This Is Who I Am!

I like books where the protagonist changes. I prefer books where he changes for the better, but I’ve read books where he changes for the worse.

Once upon a time, Keven Newsome wrote a post about the Hero’s Journey. He revisited the concept in this post where he applied it to various movies, but the post I remember must have been pre-NAF ’cause I can’t find it (anytime you want to recycle that one, Iguana, you’ve got my vote).

Basic concept: the hero changes during the story, starting out with everything against him, including himself, and ultimately conquering all. This post is about one key to the Hero’s Journey: reluctance.

Not all books have to be about reluctant heroes. Cyrus Solberg of Mitchell Bonds’ Hero, Second Class isn’t reluctant. He’s wanted to be a Hero all his life. Kat Heckenbach’s Finding Angel is about a girl anxious to find and meet her destiny. The feisty Alara of Kristen Stieffel’s A Gift with Which to Serve (which may or may not have another title at this point) actively searches for God’s will in her life.

I’ve read stories with protagonists who don’t know themselves. The book is a journey of self-discovery. In Diane Graham’s I Am Ocilla, Ocilla starts with no memory, and we learn about her as she learns about herself. She becomes a bit more reluctant as the story progresses. Can’t say I blame her.

Then we have characters who think they know who they are. The Iguana mentions Neo from The Matrix. I would add Alice from Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (I can’t think of a literary example at the moment. Anyone? Anyone?) The story becomes a question of who is right, the character or the quest?

In the two books I’ve completed, at least one character actually declares, “This is who I am!” in response to a situation where expectations are different from her perceived ability. My protagonists are dragged kicking and screaming, often literally, into their destinies.

It’s weird. I hadn’t realized I’d done it until this course of posts made me examine my stories and myself in them. Who am I trying to convince, I wonder? Are my characters telling the world I don’t want to change who I am? That I defy my destiny, i.e., God’s plan for my life?

Maybe. In my more honest moments, I admit my personal story has been one of resisting God’s apparent plan. Telling Him “no” more often than “yes.” Refusing to practice my gifts. Taking the easy wrong instead of the hard right. Sometimes I wonder why my mom didn’t smother me in my sleep and try again. She couldn’t have gotten a more stubborn daughter.

As I write Past Ties, I’m waiting for that one character to stand up and announce defiance. No one has done it yet, and it’s throwing me off. Does this mean I’ve grown? Is my personal quest toward publication transforming me into a less reluctant hero?

I doubt it. Doesn’t sound like me at all.

Your turn to play.

What kind of hero do you prefer? Do you see yourself in your protagonist? How? Should you have been smothered in your sleep? Just kidding with that one.

About Robynn Tolbert

Born in Kansas and born again at age six, Robynn has published two novels and started her third. Robynn, aka Ranunculus Turtle, lives in Kansas with a clowder of cats, a patient dog and a garden.

16 comments on “This Is Who I Am!

  1. I like the kicking, screaming, rock-head. I can relate. 😛

  2. I’m the reluctant Gideon type hero. Who, me Lord? You want me to do WHAT?

  3. That’s the only post I did. Perhaps you could hum a few bars?

    • You know, I was sure you had one without the movie references. I’m not usually wrong about such things. Mark your calendars, boys and girls!

      • Actually, I’m pretty sure there was one without movie references too, but maybe that was for the villain’s quest? Not sure. It’s kind of like that feeling you get when you watch a movie on ABC when you were a kid and they actually somehow show the extended version, so there’s this one scene that always sticks in your head that you never see again, then years later when watching the special DVD extended version you go, “THERE!!!! There’s that damn scene!” and everyone around you (if anyone was around you at the time) looks at you like you’re insane or something not realizing that you had been looking for that scene so many times in your countless viewings of this movie. 😉

      • I know that feeling quite well, David.

  4. Being the Mom who did NOT smother her in her sleep I am able to attest to the stubborn factor and to gifts being unused just because she didn’t WANT to use them. This stubbornness also applied to clothing. At age three I was told ” I am not wearing that!”

    However, a better, sweeter daughter no mother has ever had and one with so many talents and abilities is also true. I made the mistake of praying for patience early in my life and God gave me “The Turtle.” So my journey into patience began and is still continuing.

    But that is OK, Miss Turtle, you are well worth the effort and I couldn’t love you more.

  5. Well, first, thanks for the mention :).

    Second, Angel is very much like me–wanting to follow her destiny, but not quite sure what that destiny is, and rather impatient about finding out :P. She still wants to be who she is–part of finding her destiny is finding her *identity* and what makes her special.

    However, we’re both a bit stubborn. When we get an idea we want very badly to be *right* and will often go to lengths to prove it. And we like doing things our way. My mom tells me the reason I didn’t take classes like other girls–ballet and such–is that I insisted on doing things my own way. I took baton for some time, actually, and ended up quitting because the teacher wouldn’t let me make up my own routines. I’ve always been one to walk to my drummer, be it through my clothes, hair, music, fiction, art, whatever.

    Maybe what has happened is that you have figured out you can be the hero and still be Robynn at the same time :).

  6. My dearest Turtle,

    The Lord rejoices in a rockhead because they are not easily swayed. This can be a good thing!

  7. To me, its much more interesting when the protagonists DO change, and much more boring when they don’t. Just my own humble opinion… I’ve recently experienced this while overhauling my Clashing Forces stuff. I love where my protagonists are and what they’re going to grow into!

  8. Now THAT was not sweet…turtle…oh well….and she did take ballet for 5 years and quit because she was afraid she would be cast as Clara and have to be turned upside down in a ballet move…figured she would throw up…really bad motion problem that she still has..so she quit and Mama cried…she was really good. Oh, and she still gives me grief because “I” didn’t make her practice the piano…go figure.

  9. “What kind of hero do you prefer?” The ones who are more noble, smart, and faithful than normal people but not so perfect they’re abnormal.

    “Do you see yourself in your protagonist?” Too much, I think, though I never intended it. I learned from my prideful protagonist that pride is probably my predominant problem.

    (And yes, my book has a new title: “Alara’s Call.”)

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