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Reading Rants: Clueless Main Characters

by Kellyn Roth |
August 22, 2017

Reading Rants- Clueless Main Characters

One of my biggest pet peeves in fiction is Clueless Main Characters.
You’d think this would be one of the things authors would avoid. But it’s not. Throughout fiction, we see quite a spattering of main characters who are complete idiots.
I’m currently in the middle of Northanger Abbey, a book I absolutely adore. The main character, Catherine Moreland, is completely clueless.


I’m not even being mean (to this fictional character). She’s so clueless. That’s kinda the point of the whole book.
And I love it. I love reading about Catherine’s bumbling, fumbling ways. I love reading about how she misinterprets everything, how she seems to live in a world where everyone is sweet and cares about her.
But … Catherine is an exception to the rule.
I mean, Jane Austen can pull off practically anything. She’s Jane Austen.
But the rest of the world is not Jane Austen. The rest of the world can’t write like her. They can’t show the world through her cynical yet overly hopeful and light-hearted eyes.
Sooo … let’s take a look at one of the annoying, idiotic, and absolutely clueless characters of fiction*.

*and please don’t murder me, all you Avi lovers …

Avi’s Crispin (from the series of the same name).


I admit that the idea for the plot isn’t a bad one. Thirteen-year-old boy becomes an orphan. Has no name but that of his mother’s – Asta’s son. Later, he finds out he’s the cast-off of some rich guy and his name is Crispin. It’s set during the 14th century in England, which was quite fascinating. It’s a great plot and a great setting.
However … clueless, idiotic Crispin just isn’t worth reading about.
Do you see those suspicious-looking characters? Crispin wants to hang out with them. What about that shunned girl? Crispin wants to be friends with her. He’s continually either caught or almost caught in extremely prickly situations because he’s just too dumb to keep out of them.
If he was accident-prone, it would be forgivable. But he’s not. Everything he does is a conscious choice that he makes … and it’s always, always a stupid choice.
And throughout the series, he never gets smarter.

Still …

Obviously they can be done well, because occasionally I love them, as in the case with Catherine Moreland or Anne Shirley (you heard me! She’s clueless!). But …


Just keep clueless characters out of your story unless you know what you’re doing. They’re annoying as all get out.
And when you come across one in fiction?
… unless they have some reason, like being trapped in a tower for eighteen years (e.g. Rapunzel) or actually having a mental reason (e.g. my Ivy), I would avoid completely clueless characters.
We need to stand firm.
We need to ask for intelligent people who are dumb (because we’re all dumb, hehe), but not so dumb that they make all the stupid, coincidental mistakes that get them in all the stupid, coincidental situations that make a stupid, coincidental book.
Stand by your principals, me lads (and lassies … probably mostly lassies …).


Thanks for reading,

~Kellyn Roth~

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What do you think of clueless characters? What are some of your bookish pet peeves? Have you read any of the (three) books mentioned? HOW CAN WE FIGHT AGAINST CLUELESS CHARRIES?!

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3 Responses

  1. Haha YES this annoys me a lot as well! When I see a character doing just one stupid thing it blows me off and I’d be like, “WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!” XD Great post, Kellyn!
    I have a pet peeve for boring books. Ok. That’s not very specific…. but I also have a pet peeve for characters who aren’t developed good. I get disappointed easily with books, which is one of my quality’s that I’d sometimes like to get rid of. 😛

    1. YES! Exactly. “WHY!?!!”
      I think I’m too easy on books, which seems like more of a problem to me than being disappointed too easily! I’m just not critical enough … 😉

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