, or against the description of that “smart” character, or makes wrong/stupid decision when in possession of the necessary information to make the right one – I walk, figuratively. And possibly literally. Yeah, why not. It’s a free country, and you ain’t the boss of me!

After that winding road of crazy ranty talk, and if you’re still there reading and not bolting for your blunderbuss (For the purposes of this post, you have a blunderbuss. Just go with it.), has this happened to you? Have you ever gotten tired of a stupid, dumb character and put the book down? Come on, tell old cranky Will - who annoyed you?

*Note from Kayla - I know it's sacrilegious for him to speak so about my demigod, but I'll keep him around nonetheless. ;-)


  1. I ranted about stupid protagonists a while back too :) it's here if your interested: I can tolerate small amounts of stupidity but I do have stupidity limit. And when I come across that, I avoid that author like the plague!

  2. You have a very good point. But sometimes a stupid protagonist can be funny because they're stupid. :D
    And I'm with you. I wouldn't save someone who threw me off a flying beast. I'd let her get eaten. :D

  3. Great post! I agree with you - in Cherry's words, some characters are TSTL. -.-

  4. I know this is the go-to character to rant about, but I have to say one of the worst ones for me is Bella Swan. I know she got what she wanted in the end, but she went through so much %&^@ that she didn't have to if she would have just listened! I'll probably think of others throughout the day, too. :-)

  5. You see a lot of this in YA. It drives me crazy. There are so many heroines that are described as super intelligent, witty, and hardcore, but they NEVER actually DO anything to show that. When confronted with a mystery, they make the most boneheaded assumptions and always need someone else to save them. There will be the big moment where she dramatically figures out what's happening, about 300 pages after I figured out what was happening. Honey, you're dumb. Stop it.

  6. I am so glad I'm not the only one who suffers from this! I consider throwing your life away for a guy stupid. Is this at all unreasonable, Juliet and Luce? Just because he's cute and you're not allowed to marry him is not a good reason for suicide, Julie. And Luce... I gave up on you to soon to be able to rant well, but from what I did read *shudders, unable to continue*


You are going to put words in my box?! *squeezes you* Now I shall stalk YOUR blog!