Writing A Charming Protagonist With A Map!

A likeable protagonist.

When writing genre fiction, it is important to remember that a bastion of the practice is escapism; literary fiction can do an honest delving into the ugliness and irritation of human nature, but genre fiction will need to have a protagonist that is either likeable, highly skilled, or both.

Bad Writing (repellent protagonist):

Curon laid the map over the heavy table. He placed a pair of fractured moonstones over the corners of the blue paper, and frowned at the glowing lines that squiggled on the surface.

“Can’t we just call in?” Xiro asked, watching Curon with cautious eyes.

“No, waste of time,” Curon said. He frowned, and wrapped his heavy arms over his torso. His face looked like a rock that is melting slowly on either side; Xiro glanced at the map, and pursed his mouth with annoyance.

“I could speak to them,” Xiro suggested.

“They won’t know how to get through. The main office never knows,” Curon snapped. He leaned over the map, and traced his finger over the broad yellow line that cut diagonally through the blue paper. “Here,” Curon said. “We’ll try the river first.”

“But our orders say the beacon was transmitting in the northwest quadrant,” Xiro exclaimed, crossing to the map and thrusting an impatient finger at the corner. Curon looked up at Xiro with one stiff eyebrow raised, and Xiro flushed. “I don’t think following the river will do us any good,” the young man persisted.

“We’ll try the river,” Curon said again, and he pushed the moonrocks aside, and rolled up the map.

Good Writing (likeable protagonist):

Curon handed the map to Xiro, who laid it over the heavy table, and secured the corners with a pair of fractured moonstones. Together they stared down at the squiggling, glowing lines on the surface of the map.

“Well,” Curon said hesitantly. His eyes trawled over the heavy mass of incomprehensible drawings.

Xiro put his nose close to the thick blue paper, and squinted.

“Is it any better close up?” Curon asked doubtfully.

Xiro shook his head, and stood up.

“I could call in to the main office,” Xiro said. Curon frowned, and twisted the map around. He looked at it upside down, and then sideways. Glancing at Xiro, and blushing slightly, Curon pushed away the moonstones, and turned the blue paper over.

“Oh,” Curon said, sounding relieved.

“That’s the river,” Xiro said instantly, putting his finger on a thick stroke of incandescent yellow.

“Yes,” Curon said, tilting his head.

“So we need to go here,” Xiro said, tracing the paper towards the upper left corner.

“No, the river is tilted this way,” Curon said. “Look, there’s a key. The beacon should be here.”

“I’m glad we didn’t call in to the office,” Xiro said, and Curon laughed.