jpg816 asked:

Hey Max, had a question about protagonists and plot. I hear a lot that 'reactive' protagonists are bad - is that necessarily true? In one of my stories, my protagonist is more of a 'guardian' rather than a 'world-changer' persay, so he wins by maintaining a status quo. I'm looking at it, and so far I see no other problems aside from the fact that he's technically planning to counter the antagonist's attacks, sorta like Batman in a way. Please advise what risks I run with this mindset?(public ok)

maxkirin answered:

Hey, I remember you! It’s nice to see you again~ ♥︎

Now, I think that there is a bit of a misconception in your question. You see, being reactive (or proactive) is independent of a character’s goals. I have to agree that we see so many stories that revolve around characters trying to change/save the world that we tend to overlook (or worse, look down) on stories that deal with maintaining the status quo.

Before I jump into the answer to your question, I want to make it very clear that there is absolutely nothing wrong (at all) with the fact that your character is just trying to maintain his ideal version of reality. That is his goal, the thing driving him into action, and there is nothing wrong with it!

Hell, the reason why I love the character of Steiner so much is that he is this ideal taken to the extreme, as he is so dedicated to following orders and trying to restore the status quo (he knew) that he is willing to ignore the fact that he is being used and manipulated, and his character arc deals with him realizing that he has the power to choose the reality he wishes to protect.

I… I really like FF9, okay? Leave me alone.

That being said, let’s talk about Reactive vs Proactive Characters.

I believe that this whole debacle is the exact same as Show vs Tell. I think that some writers look at the extreme Reactive characters and sort all of them as ‘bad.’ While in reality they are not character archetypes, but simply modes that a character can take.

Before I go any further, let’s define the difference.

  • REACTIVE CHARACTERS only react to the problems going on around them. They do not take the initiative and only resort to taking action after something has gotten in their way. This is basically 99% of all superheroes (Superman is the worst offender of this).
  • PROACTIVE CHARACTERS focus on pushing forward their goals. They take initiative as much as possible and always try to strike first. Ironically, this is basically every cartoon villain ever. Seriously. Think about it. Team Rocket always acted first.

Now, that said, what is the problem with reactive characters? I personally feel that people confuse Reactive with Passive, because Reactive characters are the bread and butter of disaster stories. You can’t proactively deal with an earthquake or an asteroid about to crash into earth. You could even say that characters in zombie stories are Reactive, since (really) any time they try to proactively work towards improving things they end up having to react to zombies.

Again, I feel that people tend to look at Reactive characters and say that they are bad because they are not pushing forward their goals. But— if a character has already achieved their goals, then they are simply reacting in self-preservation, right?

And, let’s be honest, it’s pretty much impossible to write a character who is 100% reactive or proactive all the time. Sometimes people plan ahead, and sometimes they need to react to the hurdles in their way.

As long as a character is taking meaningful actions (some people like to call this ‘plot’) then it doesn’t matter if they’re being proactive or reactive, since ultimately they are working towards what they want.

Keeping the status quo, or making it anew c;

I hope this has been helpful! if you, or any other writerly friend out there, has any more questions please don’t hesitate to send them my way~ ♥︎