YA Trends: The Vegetarian Protagonist

What is a Vegetarian Protagonist?

A protagonist who has little to no character beyond her love interest, and as a result the writer, in an attempt to find something interesting to write about with the character, makes them a vegetarian.

I read two books in a row with this premise, The Fault in our Stars by John Green, and The Dark Heroine by Abigail Gibbs. These books are drastically different in premise. Hazel is a 16 year old cancer patient being kept alive by a drug that generally doesn’t work on other people who falls in love with a cancer survivor. The Dark Heroine is about a 17 year old girl who is kidnapped by vampire royalty after witnessing the murder of 30 people. These books have very little in common besides the fact that the main characters are vegetarians.

The difficulty with having a privileged white person who lives in the suburbs be a vegetarian is that this is not a hardship. It doesn’t make them interesting, which is the reason that a writer typically makes their character a vegetarian. It adds something interesting to bring up and string through as a character point every time the character eats.

However, if there is no other development of the character based on their personality, being a vegetarian comes off as a cop out because it is easy. If the character isn’t living in a food desert(an area where grocery stores are scarce), and generally has money, it is not hard to be a vegetarian. Race and class do have an impact on the difficulty of vegetarianism.

For Example:

  • If the family is dependent on food stamps
  • whether or not the character lives in an area with access to vegetarian food

These two points would create difficulty in vegetarianism. Otherwise, it is just a way to make the character interesting without actually putting in the effort to make them interesting. If you have access to resources, vegetarianism isn’t hard.

Additionally, vegetarianism is not a lifestyle that requires a ton of research. One simply doesn’t eat meat. It is easy to write because of this reason. However, the following are issues that are food related that are harder to research, and there for aren’t explored all that frequently:

  • gluten free diets
  • allergies to milk or nuts
  • needing to eat a raw food diet for medical reasons
  • veganism
  • pescetarianism

All of these tend to pull more out of a character than vegetarianism. For example, if a character has celiacs, they have to keep a strict gluten free diet, which might lead to conflicts in hanging out with friends. A raw food diet is often used to treat severe acid reflux, and can cause a lot of grief to the person trying to do it when starting out. Veganism is generally a route taken by characters who have underlying political beliefs about food.

All of these have ways to explore farther into the characters life rather than just create something to talk about every time the character eats.

There are occasions when writing a vegetarian character can further the character rather than try to pull character traits out of thin air. These include:

  • characters who are from religions or cultures that are traditionally vegetarian
  • When vegetarianism affects the plot.

Otherwise, there needs to be a specific reason for a character to be a vegetarian.

I hope this was helpful to some people and made them reconsider their character development.

Thanks for Reading,


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