Karina M. Sokulski
My Protagonist is a Loser, but I love Them For It
The loser protagonist is one of my current favorite trends when it comes to fiction lately. Gone are the days of protagonists with substantial pedigrees and on come the days of societal losers who unwittingly, and often comedically, find themselves roped into becoming the story’s protagonist. This concept probably sounds familiar like say, the underdog in a story who never gets a break. The struggle of this story ultimately ends with the underdog proving themselves and overcoming the obstacle that kept them from succeeding in the first place. While it is true that the underdog story is the origin of this concept, they’re not the same.
On the off chance someone’s reading this and either doesn’t know or wants to know a definition of the underdog story, here it is: an underdog is a competitor thought to have little chance of winning a fight or contest. The underdog plot line is a plot constructed around rivalry against the self or society (or sometimes both). Typically, this kind of protagonist though cynical, is often presented as a good, wholesome character. This character has a heart of gold among the black hearted, which marks its major difference with the loser protagonist.
This character starts out more as a trope that is subject to character development as the plot progresses. They are, “This loser is like you” but unlike this trope, the character isn’t meant to be as relatable. The author is self-aware that their main character is either a loser in the standards of the story’s society, or the main character is socially clumsy in a perfect society. This either-or tends to generate comedy or tension for the loser protagonist as the plot progresses. This protagonist also tends to be surrounded by sidekicks that seem more capable than them at handling conflict. Observing this protagonist learn from their more capable circle is one of the more appealing aspects of this story.
Some of the most rewarding journeys one can take with a protagonist, is watching a protagonist grow as a person. The road to self-discovery is often an emotional one even if nothing is being forgiven. These are the internalized adventures that play on the concepts of acceptance and overcoming fear of the unknown. Even though the characters themselves may be less relatable, their journeys hit home. This is probably why the Loser protagonist is considered so relatable even though it’s their behavior and circumstance the audience connects with more.
Even though the loser protagonist is less relatable, it’s intriguing how many people will state that this character feels more real. Conceivably this is because at some point everyone has wondered what comes next when they’ve messed up or wished they could have rolled with their mistakes and still come out on top. The struggles are comedic, and their perseverance is heartwarming. So whether your protagonist is a snob, a know-it-all or a diva destined to grasp a sense of humility, the journey alongside them will be adequately worth the ride.