Hello friends! As a status update, I've finished one critique and added 0 words to The Nief, so one critique and half a novel to go. Minute progress, but progress nonetheless.
The more I read speculative fiction, the more I find myself unable to root for protagonists. They are The Chosen Ones which inevitably means that they have little to no agency, they are the most ignorant character in the story, their friends risk (and sometimes lose) everything to help them, and they have to win in the end to meet the requirements of the story, so I'm not worried that they themselves will die, therefore feel that nothing is at stake. (Shut up, ASOIAF fans, that is an exception. Plus, if you thought Eddard was going to be the protagonist for the series, you weren't paying close enough attention.) In addition, their character arc usually requires them to transcend their humanity in order to overcome the Big Bad Guy, which is typically some non-human or trans-human power, which removes the little I had to identify with the protagonist. What gives?
This is why I am a fan of third person multiple viewpoint in storytelling. Authors still like to have a MC that has to become more than is humanly possible, but at least with multiple viewpoints I'm not limited to only their thoughts. I can get to know their buddies, their teachers, and even their enemies better. If I can cheer for the guy that's cheering for the protagonist, I at least feel like I've participated.
This is also why, in both Om Nom Nombies and in The Neif I am working hard to not have one protagonist. In Nombies, I have a group of people working to overcome an obstacle. In The Neif, there are multiple storylines within the same timeline, so, theoretically, the reader could choose a protagonist to get behind.
Yes, there are stories that don't fall into the helpless-farm-boy-meets-helpful-wizard-and-together-they-defeat-the-bad-guy, so don't get your pants in a bunch. Even still, those protagonists can bore me. I recently finished Red Shirts by John Scalzi, and I loved it. But I didn't love the protagonist. I loved his buddies, I loved the situation, but I could care less about the protagonist. He existed in the story to generate plans (i.e. advance the plot) and so that we readers could have a window into the story. He didn't really have an arc. His buddies were interesting. They had cool skills or sarcastic speech patterns or were humorously oblivious. And the situation was, well, read the book.
This is why I am a huge fan of Joe Abercrombie and his First Law Trilogy. He is pretty ambiguous about which one of his viewpoint characters is the protagonist, but even without that, each of his potential protagonists are interesting in their own right. They each have something they're good at, they tackle separate problems, occasionally joining together. And each of them has major issues that they are dealing with - read: relatable to normal human beings like moi.
I'm not trying to just hate on stories without offering solutions. I love this genre. This genre is the one I've chosen. I'm just ready to get away from the tropes that have been popular for so long and move on, and I'm hoping that my writing can help make that step.