what immediately makes you dislike a protagonist?

  1. passivity and stupidity. for example, if a character is supposed to be a trained assassin but at some parts of the story, they suddenly become incompetent because the plot needs them to be. not trying to bash any books, it's just the example on top of my mind

  2. Does this include when such trained characters are injured and temporarily unable to perform at their highest level?

  3. I was recently beta reading a story where the main character is a teenaged kid. It opens with him running out of class because people were laughing at him. That’s sad kid.

  4. At that rate, I thought main character was eventually going to run up a mountain pushing the mountain goats out of the way.

  5. You know there's an episode of Doctors somewhere, where two characters have this massive argument because of one thing and it grows arms and legs, then it just ends with one saying sorry and that's it. The whole episode.

  6. When they have a first-person monologue about how they're either totally different from everyone else or just as boring as everyone else.

  7. Whenever the character tells me, via internal monologue, that they are ordinary or boring or plain. Just. Shut up. Why should I read about you if you're boring.

  8. There’s an idea I’ve been toying with for a while of a teen girl protagonist with the typical “I’m so ordinary and plain but also super unique” but as an unreliable narrator. The reason being that, as someone who was a teen girl not so long ago, I can verify that our self-esteem is on exactly that kind of illogical rollercoaster. (At least, I hope it wasn’t just me.) I haven’t done anything with it, because I think actually executing something like that without either playing it straight or belittling adolescents is beyond the scope of my abilities right now.

  9. If they say 'They don't need no man.' or 'They're an Alpha.', they're on the fast track to being worse than this, cuz now you have an unlikeable protag combined with an author who knows nothing about actual gender dynamics and how those mindsets are INCREDIBLY toxic.

  10. Our they have a first person monologue rationalizing all the bullet points as to why the author is a good person, er, I mean the main character, not the author.

  11. Sometimes if their name is way too corny that’ll be what convinces me not too buy the book. Mostly happens in Y/A with those stereotypically fantasy names

  12. America Singer 💀 I will NEVER forgive Kiera Cass for it. At least three people recommended The Selection to me, and now I won’t ever finish the book, let alone the rest of the series.

  13. Oof, that’s who I am in real life tho. Lots of trauma= poor memory, I feel like I legit don’t learn any lessons. I just hope my subconscious will pick up on things and my patterns change.

  14. This is why I could not do the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. Every. Single. Book. Is exactly the same. MC doesn’t grow or change or learn anything. AND THE STUPID FUCKING NEVER ENDING LOVE TRIANGLE…. at the end of the book she says she thinks she’s made a choice, then the beginning of the next one she back to waffling around and unsure. There are like twenty something books. I made it through seven before I finally quit torturing myself.

  15. I hate when the only personality trait the protagonist has is that they're in love with the love interest of the book. This mostly applies to romance books ofc.

  16. It also applies to a solid half of female characters in fantasy - where it really REALLY doesn't belong. At least romance is about being in love. And tbh, I find romance to have better character writing than a fair chunk of fantasy (less so the new authors over the last decade, though - fantasy's really been making great strides).

  17. I was reading this short series once and I stopped and thought about one of the main characters for a bit and realized she had absolutely no defining traits or personality besides the fact that she was in love with the protagonist. It pretty much killed my interest in the series I couldn't stop seeing it.

  18. When the book outright tells me that he/she is likeable. Especially when dialogue does not support this assessment one bit.

  19. I just finished Way of Kings and Shallan was truly a gag-worthy character, for exactly the reasons you described. Her introduction was so cringe-worthy it left a bad taste in my mouth for everything to follow.

  20. I was under the impression that was the point of the whole "you wield your wits as a bludgeon" part of her education from Jasnah, that she realized she actually isn't all that smart and most of her jokes are just kinda mean-spirited and cringeworthy. I'm fairly sure she was supposed to come off as an annoying sheltered girl at first before she got her first real taste of the real world.

  21. Omg thank you. When the author decides to tell me how I SHOULD feel about someone? Not how the other characters feel but how I THE READER should personally feel? Done.

  22. I noticed so many examples of bad fiction have protagonists with near-godlike powers who go through the narrative without any struggle except for maybe a single, solitary, unearned “I need to look within myself for my real power” sort of bullshit. Those stories are just boring. I don’t even understand how they’re fun to write. Power fantasy wears thin very quickly.

  23. I have just the book for you. It’s about one mans struggle, in fact it’s called, My Struggle! I’m of course referring to the book by Karl Ove Knausgaard.

  24. I actually enjoy a good self-insert character if it's handled well. It can provide an interesting insight into how the author sees the world. I especially like it when the character is a parody or critique of themself.

  25. Well, I usually end up having my characters slightly like me, because well I'm writing it and I don't exactly know how to step out and still have it sound convincing. But I do research on things I'm not too sure about

  26. When they have little to no agency, if their goal is not their own and they just drift through the story. It can work sometimes but I mostly hate these kind of characters and plots, the choose one is the worst trope of them all.

  27. Especially when the supporting characters are leagues more interesting than the protagonist. Bella and Edward and the least interesting people in their own story.

  28. I think the only time I’ve liked this was in “Catcher in the Rye” as it was so dramatic that it became funny but also quite sad when you realize how mentally ill the character is.

  29. How would characters with depression factor into this? Obviously depression is considerably more than just “feeling sad” all the time and encompasses several behaviors both internal and external, but how does someone write a character with low self-worth without it seeming like they’re just constantly moaning about themselves?

  30. Characters who are weirdly fixated on their own sex organs or bowel movements. Like, yes, we all have them, but our inner monologues are not about them 24/7.

  31. One of Mariana zapatas books was like this. Every other chapter was a mention of the MC farting or tooting or some other cringey word for it. By the end I was all farted out 🤢

  32. This is sort of related but I started reading a book where the MC was a property manager who handled evictions (a solid part of her plot was that she wanted to start being a landlord herself and was saving to buy property). In her first POV chapter she described how she had to evict everyone from college students (which she liked doing because they’re gross and messy) to old retirees (who she felt bad for, but it’s okay because they probably had connections they could stay with). Instantly hated her. Couldn’t finish the book. Fucked up job but also fucked up perspective. How was this person expected to be liked?

  33. Elena is the WORST. I also couldn’t stand Stefan but Elena is one of the worst protagonists I’ve encountered. Damon and Klaus carried the rest of the characters.

  34. The actress was great which makes me feel guilty about trashing Elena. But even the great Nina Dobrev could not save that character

  35. When they're "not like the other girls." You know, because "the other girls" are boring and like makeup and pink clothes, but the protagonist is different and cool and likes sports or cars or something. I immediately put the book down.

  36. What if the story shows the character is wrong and make her learn to appreciate and accept the « other girls » by being friends with them ?

  37. I can’t stand when a character can’t get out of their own way. If there’s a super obvious solution and the character does something else just because, it better be fully understandable why they did the other thing or I’ll be annoyed.

  38. Hypocrisy, as in, the main character does something that's similar to another character that narrative has deemed "wrong", but the narrative doesn't imply wrongness when the main character does it.

  39. In my humble opinion, I actually like hypocrisy, when done right of course. By that, I mean when the main character did a hypocritical act and they realized it later on, or if they were about to do it and realized that what they're about to do is hypothetical to their words or ideals is very interesting. It gives us a way better judge of character besides just knowing their ideals.

  40. Ted Moseby from HIMYM. He only ever had a problem with Barney's behaviour because he was successful at getting laid, but whenever he had an opportunity he'd do the exact same methods.

  41. I think my biggest issue are protagonists who are Always Right. The only people who don't like them are Objectively Bad, their flaws are Actually Justified And Right, and that. It's why I don't much care for Harry Dresden, why I don't like a lot of YA protags, etc. I much prefer for people to be able to have flaws, to dislike others for petty reasons, and for both of those to wind up being bad decisions. Sometimes two good-intentioned people just don't get along. Sometimes a flaw really is a flaw, not just Character Being Right Again.

  42. Okay I admit I'm barely at the beginning of the series because I've read, what? two books, maybe 3 of the Dresden Files? But I honestly don't see where Harry Dresden is always right, it was the total opposite for me - he was dumb, over confident and made poor decisions.

  43. I’m really hating the “sassy” trope. I’ve read so many of them that not only do they blur together, they aren’t even sassy just an really unpleasant person to be around. Very few “sassy” characters are clever or quick-witted enough to qualify as such.

  44. Ehhh, I wouldn't say I like characters who are a perfect example of a mary Sue or a plain sheet of paper. Also, pick me and overused plot armor

  45. When a character is so lonely and looking for the love of their life and thinks nobody likes them. But then as the book goes on there are four different characters in love with them that are all hot and successful.

  46. I recently read an (admittedly pretty old) romance novel that was recommended to me by a friend, and I hated it for a lot of reasons, but this was the main one. The main character constantly described herself as “plain” and too socially awkward to have a real relationship, but she had no less than four men chasing after her throughout the course of the book, all of whom were extremely attractive and wealthy (two of them were foreign princes!) And they all wanted her so badly that they were willing to practically go to war with each other over her. Like, I get some degree of insecurity, but when you have four handsome noblemen chasing after you, maybe shut up about your “plainness” and get a grip. It’s possible to make your character likable and not vain without turning them into a simpering bundle of insecurity who mentions how “atrociously plain of face” she is every two seconds.

  47. Reactive characters. I want my MC to be proactive, not only reacting to things that happens to them but taking the innitiative and making decisions.

  48. When there’s no character development, or when their motivation is simplistic and surface-level. Monologuing excessively or at inopportune times is also cringe

  49. all because “wooooo they’re the chosen one! i cannot let them lift a finger!” makes me cringe 😭

  50. When they're the only POV and they're supposed to be so smart but you've guessed something they can't seem to guess even though they've given you the informations to crack all of that down.

  51. If the protagonist has very few/no "human" qualities (here I refer to personality, preferences, talents/skills and emotions) it becomes difficult if not impossible for me to tolerate them.

  52. If the character is a sexist that seems to think they're entitled to be loved by someone. This is especially disgusting if it's clearly a self insert fantasy and he actually GETS WHAT HE ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT DESERVE. Fuck. Them. Fuck. This. Shit.

  53. Being an asshole for no reason. Don't get me wrong I love me a good asshole but there needs to be a reason present in the story for their assholery.

  54. it’s so exhausting when an MC is supposed to be a “cool, confrontational badass” but they’re truthfully just an asshole

  55. LGBTQ characters fall into this so much and its sad. Like I get it we need more representation. But how about you write an adventurer who happens to be gay instead of a gay who happens to be an adventurer if that makes sense. I don't need a paragraph telling me how gay a character is in that character's introduction.

  56. When the consequences from their actions are not proportional to the dimension of their mistakes and with no reason these are disregarded by the other characters with no foundation or impact on future events or mindset.

  57. Whining. I HATE a protagonist that whines about everything. Or is generally "sad" or emo. Fate: The Winx Saga. The protagonist has me yelling at the screen every episode. Such poor characters writing.

  58. When the author tries to establish them as an edgy/rebellious character by making them do something mean at the start of the story for no reason.

  59. Basically any time they give the MC a temper so short that they can know the other person is trying to get a rise out of them, they know giving said rise would be monumentally stupid/suicidal, and THEY STILL DO IT.

  60. Characters who are self-entitled always rub me the wrong way. If they can’t admit they’re wrong, try to change, think they’re better than everyone else, etc I can’t stand them. Just like real life honestly!

  61. Self-righteousness. But not as an obstacle to overcome during character progression; the type where the writing is didactic, like the arrogance is justified because it’s the authors moral stance.

  62. I particularly despise whiny protagonists. It is annoying and not something I want to spend time reading. I don't mind unskilled or "weak" characters but they need to not spend all of their time complaining about all of their problems in an internal monologue. I don't mind reading about characters in bad circumstances but show the poor situation vice list it off in a whiny monologue.

  63. When they're too good or too strong or ''The Chosen One'' and thus can do everything thanks to plot armor and because they're The Chosen One.

  64. “It’s so you can picture yourself in their shoes” I dont care bro I’m playing the campaign for the story, give me a fucking story

  65. When a female character looks down on female-coded work like knitting, weaving, sewing, cooking, raising children, etc. This happens sometimes in fantasy and just makes the character look like a misogynist. Like, I'm not gonna like a female character more if they shit on feminine coded work.

  66. I don't have much to add to anything you said, but the "randomly being aware of propaganda" point really annoys me too. Nothing breaks me out of a story more than constantly thinking about "Why is this person doing any of this? Haven't they spent their whole life learning not to?"

  67. Yeah, hard agree on the first one. Like I don’t mind if the person doesn’t like girly things, and she doesn’t want to have to do them even though society expects her to, but I hate when she criticizes her fellow women for liking those things or being stupid for complying with social expectation.

  68. Heard great things about Temeraire. Loaned it, read 10 or so pages, worst book I've read in ages. MC could only and constantly complain about how his life sucks as a navy admiral (over a meal of steak and wine) because he had to, i quote, buy his own golden epaulettes for his uniform and couldn't afford them (p sure none of that works even remotely like pay out of pocket on min wage as an officer) and how his life would suck even more as a dragon rider because he'd have to be out on army assignments and not at his huge estate marrying a sexy lady and living his life (you know, because being in the navy does not also mean being deployed away from that).

  69. When they have horrible traits like racism, sexism, and homophobia and the author still tries to make us believe not only are they the hero but they're a good person. (Looking at you Zoey Redbird and House of Night authors)

  70. when they're just some person whos bland and dumb asf but still manages to get praised and gifted for everything they do

  71. When they can’t stand on their own two feet. There’s nothing that’ll make a close a book sooner than reading about a character who relies on everybody but themself to solve their problems.

  72. I can't think of anything off the top of my head, honestly. I guess it really just depends on how their flaws are portrayed, how much I like their positive traits, etc.

  73. When they keep talking about how ugly they are or how bland they are in personality and yet every named character of opposite sex (and appropriate age) is in love with them the moment they laid eyes on this protagonist. As soon as that starts happening I have this immense hate for the protag.

  74. Mary Sues, martyr teens, clichés, and self inserts (ex: "Six of Crows"); a severe and unredeemed moral flaw (ex: "The Harry Quebert affair"); passive and predictable characters to whom the story "just happens", with no clear drive during or progression after it ("The Accursed", "Blackwater"); undeveloped/dry characters ("A Declaration to the Rights of Magicians"); disappointing/bland characters ("The southern book club to slaying vampires")... I've given up on more than one book because I just didn't care about whatever happened to the MC.

  75. I’m the only one that can do this. I’ll keep everything secret and then rage that no one will help. I’ll brood over everything, never ask for help cause I’m the only one. I’m the one. It is me. The one.

  76. This. The “sassy feisty” character has been done so many times that I no longer care if it’s done well. I still don’t care for it.

  77. I don't know if it's more a trope or something, but lately I was looking for a good isekai anime to watch but almost every single one that I found had to put the protagonist at the centre of a harem for some reason. I immediately lose interest.

  78. When they are a doormat and just give in to the love interest’s demands. Even if the love interest is not showing any interest back but they are still giving in

  79. when there’s no clear motivation for any of their words/actions. this is usually a problem on the writers behalf, but it does cause me to dislike protagonists.

  80. No development. Characters that are morally just, very strong, or very wise need to develop those traits and/or AQUIRE them through trials. Mary Sues and Gary Stus are some of the most annoying characters.

  81. A lack of agency. I want to watch characters do stuff, even if it's the wrong thing. I don't really want to see people sit there and get blown away by the world around them and then whine about it. It's boring and IRL those people are annoying.

  82. when they're too perfect. i get tired of those protagonists who somehow always stumble into the perfect easy solution to any problem, get out of anything virtually unscathed, and are simply likeable/adored by everyone but the antagonist. so boring

  83. Perfection. When a character is handsome/beautiful, strong, has a dozen love interests, super-intelligent, never fail or suffers setbacks, or if they do they solve them trivially easily and move on. You'd be surprised how many characters like that I've seen.

  84. When we hear their inner monologue and they're constantly judging people on their looks or something - if the protagonist is meant to be a good person. Beat example is Bella from Twilight, i read it as a kid and it gave me anxiety about people looking me in the eye and being nice and secretively shitting on me in their head lol

  85. Anytime the protagonist immediately forgives the suddenly reformed antagonist. Sometimes it works, but most of the time it bugs me. Not every bad guy turned good guy deserves forgiveness, or (bleh) a ship.

  86. Love triangles. I hate love triangles. But that’s more of a (usually) poorly used lazy plot device than a protagonist issue…

  87. Dumb decisions and caring too much about other people and what they think. I want to read more about selfish MCs that get shit done and are still kind/good without kissing everyone's butts.

  88. Misogyny. I have less and less tolerance for it as time goes on in a 'funny' protagonist with wry quips. It's just... tired and old and I'm done with it, to the point where the good points (usually, oddly, including a 'let's just all get along' problem-solving mindset) just don't outshine that flat out lack of respect for women as equal beings with their own valid goals and desires.

  89. They are good at everything and don't go through any real struggle. I read a book where the protagonist was an expert pilot, engineer, close combat fighter, and his plans always worked out. It's just boring because there are no stakes.

  90. Protagonists that are bland. They have zero personality with the addition of beong everyones doormat. Those that can't think dor themselves. I also dislike talented genius protagonists cause in theory they should be perfect , but in practice it's really difficult to write them well so that they don't come off as having it too easy. Another thing i also hate when bad stuff constantly happens to a character for no reason.

  91. Well, exactly as you say. I hate the everyman trope. Those bland protags and their bland ideals and opinions really make my blood boil.

  92. I'll be the odd one out. I occasionally like unlikable protagonists. They do all the wrong things. Maybe it seems like their written poorly. But no, they're actively ruining everything. And maybe the story doesn't work out the way it should to us as a reader. That's fun if it's done right.

  93. With some of the examples here, I kind of agree with you. But there are times when a protagonist is awful because the reader just doesn’t like the way they do things. That's not exactly the fault of the writer per se. Writers might mean for their pros to be a certain way, perhaps they intended on people disliking them, but doesn't mean the rest of the story is bad. But sometimes it does seem like the authors are lazy and forgetful. The write their pros with a certain image in their head and disregard everything around them. .

  94. I actually don't mind the "self-inserts" that much but I started a thriller in which the MC, a female detective looked sighing at her wedding ring and mused about how it used to sit more loosely and that she put on weight since her wedding etc

  95. The "lottery winner" protagonist. Oh, there's only three people in the world with the expertise to figure out the problem that everyone else in the story can't crack? Oh, look, our protagonist can do it!

  96. When they’re just weak. Most often seen in female protagonists in love stories. No standing up for themselves, no communicating stuff to avoid conflicts, overly emotional over completely avoidable stuff. Absolutely infuriating.

  97. Lack of moral character, aka kite runner. By no means does this mean that I want a “goody two-shoes” and especially not a holier than thou character, but if the protagonist has a basic knowledge of right and wrong, and lacks any kind of a backbone, I cannot get into the book.

  98. The plot keep justify the main protagonist. Especially when they are clearly making a terrible decision that derails everything.

  99. I’d have to say when protagonists decide to suddenly go along with something just for the sake of the plot. No build up, basically just “yeah I’m going to do this now, please ignore any established character built up that would contradict why”.

  100. Complete lack of awareness on how their actions impact other people. Even if they decide to do something that negatively impacts others, I want them to know that. It's probably more of an issue with the plot acting like side characters literally don't matter.

  101. Can't stand anymore when the protagonist is the center of the world in that universe, when the author creates all that "ohh look how this man is cool!" thing

  102. If the protagonist is whiny, self-absorbed, superficial, humorless, cruel, petty, or stupid, I have trouble making the long journey to page two.

  103. Hmmmmm… A protagonist of thinks they’re ALWAYS the shit, and they’re constantly spouting how clever one liners and stuff like that. Won’t stop me from reading/watching though lol.

  104. Overall, it’s actually how other characters treat the character that makes me hate them. Like, if everyone else is written to bend over backwards and immediately fold into the demands of this protagonist, I hate said protagonist by default.

  105. Perfection—in fact, I don't mind a character that appears to be perfect around his peers or superiors, examples of this being Satoru Gojo or Patrick Bateman. But when the character is portrayed as perfect, they become bland. If the narrator knows everything, it gets rid of all the mystery. If it's first-person narration, it becomes unrealistic.

  106. When you say self insert do you mean person who make a character that is like themselves in real life but way different? I honestly don't care for self insert characters but most of the time it slips my mind that I made a self insert character. Now most self insert characters are not the protagonist in some situations but that is depending on how you look at it. This is just my opinion by the way but I see what you are talking about. Self insert main characters are just as annoying sometimes as the person itself. No offense to anyone that is reading this that make self insert characters.

  107. When they're the center of a love triangle and can't decide who they like better. Like just decide, move on and stop leading the other one on smh

  108. Cruelty. I have no interest in spending hours with someone who's a pointlessly mean jerk to everyone around them. Life's too short for that kind of negativity.

  109. When it's obvious the character is meant to be strong, witty, and smart but just comes off as a total smug asshole.

  110. Being dumb and taking stupid decisions all the time, just for the sake of keeping the plot going.

  111. When their dialogue is usually just meta commentary about stuff like theyre so much better than the world theyre in? And they act just so damn smart?

  112. Apart from the many great answers I’ve already seen I really dislike it when a character’s actions are completely inconsistent with their personality (and not in a “character development” way; but just to insert the character in as many “interesting/quirky” scenarios as possible)

  113. When they’re a n00b and show up and decide that they have to be the saviour or chosen one (despite all the other characters who have more experience and doing their part)

  114. When they start vomitting their philosophical and political views in explicit terms before the end of the second chapter.

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