Musing: Grand Theft Protaginist

After playing and hearing about Bio Shock Infinite a great deal on the internet, I came to realize something that happens frequently in fiction.   The media doesn’t really matter, it happens in Books, T.V., and Movies.   A story will present a character to you and insist they are the main character.   ‘This is the person you should be rooting for.’   ‘This person represents what the story is about.’

Then why does it hardly ever works out that way?   I know when I read stories I end up liking secondary, tertiary and even less more than the ‘protaginist’.   I think it’s because the harder we try to make the reader like a character, the larger the risk that they will HATE them.


But all is not lost.   It doesn’t mean that they are a bad character.   It just means they might need a different form of presentation.   I bring this up from some personal experiences I’ve had.       On a whim, I tried showing people unfamiliar with my concept a different approach.    Namely, pulling back the ‘camera’ from certain characters and placing the camera in the laps of others that were very minor.

Perception is an amazing thing.   When I presented the characters as characters.   Instead of: This is my Main Character.   This is the female Lead.   This is the man who sold the main character a potato…  You start to realize their potential as people.  This is when people realize their plights and empathize with them.  They shift from someone they’re reading about in a book to someone they know.

Benching your ‘star player’ isn’t tragic.   It’s merely better planning.  Think of a meal.   Not food, a meal.   Something you enjoy with your family at a nice restaurant.   Appetizers are not only little tastes to whet your appetite, they also show off the ability of the cook.   If you find yourself impressed by the breadsticks… the  steak is going to knock your socks off.


One does not simply plop delicious food down and… ok… never mind. But It would be even MORE delicious if it’s paced.

Bioshock Infinite actually does a good job of making Booker Dewitt a black slate and slowly filling you in as the game progresses… but he was over shadowed by Elizabeth..    My suggestion with the game is to play it through beat the last boss and have a convenient power outage.   It not only makes you wish Elizabeth was the MC, but it makes you wish you hadn’t played the whole game at all.   No spoilers on this.   Just trust me.   It’s aggravating.

I’m not telling people to give up on their projects… I’m merely suggesting trying a Grand Theft Auto Approach.   Take the character, stuff him/her in a trunk and watch how the character develops when they’re absent.  At the very least, you can be amused by their muffled protests.

One thought on “Musing: Grand Theft Protaginist

  1. “If you find yourself impressed by the breadsticks… the steak is going to knock your socks off.”

    I always find it amazing that there are so many possible food analogies you could make when it comes to writing. Gordon Ramsay would be proud…and then start yelling at someone for bringing up a raw beef wellington to the pass.

    But yeah, I know EXACTLY what you’re talking about here. I’ve heard the argument that the protagonist is supposed to be the “safe” character, and that we’re supposed to “identify” with him or her. I understand that argument and that push, but I tend not to agree with that design philosophy. Main character = very, if not the most interesting character. That’s how I try to do things, at least — and when he’s surrounded by equally interesting characters, then you’ve got yourself a story. They can challenge each other, holding one idea up against another, and developing relationships as needed. Parts of a whole, and all that.

    And don’t remind me about Elizabeth being a potential MC. I may have issues with the ending, but THAT’S the thing that irritates me the most about Infinite. And it probably will for a while longer.

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