Guest Post: Sayde Scarlett Talks Proactive Versus Reactive Characters

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This week, I have a very special treat for you guys! Sayde Scarlett stopped by Booked J to chat about a topic I rarely see explored in the book community, but one that I'm ecstatic to share with you guys. Special thanks for Sayde for agreeing to be a guest poster here--without further ado, let's get down to business!

We have become accustom in recent years to consuming fiction wherein the protagonist has no flaws. The character’s life is progressing normally but then has to change because of some external event or existential threat from a big bad. This is what is known as a reactive protagonist. They’re often “everyman” type characters the audience can easily put themselves into or the author intentionally wants the audience to experience the events of the story as though they are there themselves.

With the run away success of book’s like The Hunger Games, Ready Player One, Twilight, the Harry Potter series and Fifty Shades of Grey, whose protagonists all fit this mould, it’s hard not to draw the conclusion that this is what the market wants. Literature is a powerful vehicle for escapism after all. But that’s not all it can be. It is important to remember, however, that this is a fairly new trend in storytelling and it has downsides despite being enjoyable.

The main negative of using this type of character is that it can make the character very bland. There is something that strikes me as little lazy about not giving your character flaws. This is also the type character that is used in wish fulfillment literature. Romance novels use this type of character deliberately so the reader can easily project themselves onto the protagonist. Unlike other forms of literature, Romance doesn’t pretend to be anything else.

Tragedy in the classical sense of the word means a story wherein the protagonist has a fatal flaw or hubris, a defiance of the Gods or the natural order of things, that will inevitably lead to their downfall. The impetus for the story and the character’s journey is proactive in the sense that the story would have never started without the internal failings of the character. The drama and conflict of the story depend on the choices the protagonist makes and acts as a cautionary tale for the audience.

This is what storytelling used to look like. Proactive protagonists that served as a warning rather than reactive protagonists that serve as fantasy. If we forgo stories that include flawed characters we’re excluding fiction that challenges us. Literature can’t just be about fantasy, escapism and wish fulfillment. There has to be room for tragedy as well as dramas and comedies. I would love to live in a world where everyone always gets what they deserve; the good getting happy endings and the bad getting their just deserts.

As an author I like to give my characters rewards for personal growth. But those who refuse to change and grow, even if they’re the good guys, must suffer the consequences of their actions too. That’s the difference between writing a tragedy and writing a drama.

Sayde Scarlett is an author and poet.

Sayde was born in Dubai, United Arab Emirates but relocated to the United Kingdom to read Politics and International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London.

After university, Sayde worked in the performing arts sector alongside being a political and antiwar activist. In 2014, Sayde produced the critically acclaimed comedy theatre show Improv Noir.

Sayde now works as a financial crime investigator. In 2017, Sayde published her debut collection of poetry, Love Crimes.

Sayde's debut novel, Clouds and Earth, is now available online.

Clouds and Earth (The Peace Outside, #1) 

The Long War changed everything. For Lt. First Class Sandy Attiyeh, the peace she helped create seems to be working for everyone but her. This new world is so…well, so dull.

With her commanding officer keeping her at arm’s length, citing her rather unpredictable temperament, Sandy is willing prey for Lyndon Hamilton, CEO of Hamilton InfoSec, who needs someone to engage in a little corporate espionage. He offers good pay, interesting work, and excitement. Perfect.

But when Sandy’s face starts to show up on activists’ pamphlets, and rumours begin to circle regarding her alleged war crimes, any hopes she had of a future in the civilian world begin to unravel. Unable to escape Hamilton’s twisted ambitions, Sandy, caught between her old comrades and her new employer, must find a way to save the peace she gave everything for.

Clouds and Earth is the first installment in The Peace Outside trilogy and is a dark and thrilling tale of intrigue and espionage set in the data-driven world of tomorrow. Startling and prescient in equal measure, it is a must-read for fans of sci-fi and contemporary fiction alike.

Love Crimes is the red-blooded debut collection of romantic poetry from Sayde Scarlett. From passion and lust to heartache and abandonment, she takes the readers on a discovery of the darker sides of romantic love and human nature. This is poetry that is not afraid to explore human fallibility but never loses hope. With extraordinary range and power, the poems assemble into a contemplation of love, war, and the human condition. 

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