“Top Ten Tuesday” is a feature started by “The Broke and the Bookish“, in which people list their top ten books that match some given criterion. It changes every week, and happens on a Tuesday. Lots (a frankly ridiculous number) of bloggers take part.
This week is theme-free, meaning that you can write about any topic you like. Technically, the topic you choose is meant to relate in some way to Thanksgiving, but that’s never been a holiday I’ve celebrated, and I couldn’t think of anything relevant that struck me as interesting.
So I have chosen a topic that has nothing to do with thankfulness, and everything to do with petty spite: the top ten characters I would eject from a moving vehicle.
These aren’t the characters I most hate, or the most evil. They’re the characters who grate on me, who deserve not death, but bruises and scrapes until they get their act together.
In fact, they tend to be on the side of the good guys. They don’t really do anything wrong, but they put my teeth on edge. They make poor decisions, or fulfil no useful purpose, or waste time with whining. I feel that the books would be better without them.
They are in no particular order.
Izkierka, from Naomi Novik’s Temeraire series
Izkierka is a fire-breathing dragon, the only one Britain has, and is therefore immensely valuable and important. She’s also a constant annoyance, failing to demonstrate basic impulse control or empathy, even for those she is supposed to love. She gets in the way, complicates situations, and generally makes life harder for everyone else.
Ronald Weasley, from J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series
Ron is a bit thick. I’m aware he’s very popular, and his legions of devoted fans point to his bravery or even his intelligence as signs that he is more than a dead weight around the other characters’ collective necks. But winning one chess game doesn’t make you smart, and literally every good character in the series shows bravery at one point or another. In the main, he’s in the way, blundering through life and providing little of value.
Harry Potter, from the the same place
Harry starts of the series as a penniless, neglected orphan who can’t do magic. Early into the first book, he discovers that he is incredibly wealthy, hugely famous, and able to do magic. You’d think, given the absolutely miraculous reversal of his fortunes, that he would be happy. You’d be wrong. He spends seven books whining loudly about his life, his life that is oodles more awesome than the reader’s. Occasionally having to defeat the dark lord and win prizes does not make your life a misery.What really bugs me, though, is the ingratitude. He’s just discovered that magic is real, that he can do anything, and he wastes his opportunities. This tedious child can’t be bothered to do his homework when the reward for doing it is actual magic power. He doesn’t appreciate what he has been given.
Mike Newton, from Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga
Mike’s just a bit pointless really, a character who is there to pad chapter lengths when Meyer runs low on ideas. For three straight books, he wanders around being ineffectual. He’s almost a wasted spot on this list, which is appropriate because he’s a waste in every other sense.
Kvothe, from Patrick Rothfuss’ Kingkiller Chronicles
The internet is filled with arguments about Kvothe’s Mary Sue status, with one group of people saying “Seriously? With broken strings?” and the others crossing their fingers very tightly and muttering about unreliable narrators. But put that to one side for a second: Kvothe’s biggest problem is that, even in a story that is all about how great he is, he’s a bit pathetic. Rothfuss shows us Kvothe doing amazing things, but the whole time we get nasal narration about being poor and bad at social situations. Whether or not Kvothe is a Mary Sue, he’s the sort of person you try to avoid at parties, carefully never looking in his direction.
Toot-toot, from Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files
I like the Dresden Files. They’re exciting, dramatic, and contain monsters. They scratch the same itch that Blade does – supernatural action with a darker side. People die. Things don’t always go to plan. Sacrifices must be made. And then there’s Toot-toot. He’s a pizza-loving pixie with a craft knife and a ridiculous title. It breaks the tone for me; I don’t like playful fairies in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and I don’t like them on battlefields in the Nevernever.
Susan, from C. S. Lewis’ Narnia series
Susan’s one of the four children who find Narnia through the wardrobe, and the only one who turns her back on it. She gives up a personal relationship with talking animals, magical worlds, and Lion Jesus so she can wear lipstick. I’ve nothing against lipstick, but I think anyone who does make that choice is probably deeply tedious.
The Saucepan man, from Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree books
He’s covered in saucepans and is deaf. Sometimes he chases birds with condiments. He’s not a bad person, in fact he always tries to do the right thing, but he disrupts everything with clanging, leading to hilarous dialogue about having misheard things. He should find another way to carry his saucepans.
Catelyn Stark, from George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire
Catelyn does not have the easiest life, to be fair. Everyone she cares about is dead, about to die, or constantly at risk. She’s got problems, sure. However, Cersei has too. The same problems, in the main; she just deals with them better. Catelyn makes poor decision after poor decision, fails to control her children, and is rude to almost everyone. She just brings everyone down.
Kylar Stern, from Brent Weeks’ Night Angel trilogy
Kylar Stern, like so many people on this list, has not had the easiest time of it. But, also like so many others on the list, a lot of his problems are of his own making. For someone who signs up to be a hired killer, he spends an awful lot of time agonising over even the slightest bit of violence. It’s difficult not to think that almost any other character could fulfil the protagonist’s role more effectively, with less carping.
The common thread, if there is much of a common thread here, is that characters who annoy me are (mostly, with some exceptions) drips. They spend an awful lot of time whining about situations that are either beyond their control, or worse, well within their ability to fix. Loads of characters have problems – conflict is a requirement for narrative. But when faced with problems, most characters get up and do something about it. They don’t grumble and wait around for someone else to solve everything.
In my opinion, being ejected from a moving vehicle would have an ameliorative effect. Firstly, it would let them know that their behaviour is not universally appreciated. Secondly, it might put their problems (‘I’m too good at not dying’, ‘I asked to kill people and they let me’, ‘everyone gave me free money’) into a little perspective. Perhaps this shock to the system might lead them towards introspection, less whining, and more necessary action.