Six Stories That Focus Too Much on Side Characters

The protagonist is a story’s most important character. They have the most interesting problems, and the conflict’s outcome depends on their actions. Whether a story has multiple protagonists or just one, they should receive the lion’s share of screen time and development.

At least, that’s how it’s supposed to go. But sometimes a storyteller forgets these best practices and gets enamored of a side character, piling way too much attention on someone who isn’t actually that important. This distorts the story, taking the audience’s focus away from where it belongs and likely boring them to tears in the process. Let’s take a look at some of the worst offenders running free in the wild.

1. The Amber Spyglass

Cover art of the amber spyglass from the Amber Spyglass.

As the third book in a trilogy, The Amber Spyglass is the capstone to an epic conflict. What’s at stake? Why, the very fate of the multiverse! As the armies of Heaven and Lord Asriel’s* Republic clash, our heroes Lyra and Will search for a way to stop the all-important Dust from flowing out of the world entirely.

In the middle of this, the book pauses so that Dr. Mary Malone can hang out with some weird aliens for a while. And I do mean a while. She’s there long enough to get absorbed into the aliens’ culture, weave baskets with them, and learn about their mortal enemies. This goes on for quite some time before Lyra and Will finally show up to conclude the story.

So, what did Mary and her alien friends have to do with the plot? Nearly nothing. The only relevant thing that happens is when Mary makes a special instrument* that lets her see the Dust draining out of the world, which will be a problem if it continues. This information could have easily been delivered elsewhere, since the same problem is happening in literally every world of the multiverse.

Otherwise, Mary’s chapters are nothing but a distraction from the actual story, and they can be easily skipped over. Mary isn’t even a particularly important character. The only reason to include this section seems to be that the aliens she meets are really cool. They’re like a cross between an elephant and a motorcycle, and they use large seed pods as natural wheels to get around.

That’s certainly novel, but it isn’t worth spending so much time away from the plot. When a storyteller gets a neat idea like this but there isn’t room for it in the story, the idea should be put aside for later use, not shoehorned in at the plot’s expense.

2. Throne of the Crescent Moon

Raseed, Adoulla, and Zamia fighting ghouls from the cover of Throne of the Crescent Moon.

Saladin Ahmed’s debut novel opens with three main characters, which is a reasonable number of main characters for a book of this length. Each of them brings a unique perspective to the story. Adoulla is an aging ghoul hunter with untold knowledge of the occult. Raseed is young swordsman with a strong sense of duty. Finally, Zamia is an outsider with animalistic powers who just wants vengeance for her clan. Their distinct personalities allow for strong contrast – so far so good. Plus, they look great together on the cover.

But as the story goes on, we meet two of Adoulla’s friends, Dawoud and Litaz. Like Adoulla, they’re both getting too old for the adventuring life, and they have fairly similar outlooks on life, along with occult abilities. But it’s okay, Adoulla probably just needs their help for a scene or two and then they’ll be on their way… Oh, wait, no, they actually stick around for the entire book.

Neither Dawoud nor Litaz add much to the story as a whole. Dawoud has a mild disagreement with Adoulla over politics, but Adoulla and Raseed were already having that argument with more passion. Litaz briefly serves as a confidant for Zamia, but it’s not clear why Zamia needs that. If it were important, other side characters could have done the job just as well.

Otherwise, most of Litaz’s and Dawoud’s screen time is spent angsting about how they really need to leave the adventuring life and retire before old age claims them. Remember, this is also a major trait of Adoulla’s, one of the actual main characters. They have no special connection to either the supernatural or political conflict. Then, presumably to rub salt in the wound, Dawoud and Litaz go out and recruit some of their friends to be side characters, taking up even more screen time.

My assumption is that Ahmed included these characters in an attempt to make the setting feel more alive. This is understandable, as many fantasy worlds feel like they’re populated entirely by a tiny handful of main characters. A larger cast can help alleviate this feeling of emptiness. But for that tactic to work, the extra characters have to be important. They must bring something to the table that contributes to the story as a whole, like a unique perspective or connection to the plot. Otherwise, they should remain in the background like other side characters.

3. Children of Blood and Bone

Cover art of the main character's face from Children of Blood and Bone.

Like our previous entry, this book also starts out with three main characters. Unlike Throne of the Crescent Moon, Children of Blood and Bone manages to keep the focus where it belongs for most of its length. A fourth main character joins the team, but he’s a major romantic interest, so the story benefits from his presence. Other characters are given screen time appropriate to their roles, and everything seems to be going great.

Then, we hit the third act and Roën appears.* Roën immediately stands out because while the other characters are grounded and realistic, Roën’s behavior is incredibly plot-convenient.  First, he and his crew of super badass mercenaries are willing to help the protagonist based on nothing but vague promises, despite supposedly being a ruthless criminal organization. They don’t even haggle!

Second, they are so good at fighting that it becomes cartoonish. When the plot requires our heroes to capture an imperial battleship, Roën jauntily announces that he and his crew can do it in five minutes, and it will only take that long because the protagonist insists they not kill anyone. After that kind of feat, it seems like Roën should take care of the main villain no problem, but for some reason he doesn’t. This disparity is never explained.

Roën even serves as a confidant the protagonist can talk to about her trauma, because he’s conveniently had similar experiences. This is especially jarring because the protag barely knows him, but she chooses him to talk to instead of a character that’s been with her since the beginning. Instead of focusing on characters we’ve grown to care about, the third act is mostly a showcase for how awesome Roën is.

The reason for this seems to be that Roën is the emergency backup love interest, since the main love interest has joined team evil by this point. Roën and the protag don’t actually get together in this book, but there’s a lot of flirty description, and in his first appearance, Roën makes the original love interest jealous. This romance would have worked a lot better if Roën were introduced in the sequel, where he’d have time to develop naturally instead of being given a disproportionate amount of screen time.

4. Sorcerer Royal

Cover art from the True Queen, showing a serpent flicking its tongue toward a woman in a bottle.

In this entry, we’re getting a two-for-one deal. Not only do both books in the Sorcerer Royal series focus too much on a side character, but it’s actually the same side character: Prunella. In book one, protagonist Zacharias is trying to save English magic while also fighting back against the bigotry so common among English magicians. Meanwhile, Prunella is trying to get married. These plots are barely connected, and Prunella’s scenes are an irritating distraction from Zacharias’s compelling story.

In book two, Muna is our new main character from the southeast Asian island of Janda Baik. She needs to rescue her sister from the fairy court while also figuring out how to break a curse laid upon both of them. Sounds like plenty of content to drive the plot, right? But hold on, Prunella is also here. This time she’s the one in charge of saving English magic while also fighting back against the bigotry so common among English magicians.*

These plot lines have a little more in common than the arcs in the first book did, since they both deal with the fairy court, but it’s not enough to keep the book focused. Muna has no reason to care what happens to English magic, except for possibly hoping that it’s destroyed before England colonizes her homeland, but this is never brought up. Meanwhile, Prunella has bigger problems than trying to find Muna’s lost sister, and she doesn’t even know about the curse.

The two plots are given nearly equal focus, and they aren’t connected until close to the end, which is far too late. Prunella’s conflict actually has higher stakes, but the book starts with Muna and spends several chapters getting us invested in her, so Muna is clearly supposed to be the main character.

This dynamic splits the book down the middle. Readers who accept the early chapters’ premise that Muna is the main character will be annoyed that so much time is spent on a plot with no relation to her. Meanwhile, readers who are more invested in English magic from the previous book will be frustrated that the story keeps veering away from Prunella’s plot to focus on a newcomer.

It’s not entirely clear why Prunella shows up as an overdeveloped side character not once, but twice. She doesn’t seem to be part of the worldbuilding, nor does she have an obvious relation to the actual main character.* For my money, she’s a favorite of the author’s, who finds reasons to include Prunella in stories she isn’t a part of.

5. A Dance With Dragons

Cover art from A Dance With Dragons showing a shield with a dragon emblem.

As a series, A Song of Ice and Fire has more characters than it knows what to do with, and that number has only increased with each book, despite the famously high death rate. Some characters have an appropriate amount of screen time, while others have too much or too little. Today, we’re going to focus on just one: Quentyn Martell.

Quentyn is something unusual: a brand-new point-of-view character introduced in the fifth book. Usually, we at least meet new POV characters before going inside their heads, but our first look at Quentyn is through his own eyes. He’s a Dornish prince who goes on a long, looooooong journey to reach Queen Daenerys and offer her an alliance.

What does this journey have to do with the rest of the story? Absolutely nothing. At most it shows us some of the fallout of Daenerys’s conquests, which we could have learned from several other characters. Despite that, we get multiple chapters of Quentyn and his friends traveling. There’s drama and conflict, to be sure – several of the friends die – but it’s hard to care about that because Quentyn is using up screen time that could have been spent on characters we were already invested in.

When Quentyn finally reaches Daenerys’s court, she brushes him off because she has bigger concerns on her mind. Nevertheless, he sticks around, which is actually a great summation of Quentyn: underfoot while the important characters try to take care of business.

Finally, Quentyn does something that presumably matters: he sets two of Daenerys’s dragons free to rampage as they please. I say “presumably” because the book ends shortly afterward, so we don’t see the outcome of his actions. It’s also worth noting, though, that breaking the dragons out didn’t require adding a new character, as the Game of Thrones TV show proved.

And then Quentyn dies. So not only was he an annoying distraction in this book, but he doesn’t even have the potential to grow later. At best, his death may cause some political fallout between Daenerys and House Martell, but that hardly required an entire POV character to accomplish.

So why does this character exist? Regular series bloat doesn’t explain it. This isn’t a background character the author got too attached to; he’s brand new. This is highly speculative, but I suspect Martin realized his readers were onto the fact that he hasn’t killed a POV character since Ned Stark,* so he invented Quentyn to keep readers guessing. But there’s a catch to character death: if we don’t care about the character, we don’t care about the death.

6. Good Omens

Crowley and Aziraphel looking at each other from Good Omens.

The Good Omens TV show is nearly a shot-for-page adaptation of the book. By far the most notable change is that the already prominent characters of Crowley and Aziraphale are even more prominent this time around, including a 30-minute montage of their adventures through history that isn’t in the book at all. The entire show revolves around them, and they’re featured heavily in the marketing.

There’s only one problem here: Aziraphale and Crowley aren’t the main characters in the book.* Adam is the main character. He’s the Antichrist, and on his actions rests the fate of the world. His conflict is the most important, since it’s literally Armageddon. But hey, maybe Crowley and Aziraphale are actually part of that plot. They could be the Legolas and Gimli to Adam’s Frodo.

They are not. After Crowley accidentally helps give baby Adam to the wrong set of parents,* nothing he and Aziraphale do has any significant effect on Adam’s plot. They don’t keep Heaven and Hell from finding him, since Heaven and Hell aren’t looking, and they don’t know where he is anyway. They don’t help Adam reject evil; he does that on his own after his friends scold him. They don’t help him defeat the Four Horsepeople of the Apocalypse; Adam’s friends do that. They don’t even stop humanity from nuking itself; a witch and her quasi-boyfriend do that.*

The closest Aziraphale and Crowley come to affecting the main plot is that they give Adam a quick pep-talk before he sends Satan packing, but it’s not at all clear how much difference that made. So much screen time is devoted to Aziraphale and Crowley that we barely know Adam, even though the entire plot hinges on his personality. There’s also technically a storyline involving the witch and her quasi-boyfriend, but it’s so atrophied that I can barely remember what happens in it.

Beyond that, it’s just disappointing to see Crowley and Aziraphale show up at the climax and then contribute nothing. We’ve spent a long time getting to know these characters, so we want them to matter! This overfocus on two side characters ends up hurting both them and the rest of the story at the same time.

It’s pretty obvious why Aziraphale and Crowley are so heavily featured: they’re by far the best characters. It’s automatically compelling to watch a demon and an angel become friends in defiance of their respective sides. Plus, there’s the obvious romantic chemistry, even if the show took the coward’s way out by insisting they’re best friends instead of romantic partners.* Add in the two extremely talented actors to play them, and you have an irresistible combination.

Focusing on Crowley and Aziraphale could have been fine if they’d been willing to revise the story so the characters’ plot importance matched their screen presence. The story we got instead is still fun, but not as satisfying as it should be.

As long as there are side characters, there will be storytellers who focus on them too much. Sometimes this is a sign that a side character should actually be the protagonist, and sometimes it just means the storyteller got bored with their main character. Whatever the reason, spending too much time on a character who isn’t important will always hurt the story. When a character has more screen time than their role merits, either that screen time or their role must change.

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  1. Cay Reet

    I’ve been hearing a lot of bad things about the Good Omens TV show the last couple of days – which is sad, because I really was looking forward to eventually seeing it.

    You’re right, though, that Aziraphael and Crowley, despite being fun characters, are not really in the thick of things. Adam is the main character, because it’s ultimately his story of not being angel or demon, not from heaven or hell, but human – something which, admittedly, happens because he’s not under the influence of any side, with Aziraphael and Crowley thinking another child is Adam and influencing that child’s life instead.

    I felt that the witch and her witchfinder boyfriend (Anathema and I’ve forgotten that guy’s name, didn’t it start with N?) had a slowly growing relationship in the book, so I’m sad to hear that didn’t carry over.

    The novel already has a large number of main characters, but books can juggle that well (especially with pros like Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett (may the Clack forever carry his name) at the wheel). It might have been necessary to reduce Crowley’s and Aziraphael’s place in the story, actually – but then, the series banks a lot of Tenant and Sheen as big names…

    • Chris Winkle

      I think it’s worth watching despite its problems. There are many enjoyable scenes, and Aziraphael and Crowley really are delightful. It’s just disappointing that Neil Gaiman didn’t update the plot to make their actions matter more, and that instead of standing up to homophobes, their relationship was kept just barely within plausible deniability.

      • 3Comrades

        I feel very differently. Their actions were never supposed to be important, the actual end of armeggeddon was anti-climatic. That was the point. From the riders being dissapointed they are riding a few miles and sneaking in rather than going guns blazing. That the stand-off between heaven and hell is just frustrated yelling, and that all the wars ended because a man was born incompetant. It was never about the action. I mean they even talk about how terrible it would have been if they were more involved, that was the point. Not an action book/series, but a series of comical/dramatic situations.

        In fact Aziraphale convincing Gabriel and beelzebub that the end of the world is not the “ineffable plan” is the key point and end of the main plot point. So I can’t understand how they weren’t vital if you don’t look at it as an ultimate battle that doesn’t happen.

        On the other point, how is having friends be purely platonic homophobic? I understand the book has fans that ship them, hell I’ve shipped them for 12 years but fandoms can’t be what we base these things on. The book made it very clear they were mostly non-sexual beings, and being asexual/aromantic isn’t homophobic last time I checked.

        I want more shows and books with gay characters, but I deeply worry about calling stories about friendship homophobic. The implication that deep bonds are the arena of romance only hurts stories as a whole. I needed stories about close friends as a kid, and I needed gay stories as a teen. I don’t think the inclusion of one should mean the eradication of the other.

        • Cay Reet

          I still feel that the main plot is Adam’s, but I fully agree with you on the friendship angle. The fact alone that a demon and an angel are friends and rather form their own side than side with their fractions speaks of a deep friendship which can only develop over a long time. But then, they’ve been deployed to earth for six thousand years, so there’s time. With the demons and angels in the story, I dare say they are aromantic and asexual by nature and I don’t see a reason to change that (for angels, that’s the religious default – and Crowley is a fallen angel, hence he has wings). I think it’s almost as bad to call a deep friendship between two men ‘homophobic’ by the author than to demand the earsure of homosexual relationships in media. Men can share a deep friendship which might share fringes with a romantic/erotic relationship, such as a a very deep understanding, without that being ‘homophobic’ or ‘queerbaiting’ per se. That is what I see in Aziraphael and Crowley and always have.

      • Val Quainton

        I don’t know where the heck you picked the idea of ‘plausible deniability’ from when Gaiman, the production team and the actors have repeatedly and loudly pointed out the very deliberate queering of a whole host of characters in the show (on top of the queering in the original book). Seriously, this stuff is all over the internet and very easy to find. And very, very welcome from the majority of rainbow people (who are heartily sick of queer=gay=cis male as the default way of thinking).

        Other people in the comments have mentioned the very clear option to read Aziraphale and Crowley as asexual as well as homosexual. And there is a deliberate costuming decision to make Crowley non-gender presenting throughout (he presents as female in three scenes, male in others and an absolute mish-mash of ‘male’ and ‘female’ items in all the rest.

        You guys are rightly telling your readers here to find sensitivity editors and seek advice from people in the groups you are writing about but not part of (and excellent advice it is). This may be one time when consideration might be needed on doing a bit more background research on someone who has shown themselves to be a staunch, informed and active rainbow ally, rather than jumping to a conclusion (that, dare I say it, is being touted widely by cis gay men who have a real problem recognising they are, in fact, not the majority and not the ‘natural spokesmen’ for queer people everywhere…).

    • Maria

      The series felt like a book-sing-along to me, with all the good and the bad that comes out of it. And, neh, Anathema and Newt pretty much go from complete strangers to lovers in about half an hour in the book as well. If you liked the book you will proooobably at least enjoy the series – the actors are good, the show was made with dedication and atention to detail and it retains some of the magic. But I read the book when I was an impressionable teenager and I fear no film can compete with how magic that felt.

  2. Gray-Hand

    My memory from reading a good Omens is that Crowley and Aziraphale are most definitely the main characters. It’s a bit of an ensemble cast, but those two are the main guys.

    I last read the story in the 90’s and the only names I remember are theirs and Adam – and I only remember Adam because the choosing of his name takes up several paragraphs.

    You could perhaps make an argument that the story should have had another character as the main character, but that would be a different story. If the show had elevated another character to be the lead, that would not be true to the novel.

    • Aly

      That, and haven’t they always been prominently featured on the covers of every edition of the story?

      That generally signals main character(s).

      Also, Adam is a child. Right or wrong, a child lead most often signals to the audience that something is a children’s story (though it may have broader appeal) with rare exception. In this case, the target audience is adults (though it may appeal to younger readers/viewers, as well).

      As for whether or not they have any impact on the events of the story, much has been noted about the lack of impact Indiana Jones had in his first outing, but he’s still very much the main character of Raiders of the Lost Ark regardless of how events unfolded.

  3. N

    Excellent point on the relative screentime and importance, especially in Good Omens. However, I’m afraid I may have to disagree with you on the relationship between Crowley and Aziraphale. Even in the book it’s clear that Aziraphale is “sexless unless he chooses otherwise” iirc. The acting choices in the show did look, to me, like two asexual characters deeply in love? Sure, Crowley does refer to Aziraphale as his “best friend”, but he also consistently refers to him in public as “angel”. There is a lot of other apparently-deliberate subtext too, like the Garden of Eden flashback where Aziraphale shelters Crowley with his wing in the same moment that (the first man) Adam grabs Eve’s hand; the fact that Aziraphale goes to a “discreet gentlemen’s club” (Seamstresses’ Guild, anyone?) to learn the gavotte (which developed from a “peasant’s kissing dance”); the line “You go too fast for me”. It’s not the same as two men kissing on screen, but it still came off (to me) as being based on deeper love than the straight couples.

  4. Geneviève Hébert-Jodoin

    Frankly, the criticism of Good Omens seems highly misplaced at best and at worse…well, considerably worse than that.

    Perhaps yes, if it had been your story to tell you would have told it from Adam’s perspective. But it wasn’t your story to tell, and the story that Gaiman and Pratchett set out to write most certainly chose Aziraphale and Crowley as its main character. That is readily apparent on ev. To try to overwrite that because of who you felt would have had the more compelling story isn’t criticizing the story that exist ; it’s demanding an entirely different story.

    In relation to that, I’m getting *really* tired of the rampant aroace erasure that features in flinging accusations of queerbaiting at any platonic love and chemistry between same (apparent) gender characters. Especially when dealing with a character who is explicitly stated in the novel to *not* be gay, and to some degree *actually implied* to be asexual.

    We exist, we’re queer too, and our queerplatonic relationships are valid. It would be really nice if people would stop treating what scraps of representation (which is a freaking *fraction* of actual LG representation!) we get as an offense against Queers.

  5. Tina

    Yyyyeaaahhh I do see your point about Good Omens. I’m willing to give it a little more credit though, for two reasons.


    1. The show is, after all, a comedy, and Aziraphale lampshades the problem at the end with his line about “just imagine how awful it might have been if we’d been at all competent.” While it’s still somewhat narratively frustrating to watch these two supernatural entities bumble around during the climax, it’s at least consistent with their characterization as lovable idiots who just want everything to go back to normal so they can eat crepes together.

    2. Via the added scenes about Crowley and Aziraphale (the historical montage, the body-swap plot), the two are essentially given their own story that is separate from the armageddon one. Two beings that are supposed to be enemies gradually realize they like each other more than they like their “higher offices,” so they betray those offices in order to stay together. Then to escape retribution, they perform an act of intimacy and trust (the body swap). Armageddon is just the catalyst for that story. And, to its credit, the show really did commit to prioritizing that story right to the end: what’s the real climax of episode six? It’s not Adam defeating Satan. It can’t be, because, as mentioned, that has almost nothing to do with Crowley and Aziraphale. So, Adam defeats Satan in like the first 20 minutes of the episode. It’s the body swap sequence that gets all the dramatic buildup, the music, the close-ups of characters’ eyes. We do get a satisfying ending for those two. It’s just not when they stop the end of the world.

    With that said, good LORD I wish they’d had more to do with stopping the end of the world. That scene where Crowley was pleading with an unresponsive God not to test humanity to destruction? One of the most compelling scenes in the whole series. The fact that the sword Aziraphale gave away becomes humanity’s weapon against the horsemen of the apocalypse? That’s some stellar writing. But neither of those things are really focused on or fleshed out because they’re not significant to the actual story.

    • Oren Ashkenazi

      Just to be clear I enjoyed Good Omens too, it’s a fine show! It’s on this list not because I hate it, but because it makes a mistake that other stories might not be able to overcome so easily, since not everyone can get David Tenant and Michael Sheen to play their stars.

  6. Ally

    I just want to mention the Green Rider series by Kristen Britain here.
    Book one – Excellent. One character, focused, gripping, invested. Was and still is one of my fav books.
    Second – More POV. Expands views of the world. Good.
    Third – Yet more POV characters… Why?
    And each book get’s worse. Who am I supposed to care about anymore?
    One book creates a future timeline, introduces heaps of characters, makes you invested in the new world, only to throw the protag back to her time so she can change the future… But… WHY??
    Apparently a new book came out and but I can’t see the point in continuing to read the series anymore.

  7. EC Spurlock

    Actually I would posit that Good Omens (the book, I have not seen the adaptation) technically has NO protagonist. Adam is not the protagonist, he is the MacGuffin, the bomb that Aziraphale and Crowley have to disarm — except that he essentially disarms himself. Meanwhile Aziraphale and Crowley are the Viewpoint Characters, acting on the plot in small ways but mainly showing the reader what the plot was supposed to be and how it has gone off the rails. They are each more concerned about how events affect themselves rather than what will happen to the rest of the world. It’s a very British conceit and I’m not sure an American audience accustomed to a very different writing style is quite able to capture it.

  8. Dinwar

    The inclusion of “Good Omens” is simply nonsense. (Fair warning: Spoilers below.)

    The point of the story wasn’t Armageddon; it was the relationship between the angel and demon, and their relationships with their higher (lower?) authorities. The conflict was internal conflict–the realization that these two beings loved each other, despite being on opposite sides of the greatest war in that universe. Armageddon was simply the setting–Adam is as much a character for most of the story as any random mountain or building. The action, the story, the PLOT was the relationship between the demon and the angel. The climax isn’t preventing Armageddon, it’s when Azraphel defies Heaven; the rest is wrapping up loose ends. Exciting and fun, sure, but the story would have had a satisfactory ending no matter what happened after Azraphel returned to Earth. The conflict had been resolved; the angel and demon came to terms with their love for each other. (I would say, in fact, that that’s the theme that ties all 3 plots together, and the way Armageddon is averted.)

    Saying that Crowely and Azraphel are side-characters is like saying Horatio Hornblower is a side character. After all, the “real” story is the defeat of Napoleon, right? So a minor frigate captain must necessarily be a side character. Is the captain in “Saving Private Ryan” a side character, since the real conflict is the battles they slog through? “Gone With The Wind” comes to mind as well. There is a long history of literature using grand-scale conflicts as a setting for very personal stories; just because a conflict has higher stakes doesn’t mean it needs to be central.

  9. SilentReader

    Regarding number 5, Quentyn was giving us perspective about slaver’s bay outside of Daenerys and her followers view, Astapoor was in ruin cause she take all the armies leaving only a council to govern without the mean to enforce their government, Mereen was chaotic because her inept political decision. It’s show us how bad and incompetence Daenerys as a leader and administrator. Something that we will never see through Daenerys or Barristan as pov character.

    Ned also not the only pov character that died, there is at least 12 pov characters that was killed. 7 was pov character from prologue and epilogue, Ned Star, Catelyn Stark, Arys Oakheart(1 chapter), Quentyn Martel(4 chapter), and later Jon Snow.

    • Cannoli

      He’s also very important thematically to the series, which is dealing with a number of fantasy issues, like heroes who become kings as a reward for things that have nothing to do with their qualifications to rule, or how things fall into their laps because they are the heroes or main characters, or how all the characters who fail at what the heroes accomplish don’t matter. That’s why Ned Stark appears to be the main character in the early series, even though he’s actually the mentor who dies so the heroes can’t lean on him. It’s making the mentor a real person, instead of a plot device to be shuffled off-stage when you don’t need it anymore. Quentyn is a similar function. In addition to the view from the bottom of the setting, where Dany & Barristan, of necessity, are at the top, we also have someone who is not the hero, but trying to be one. He and his companions are very conscious of their quest, and were supposedly prepped and ready for it, except they keep failing, the battles aren’t glorious, they are on the wrong side in the most important battle they fight, and Quentyn is having to grapple with his insecurities about his looks and lack of charisma or heroic prowess. He keeps trying to fix on something that makes him special, like the political advantage he will bring in marriage or his descent from a royal princess that will enable him to tame a dragon, and it doesn’t work, because he’s not the hero, and the real heroine in the story is moved well past his petty concerns. The point is that he’s as real a person as the beautiful, magical and badass heroes, and it shows the damage certain attitudes about heroism and adventure can have on real people.

      Also, Quentyn is the PoV character in FOUR chapters, of a 72 page book, with a handful of lines in two others. Yeah, 1/18th of a book is too much time to spend on one character. That endless journey is in ONE chapter. The second PoV chapter is the one with the battle and the next stage of the journey, and the next time we see Quentyn, he’s in Dany’s presence.

      On the other hand, because GRRM is a good writer, despite not checking stuff with Mythcreants first, he manages to trick Oren into believing that Quentyn’s journey went on forever, because that’s QUENTYN’S experience! And that’s the point, Quentyn suffered a long and arduous journey with a great deal of tedium, and it didn’t pay off for him. The VERY FIRST LINE of his first PoV chapter is “Adventure stank.” This is Martin’s approach to realism in fantasy: showing what epic adventure journeys in a pre-industrial setting would really be like, as opposed to glamping trips full of excitement and battles. But 1/18th of the book is supposed to be an inordinate focus?

      Also, while it is the first time Quentyn appears on the page, he is heavily mentioned in the prior book, where his off-page departure on his quest, and his relationships, are a strong motivation for his sister’s actions and underly her own decisions and motives going forward. His sister, Arianne, despite being the elder and their father’s heir, is very insecure about Quentyn and the threat she perceives to her own status, which is a way of showing the built-in misogyny of the setting. Despite being a member of the most gender-egalitarian culture in Westeros and the lawful heir, despite being popular, attractive, clever, witty, brave and charming, Arianne still feels vulnerable to being replaced by her brother, because of the overall advantages being male confers. That aspect is highlighted when we meet Quentyn, who is, frankly, a dull and boring person, without extraordinary gifts, despite good personal qualities. But enough people would still prefer the quiet dullard with a penis to the passionate & brilliant heir, cursed with a vagina. Later on, it appears that Arianne is getting set up to make some major decisions, committing her family to a course of action that her father has avoided to this point, in anticipation of Quentyn’s success on his quest, in an effort to preempt his triumphant return, by outdoing the end he was sent to achieve. And the tragedy is that the readers know she has no need to bring her family to near-disaster, that with Quentyn’s failure and death, all she has to do is be there for her dad, and win by default.

  10. Jeppsson

    Me and Husband just got Amazon so we could watch Picard, and then we started watching Good Omens too, way later than everyone else. Three eps in so far. And yeah, Aziraphale and Crowley are great! Every scene they’re together in is a delight. (Also, I agree that it’s totally presented as a romance, which makes it feel cowardly that they still don’t quite go there.)

    HOWEVER the kids are AWFUL. I remember kind of hating the kids in the novel as well (although it was ages since I read it), since everything about them was so sickly sweet and cute and precocious and I’m kind of allergic to that kind of stuff. But seeing them on screen, oh, THE CRINGE! Their dialogue is SO unbelievable, it makes me wanna cover both eyes and ears with the pillow of shame (sorry, Swedish idiom, but I had to use it, couldn’t think of an English one that’s equivalent). Even if you rewrote all their lines to sound more natural, you’d still end up with dialogue (and actions, for that matter) that would fit a bunch of SIX-YEAR-OLDS, not eleven-year-olds.
    Like, when Anathema says she’s lost her book to Adam and he immediately goes “Once I wrote a book. It was about a cowboy policeman who hunted dinosaurs in space. It was probably more exciting than your book”, that’s exactly something my six-year-old nephew could say, but it’s NOT something an eleven-year-old would blurt out to a stranger looking for a book.

    We’re still gonna watch it to the end, it’s just a pity that the kid-parts are near unwatchable.

    • Kitty

      Although the hints are subtle in the book and arguably not present at all in the adaptation, the unrealistic way the child characters talk and behave is likely intentional. At one point in the book, Anathema says something on the lines of ‘The kids here are unreal’ and everything about them is written to reflect old fashioned children’s books like Enid Blyton’s Famous Five, even down to the gang having a scrappy little dog. Books which Adam would be familiar with. Books which would have inspired Adam while he unknowingly altered the town and the people in it to reflect how he thought the world should be. He reorganised the world around him to fit his own ideal, which included the idea that groups of children should be plucky but inoffensive scamps.

      • Jeppsson

        That’s a charitable interpretation, but… I just read the Children’s Crusade. I thought it was great. Then Husband read it, and pointed out that the children have abysmal dialogue in that book too. I had to agree with him, it’s true! The story is still amazing though, and I can much more easily overlook such a flaw in writing.
        I’m beginning to think that Gaiman, for all his genius when it comes to capturing a sense of wonder, IS pretty bad at writing children talking to each other.

        Regarding the ending of Good Omens (which I’ve now finished), I also thought that Pulsifer’s magic ability to wreck computers – computers all over the world even! – by a single button-push, should have been more firmly established, since it’s used to save the whole world from nuclear annihilation. As it was, it felt pretty deus-ex-machina, even though we had seen him wreck some computers in an office by pushing a button at one point in an early ep. (I don’t remember exactly how that played out in the book, since it was so long since I read it.)

        The whole show should have been about Aziraphale and Crowley, really. The witch-hunter and his land-lady could be secondary characters, and just leave the children and boring Anatema in the background.

      • Rosenkavalier

        I definitely agree about the way that this is presented in the book (I’ve not seen the adaptation yet, so I can’t comment on that), and the idea that Adam is unknowingly warping his home town to bring it into line with the books he would have read. I think the main inspiration was probably Richmal Crompton’s ‘Just William’ stories, however – lots of the dialogue reads exactly like it could have been lifted directly from those books, as does the genial, inadvertent anarchy of gang itself.

  11. Greenery

    Wow … this comment section sure is full of people who disagree about Good Omens!

    I’m mostly here to nth the request to dial back the aphobia. The idea that Aziraphale or Crowley or both are ultimately intended to be read as heterosexual is, frankly, absurd, and if their particular flavor of non-straight-ness doesn’t resonate with you, that doesn’t mean it was promising you things that it didn’t deliver. Not every depiction of a non-straight character is for every member of the LGBTQ+ community, and that’s okay.

    The pushback against its inclusion on this list is also kind of interesting … I agree that Good Omens flagrantly violates one of the most fundamental rules of storytelling — your protagonists need to be the ones whose choices resolve the story — and I definitely agree that I wouldn’t want to read a lot of stories like that. But I have to say I agree with the above commenters that, once in a while, it’s nice to see a story that’s about the characters a story isn’t “supposed” to be about. Making Aziraphale and Crowley actually turn out to be the ones who successfully stop Armageddon in the end would have taken that away.

    I feel like this is something I see a lot on this site, actually. The articles here often suggest more formulaic story choices that would bring the narratives they’re trying to “fix” more in line with conventional storytelling advice. And I’m not, per se, saying that that’s a bad thing — the rules are there for a reason, and it makes sense to illustrate how the choice to break a rule affected the story using examples from pop culture. I’m also sensitive to how, as slush pile readers, you’re probably exhausted by mediocre writers trying to explain how their choice to break this or that rule was actually High Art.

    But that doesn’t mean I’m not happy that I got to read and watch a story about two equally important main characters (also something that’s generally best avoided!) who don’t turn out in the end to be the heroes who save the day. And, looking at this comment section, I would venture to say I’m not the only one.

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