Books are mankind’s most beautiful handiwork, and no story can be meaningful and life-changing without memorable, sympathetic, and realistic characters.
I read a lot of books under different genres, and I’ve been to outer space, to the deepest parts of the ocean, to a magical realm, or a school for fairy tale characters through the eyes of different main characters: a teenage boy, a young girl, a princess, a thief, an assassin, a wizard, a businessman, a homosexual man, a hairdresser, a bubbly hopeless romantic, a cynical PI, and a dog (well Dean Koontz’s Watchers had a scientifically modified dog).
But when I told myself to start on that first draft (which I will get around to doing), I started to look for main characters I haven’t encountered before. Misunderstood teenage boys with super powers or young girls destined to save a kingdom or marry some powerful royal are quite the norm these days (especially YA urban fantasy or dystopian-themed books, not that I dislike them – on the contrary, actually). So, how about protagonists I haven’t met yet?
Here’s a list of protagonists I’d like to read about next (or main characters I might get to writing about soon):
1. A bespectacled person – with realistic problems of wearing glasses
I know that there are a hundred books with Four-Eyes as the main characters. Heck, bespectacled people were once the go-to depictions of the underdog, the nerds, or the outcasts. But I want to see scenes where the bespectacled protagonist shows us: a) how annoying it is to blow on a hot cup or leave the taxi with foggy glasses, b) how your glasses sometimes gets in your hair especially when you’re in hurry – like running for your life, c) how it’s actually difficult to keep your glasses on when your doing the cha-cha with an assassin wielding a blade – there is no glue on your temples!
Sure Harry Potter wears glasses, but he’s got special spells to keep them clear during a rainy Quidditch game or never broken when they’re running from Death Eaters. How ’bout normal glasses-wearing folk?
2. Someone in a wheelchair or using a walker
I’ve got a friend who uses a walker and she’s one of the most badass people I know. I’m well aware of Professor X (I fell in love with James McAvoy in First Class), but how about a person with a walking disability who deals with intergalactic space-war, international crime and intrigue, or being the student council president, all while showing us how he or she views the world from the wheelchair or the walker? Someone who isn’t wise or arcane, but struggling, genuine, and so much like the rest of us?
3. Someone in the asexual spectrum
I identify as someone within the asexual spectrum, though I’m not sure exactly where, but I’d like to read about a protagonist who’s maybe asexual or demisexual, aromantic or demi-romantic (you get my drift). The asexual community consists of 1% of the general population and is sometimes referred to as the “invisible sexuality”. It’d be really great for this sexual orientation to be represented and explored in many fiction stories.
4. A teacher
I’m sure there have been teacher protagonists in many films, but how about a primary, elementary, or secondary teacher starring in an urban fantasy? College professors get a lot of page-time, but basic education teachers? Rarely. A basic ed. teacher’s schedule is largely busy since they have to follow-up kids almost all the time, attend faculty meetings, hound students who rarely show up, etc. Imagine how interesting it would be if they have to balance all that with say, hunting ghosts? Catching criminals? Protecting a group of super-powered kids? Brewing potions?
I mean, do you know what your teacher gets up to after school hours? They could be buying groceries or grading papers, but it’s so intriguing to imagine otherwise (I’m a bit biased ’cause I’m a former teacher – didn’t hurt to dream I was also a spy).
5. A chubby person
Body size can be a sensitize subject to many. I used to be thin in college, but then gained weight when I started working. I’m not so bothered by it ’cause I like to eat (and I’m not giving that up just to look thin!), but I do wonder and think about how many main characters are always fit. Yes, Zombieland says the fat people get eaten by zombies first, but when you think about the stories that start with premises of “normal teenage boy”, or “a young woman who thought she was ordinary”, you start to ask, “Are only the thin or physically fit people normal?”
We’re talking about heroes, about protagonists, and about people with different lives who try to make the best out of a bad situation. Of course, not all of them would have been fit or thin!
Remember SPY? Hell yeah, a plus-size woman can be what she always wanted to be, save the world, and get the guy! So, why not in fiction books?
There are other very interesting characters out there that deserve to be represented in a huge way – as a main character. Thankfully, more and more books (and writers) are telling meaningful stories through the eyes of the minority, the under-represented, and the mis-represented ones. And I can’t wait to read and tell the world about them.