Today I am very happy to be joining the Escapist Tours blog tour for the amazing A Drowned Kingdom by P.L. Stuart with a guest post from the author himself. I read and reviewed this book a year ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. You can read my review here. There is an international giveaway later in this post – please be sure to enter for a chance to win a paperback copy of A Drowned Kingdom.
Please also check out the posts from other contributors to the tour:
Now over to you, P.L. – thank you so much for writing this article for my blog!
Unlikeable protagonists by P.L. Stuart
The incredible science fiction and fantasy author Fonda Lee (Jade City) once said:
“I believe one of the keys to writing fully realised characters is to refrain from judging them as an author. I don’t want the reader to feel as if I’m telling them which characters are good or evil, which ones they should like or hate. I want to get out of the way. I think my job is to tell the story almost like a good documentary filmmaker—with structure and style and good editing—but to let the characters and their actions speak for themselves. Every one of them has reasons for who they are and what they do.
“Sometimes when a writer sets up big flashing arrows that say THIS IS THE BAD GUY or THIS IS THE HERO, I can sense that the author is trying really hard to make the reader like or dislike a character because of how THEY feel about that character. A character can be a coward, a killer, a tyrant, or have any number of unsavoury characteristics, but it’s not your job as the author to judge them. It’s only your job to tell the story. Are you using words like “evil smile” or “brave composure” that show your author’s hand?
“This is why I disagree with the idea of characters having to be “likeable” because “likeable” is judgmental on the author’s part. A character is inherently more interesting and relatable to readers if they are not easily so pinned down and judged.
“I consider it a big success when readers argue about my characters. When a character I’ve created has both fierce admirers and fierce detractors, it means they’re a lot more like real people. Try to write real people and not judge them. That’s all you need to do.”
Along with all the feedback (much of it very positive) that I have received for my writing, as anticipated, there appears to be much speculation, fascination – even angst and horror – about the novel’s protagonist, Lord Othrun, Second Prince of the Atalanteans. It would seem that, while they love the book, my readers either personally love Othrun, hate him! Or love to hate him, I am not sure which!
I certainly understand this phenomenon. After all, I wrote Othrun a certain way. I fully anticipated such a reaction. I would like to take the time to explain a bit about why Othrun has been written that way, and thus why many of my readers have found him so compelling, even if they don’t necessarily like him at all!
Writing an unlikeable protagonist is a risk, no doubt, as an author. For some readers, they have a difficult time reading a book if they don’t like the main character. While I am not one of those readers, I certainly understand and appreciate those who prefer to read about characters they like. I prefer to write about characters who are compelling, rather than likeable. Why? Because I believe those characters are more interesting to write about, and ultimately to read, and to keep reading about.
Unquestionably, Othrun is a highly flawed character. He’s also just the type of character I love writing. Because, while most literary figures have some flaws (as do all humans), and those flaws are often considered necessary to the story to have the characters stand out, and have the capacity to grow and evolve (thus making for compelling drama), it is rare that the main character or hero / protagonist of a books is AS flawed as Othrun.
Make no mistake, Othrun is the hero of the story of The Drowned Kingdom Saga. I’ve done several interviews prior, and since the release of the first two books, and in those interviews I made a point of noting that Othrun is the “flawed” hero of the story. If you’ve listened to any of those interviews, it should be no surprise to you that Othrun, from whose first person perspective comes the narration for my books, has lots of issues.
But this is not uncommon for fantasy stories, or any stories for that matter, if we truly consider what makes a great story. Typically, at the start of many novels, the heroes or heroines are in trouble of some kind. They are either bitter, facing doubt and dismay, or lacking personal growth or development that is hampering their lives, or effectiveness to achieve their aspirations. At times, they even enter the story with a set of inaccurate beliefs about themselves, others, or the world surrounding them. These preconceived notions are frequently swept away, as the protagonist navigates through life, learning about things, gaining wisdom and experience. Yet, that’s what titillates readers, as they see the protagonists grapple with their issues – many of them self-created – and try to overcome them, to grow, evolve, and succeed.
Moreover, if a protagonist is to be believable, they must appear human. To be human is to come with a myriad of faults, foibles, and eccentricities that everyone has. If those don’t show up in the story, it can rob some of the credibility from the writing. Readers, including fantasy readers, are intelligent and discerning. They demand realistic world settings, and realistic characters for the novels they deign to read. Fantasy authors need to give that sense of realism to their readers, if they want to be read. As Fonda Lee aspires, so do I. I want to write characters that feel real BECAUSE of their flaws.
We are all flawed humans. Thus we know, as flawed people, we have a propensity to make tons of mistakes and bad choices. So it’s realistic when we see Othrun make his share of those too, in The Drowned Kingdom Saga. Still, for many reasons, those who perhaps did not revel in Othrun in the beginning of the novel, may come to appreciate how he is able to apply logic, in order to mitigate his errors, as the pages turn. Readers have commented on Othrun’s ability to reason and potentially be very open-minded and accepting, as the novel progresses. He doesn’t always consistently exhibit those positive traits, and it’s never a complete about-face from his core beliefs. That in itself, is realistic. People typically don’t just change overnight. To paraphrase what one reader said to me about Othrun, “I don’t like him, but I have potential to like him, because he has potential to be better. He has to do better, before I can like him.”
Keep in mind that even perceived flaws typically come with the other side of the coin, in that these flaws can appear positive when taken in a certain context. Othrun’s often hubris, self-absorption and narcissism are also part of his confidence, decisiveness, and strength in convictions, which one definitely needs to be an effective leader, especially one who aspires to be a king.
More important, perhaps, than liking Othrun, is attempting to understand him. This is especially critical when it comes to Othrun’s backstory. Because of the first person narrative, the reader is in Othrun’s head, and is permitted to go back in time and see episodes from his upbringing. The reader has the advantage of viewing some of what has made Othrun the way he is, including his emotional scars, tastes, and how his current beliefs and personality have taken shape. One can see why some of Othrun’s flaws have manifested the way they have, and how it guides his thinking on matters where he must make decisions.
And because Othrun’s flaws can compromise his decision making, this also helps the reader comprehend how he interacts with other characters, and the friction that can be created when Othrun and others disagree. The other characters interacting with Othrun have flaws too, and when these opposing flaws clash, it can create a lot of friction and tension. And who doesn’t love a little friction and tension in a novel? One might argue, that’s what makes a great novel!
On the back cover of A Drowned Kingdom a line reads, “Othrun will be forced to confront the truths of all he believes in on his journey…”
My protagonist, Othrun, will undergo a journey where he’ll evolve, change, and shape a continent. He’s not always likeable. He’s a snob, bigot, vain, yet struggles with confidence. He’s patriarchal. He’s a misogynist, and he is intolerant of the religions of others. Overall, he’s extremely flawed.
But even ordinary flawed people can change. We’re all redeemable. Ordinary people can change, evolve, and make a difference, not just fictional Princes. I want that message to shine through my work. I believe as Othrun’s journey continues throughout The Drowned Kingdom Saga, readers will enjoy the completion of his character arc, as he strives to overcome his flaws, overcome his fears and prejudices, and tries to reach a place of greater insight. All this, on his route “…to become a king, and a legend.”
So, many readers may find Othrun unlikeable, but many find him interesting, and that makes me very happy!
That journey towards a hope of greater insight continues in 2022 and beyond, with the recent release of The Last of the Atalanteans, the next chapter in Othrun’s story, Lord and King, book three in the saga (coming 2023), and the other future four books in the series, which is anticipated to conclude in 2027.
The phenomenal author Holly Tinsley (Vanguard Chronicles) noted of my writing that “the majority of fantasy…all through the series you’re waiting for that hero to rise…whereas what you do with Othrun…you’re waiting for him to fall…”
Will the flawed Othrun fall before he can achieve any measure of redemption? Keep reading The Drowned Kingdom Saga, and find out! I promise you, he may or may not become more likeable, but Othrun will definitely keep things interesting!
**International Giveaway **
Prize: A Signed Paperback Copy of A Drowned Kingdom!
Starts: April 21st, 2022 at 12:00am EST
Ends: April 27th, 2022 at 11:59pm EST
Click here or on the image below to enter.
About the Author
Author Bio & Information:
P.L. Stuart was born in Toronto, Canada. He holds a university degree in English, specializing in Medieval Literature. P.L. is an assistant editor with Before We Go Blog blogging Team, headed by the awesome Beth Tabler. https://beforewegoblog.com/
The best-selling “A Drowned Kingdom”, chronicles flawed and bigoted Prince Othrun’s journey towards change, and his rise to power in a new world after the downfall of his homeland, which is based on Plato’s lost realm of Atlantis. “A Drowned Kingdom” is mentioned in the esteemed Kirkus Magazine’s 2021 Indie Issue among “Four Great Examples of the Genre” of fantasy. P.L.’s next novel, “The Last of the Atalanteans”, Book Two in the “The Drowned Kingdom Saga”, will surface in Spring 2022.
P.L. is an avid supporter of fellow creatives and proud member of the greater writing community, which includes readers, writers, bloggers, editors, literary agents, and more. P.L. currently lives in Chatham, Ontario, Canada. P.L. is married, and he and his lovely wife Debbie have seven children, and one precocious grandchild between them. When not writing, or engaging in author-associated activities, P.L. is a voracious reader, and loves to read and review books, spends time with family, tries to get some exercise time, and watches Netflix.
A Drowned Kingdom by P.L. Stuart
Series: The Drowned Kingdom Saga
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Intended Age Group: Adult
Published: February 2, 2021
Once Second Prince of the mightiest kingdom in the known world, Othrun now leads the last survivors of his exiled people into an uncertain future far across the Shimmering Sea from their ancestral home, now lost beneath the waves. With his Single God binding his knights to chivalric oaths, intent on wiping out idolatry and pagan worship, they will have to carve out a new kingdom on this mysterious continent―a continent that has for centuries been ravaged by warlords competing for supremacy and mages channeling the mystic powers of the elements―and unite the continent under godly rule.
With a troubled past, a cursed sword, and a mysterious spirit guiding him, Othrun means to be that ruler, and conquer all. But with kingdoms fated on the edge of spears, alliances and pagan magic, betrayal, doubt, and dangers await him at every turn. Othrun will be forced to confront the truths of all he believes in on his journey to become a king, and a legend.
When one kingdom drowns, a new one must rise in its place. So begins the saga of that kingdom, and the man who would rule it all.
Publisher Direct: https://books.friesenpress.com/store/title/119734000161648314/P.L.-Stuart-A-Drowned-Kingdom
Shown on page:
- Violence (graphic battle scenes – including beheading, disembowelment)
- Apocalyptic type destruction (including earthquake, tsunami, volcano eruption)
- Religious intolerance and persecution
- Intermarriage between family (not incest, but borderline in terms of marriage between first cousins)
- Sex scenes (not graphic)
- Death of child (in natural disaster and through miscarriage)