Re: proactive versus reactive lead characters

28 May

By Ayo

With regards to the article listed here.

You’ll notice in the piece about “proactive vs reactive” characters that the author is very proscriptive about what makes a good character. I don’t agree. I think that characters having a proactive or a reactive disposition is an equally valid creative choice. The problems arise when authors are not consciously making those decisions and are falling into cliche or unconsciously following trends which might lead them into certain styles of character building.

My primary thought is superhero comic books. The protagonists of all superhero comic books with the possible exception of Mister Fantastic seem to be reactive characters. While the genre is billed as “men of action,” the reality is that these characters generally sit passively until some hostile force prompts them to act. This pattern of character-writing gets a job done. The general idea of a protagonist doing one thing and being interrupter by adventure works toward common cultural values, namely humbleness, selfless activism and generosity. The idea that a person might set aside his or her interests to lend their talents to assist in a sudden emergency.

On the other hand, this use of the passive or “reactive” protagonist is often reflexive: it is usually a construct of convention not intention.

As a reader, I tend to find proactive protagonists more engaging. Failing that, I tend to be excited by side characters or villains, either of whom tend to have more direct and aggressive goals in stories featuring reactive protagonists.

Which seems to lead into the question floated in think-piece essays by every television blogger: “WHY ARE WE SO FASCINATED BY ANTI HEROES??!”

The answer: because they do things.


One Response to “Re: proactive versus reactive lead characters”

  1. jennydevildoll May 29, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

    What’s weird is I think I see the appeal of both, either characters actively persuing goals (proactive) or characters overcoming obstacles beyond their control (reactive), through proactive actions.

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