Hating main characters — driving in the rain — and puppies!

Okay, I came across this across this neat post on things that make a main character not work. Oddly, I find I agree with basically the whole post! Especially this:

I don’t want to feel a sense of unending embarrassment for your main character. Watching him, I shouldn’t be constantly wincing, crossing my legs, furrowing my brow. Do not let conflict be driven by the character’s ceaseless stupidity. Endless humiliating self-driven failure ceases to be interesting.

Whoa, you said it, buddy. I hate that. Hate hate hate. You know what? I realized, oh, decades ago, that the reason not a single sitcom tv show has EVER appealed to me is that they all base their so-called humor on putting people in embarrassing situations and then laughing at them. Sorry, to me, that is just embarrassing, not funny.

Here’s the one I agree with least:

I want the main character to be the protagonist. This doesn’t need to be true, technically….you can have a main character who is a witness to the protagonist’s journey and is an observer to the changing world and the unfolding tale, but you need to be really powerful talented to pull that off and get away with it. Let your main characters drive the story as protagonists. Don’t give us a main character who somehow remains secondary to the tale being told.

And you know why I don’t agree all the way with this one? Because I’ve seen this done really, really well. I think this is what Dorothy Dunnett is doing in her (outstanding) historical series The Lymond Chronicles. Starts with, uh, GAME OF THRONES KINGS (whoops!)? Actually one of the books, the second or third, is kind of mediocre (IMHO). But still! Overall, a great series! And the driver of the action, Lymond, is not the pov protagonist. And that adds this great element of uncertainty because we don’t know what’s in Lymond’s head. It’s like watching The Hunt for Red October and truly not knowing whether Ramius is defecting or out for blood.

And, ever stumble across any of Dorothy Dunnett’s mysteries? Because they are SO MUCH FUN. I managed to get my hands on all of ’em back when that was actually hard, ie, before the internet started really making our lives easier. Anyway, again, the point of view character — always a female first-person narrator — is arguably not the protagonist. Track one down and read it and let me know if you agree.

Now! Important driving safety tip! If you have a white car? Consider turning on your lights if it is raining hard and traffic is heavy. Jeez, you guys are invisible under anything but ideal conditions.

But! Made it to Chicago just fine. Brought my laptop because I figured if cell phone reception is not fabulous at the Chicago airport, where would it be? Sure enough, reception here is great. Such a difference from my house.

Made it to the hotel after rush hour and before dark, just as planned. Whew, no traffic jams or serious slowdowns. Now taking the evening off. The show doesn’t start till nine. For me, that’s way way way late in the morning because I’m used to getting up at five thirty. So, plenty of time to do training in the lobby with distractions. I don’t want to say that I’m confident Adora and Pippa will do beautifully in Rally . . . though they ought to . . . but dogs are not robots and you cannot program them and then depend on unvarying performance. But they OUGHT to do well. Then in formal Obedience, not sure. Adora CAN do everything, but I haven’t really worked with her enough because, hey, time is not unlimited and the new puppy takes a lot of my attention and, well, I just haven’t. So crossing my fingers. I don’t think she’ll make me look like a total idiot in the ring, which is the big thing, I guess.

Then I think (not sure) that I’ve been dragooned into being a table steward for the breed ring in the afternoon. Never done that. Lots of complicated paperwork. Hope I get a chance to watch somebody experienced do it in the morning, or I might not need help from my dogs to look like a total idiot.

So! Busy! After this weekend, might (might!) have time to try writing.

I mean, other than writing an article for the Cavalier Bulletin on “swimmer puppies” (a potentially serious defect of proprioception you occasionally see in very young puppies) versus normal puppies that are just late to walk — like, how to tell the difference. I read a lot about swimmers because my new puppy was late to walk, see, and it turns out there’s a lot of confusion out there about what a “swimmer” actually is, based largely on confusion of terminology, so doing my part to clear that up. Thus we see that precision in language is important and that it’s really not okay to give two different conditions the same name. Which, actually, is not that uncommon an issue.

That article may well have a readership in the hundreds, so that’s not bad, but my guess is general interest in the topic is, shall we say, limited. Though, hey, maybe I’ll put the article on my other website (www.anaracavaliers.com) and link to it from here, because you never know, maybe tons of people would find it way exciting to read about swimmer puppies. Plus, on a website, I could include pictures! Visual aids are neat!

My own baby puppy is peachy-keen, btw. Five weeks old yesterday and bouncing around like anything. Cavaliers puppies are just hitting the too-cute-for-words stage at five weeks. I REALLY need to figure out how to add a video clip to a post. Or at least add a new picture.

Wish me luck showing!

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2 thoughts on “Hating main characters — driving in the rain — and puppies!”

  1. Good luck showing! (she says obediently.)

    Dogs can have proprioception problems? who knew? I spent a couple years with that kind of problem. It finally went away but wasn’t fun while it lasted. Do the swimmers recover, or, as you call it a defect, is it permanent? I suppose it is identified by the way the dog moves? I certainly FELT like I moved differently, because I couldn’t tell where my feet and legs were or what they were doing.

    I saw that rant a few days ago.
    The Dunnett book you’re thinking of is GAME OF KINGS, not thrones. I’m not sure it meets the criteria as Lymond is most definitely the protaganist. We’re just almost never in his head. We see him through other character’s perceptions (and not often from deep inside their heads – er, POV – either). But I’ve seldom found a more protaganist-y protaganist. Especially in the first book, which is all about people reacting to him and him acting for his own purposes and to make others do things, not all obvious things, either.
    The issue as defined in the rant may be due to differing styles of writing. These days most books in genre seem to be either first person, or deep in third person POV. Dunnett’s POV tends to be more distanced. It might be a form of omniscent, but I’d have to dig out my copies to look at to say for sure. Great series. I’ve read her mysteries, but never took to them, except mildly to the one with the makeup artist narrator.

  2. Yes, right, GAME OF KINGS! I totally agree that Lymond was the driver of the action, but given that he is never the pov character, not sure I agree he was the protagonist. Maybe I need to look up the formal definition of “protagonist”.

    Cavaliers with syringomyelia, a defect of the skull that leads to various bad things, also often leads to proprioception difficulties. The dogs do have trouble when they can’t tell where their front feet are. But with swimmer puppies, it’s totally correctable, though the earlier you catch it the better. You can evidently (I’ve read) “train” the infant’s proprioception so that it will lie on its side — you just persistently lay the puppy on its side while it’s nursing and keep it there. If you miss the initial stages, you can evidently get the puppy up reliably by using various kinds of jackets, pads, or hobbles to prevent the puppy from lying on its side. And apparently it helps to do a kind of physical therapy to teach the puppy the proper walking motions. If you don’t correct swimmers, the puppy lies flat with its front legs right out sideways and moves with a paddling motion instead of getting its feet up under it and crawling. I’ve never seen a real swimmer puppy. Pictures do look odd.

    And, yes, thank you — the girls qualified in everything they were entered in. Here’s hoping they do that tomorrow and earn their titles!

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