I do a lot of reading about the craft of writing; books, other blogs, TvTropes, and I noticed a trend when they talked about The Protagonist. It was often about how the protagonist should be 'relatable' to the reader and how the reader should 'emphasize with' or 'identify with' the protagonist. I never understood this because I've never 'identified' with a protagonist. Have I rooted for one? Yes. Have I sympathized with their goals and/or plight? Sure. Identify with them? Never. I dislike this mood of thinking because it lends itself to a false dichotomy when it comes to protagonists; they can only be losers or champions.
This leaves a bad taste in my mouth because it cheapens the story. It is like saying the protagonist is not a character in their own right but a new skin for the reader. It frustrates me that there is a sense that an author can only create one of these kinds of protagonists: lower or higher than the reader for different grades of escapism. Under this paradigm the only third option is a featureless Everyman who is even more suitable as a 'new skin' for the reader because there are no characteristics to get in the way.
The Tvtropes page for Action Survivor states it better than I can so I'll quote it here:
"The Action Survivor is the opposite of the Action Hero; he's pretty normal in
just about every way, so much so that if the Action Hero is ostensibly a fantasy
idealized-self, the Action Survivor is more of a self
insertion for the viewer, giving us someone easily related to because we're
The page goes on to say that the Action Survivor will eventually become a full fledged Action Hero, thus creating the off-spring of the two; a loser that becomes a champion. While this is great if a reader uses the story as inspiration to becom a champion in real life, it has a Bread and Circuses vibe to me.
I did not write the protagonist of A Mage's Power to be reader-relatable. I wrote him as a self-imposed challenge. I'll write more about that later on because it's irrelevant to this post. The point is that I would rather my readers join Tasio in laughing at the protagonist then feel that Tasio is laughing at them personally. Now that I think about it, maybe that's why this one person quit reading after four or so pages.....