Putting the Pro in Protagonist

Okay, we know that every story needs a hero.  Somebody to root for, somebody to worry over.  Someone to follow in a story arc that builds and changes as the story progresses.  I’ve been doing quite a bit of protagonist character comparisons, and noting some of the similarities and differences between various Urban Fantasy heroes.  For example:
Laurel Hamilton’s Anita Blake is a very short, female necromancer with a lot of dark curly hair.  She’s skilled with the use of firearms, knives, and crosses.  She’ s not really human anymore; she’s got both vamp and were chemistry (at the very least) mingled in with her necromancer DNA, and in addition to being dangerous in the physical sense, she lives and breathes black magic.  She is often outnumbered by her enemies, but has a host of friends (including the dead) she can call on for assistance.  She’s most effective when she naked, and in the throes of passion; it generates a contagious love magic, which pretty much embarrasses her to death but puts everyone else in the room in a good mood.  She’s got such lousy taste in clothes her boyfriend(s) tend to dress her like a model from Fredrick’s of Hollywood.  The girl gets no respect. 

Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden, is a relatively tall wizard, wearing rather ordinary features, and sports a wizard’s staff (although sometimes it’s in need of some body work).  His ancestry includes a bit of Fae, and his most trusted skills run to magical spells, rather than physical force.  Harry is also often outnumbered or out magicked, and he rarely has much help at all, save for a young apprentice, a brave dog, and a few flakey friends who may or may not show up on time.  He generally manages to escape annihilation and / or win by the hairs on his chinny-chin-chin.  Every time he turns around, somebody is bombing his office, his car, or his home, so finding a safe place for more than a few days is a big challenge for this guy.  And if it weren’t for bad luck, he’d have no luck at all in the love department. 

My new favorite in the genre, Faith Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock, is a tall, tough and muscular skinwalker, who travels armed to the teeth, but is also a martial arts expert.  She usually has to pay for her help, which takes the form of contract outsourcing from the local ‘hood’.  No real magic of her own, other than as her alter egos, the critters.  She needs a big boulder to change shape, and spends an inordinate amount of time eating fast food and trying to remember where she stashed her clothes.  She shares her every waking moment with a big puma who shares her personal space has the hots for the local vampire king’s bad boy human servant, whereas Jane prefers her men a little more warm-blooded.  The cat seems to be winning. 

And as don’t forget Patricia Brigg’s Mercy Thompson; a shapeshifting coyote, who serves her community first and foremost as a Volkswagon mechanic.  She’s not much of a fighter, and she doesn’t have much in the way of magical weapons, but she’s got a whole pack of weres at her beck and call and is on pretty good terms with both the local Fae and Vamps (at least, for now).  She’s the only one of her kind, and the local weres want to run her life for her, even though she doesn’t consider herself part of their pack.  She too, has a hard time keeping her clothes on, and since changing species is so easy for her, she tends to lose her clothes a lot. 


Now these examples aren’t the only guys out there in the genre today by any means, and there’s no way you could call them superheroes.  As far as heroes go, these protagonists seem to be burdened with a LOT more problems than the average bear.  We’re not talking about one or two idiosyncrasies, here.  The most successful heroes seem to be weighed down by the burden of their uniqueness.  Yet we adore reading about their latest adventures, and can’t wait to get hold of the next installment in each of these series.  Being ‘special’ isn’t good enough; our Urban Fantasy heroes lead complicated lives.  The more they suffer, the more we love them.  So I’m keeping that in mind, as I develop my main characters of the new WIP. 
This entry was posted in character development, complicated lives, heroes, more problems than the average bear, protagonist, urban fantasy. Bookmark the permalink.

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