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I have this girl in my story, who is around 12 years old, who is the main character of the story, or one of the main characters. She is captured by the bad guys very often, and I fear this might get annoying to the reader/viewer/player.

The problem is, I kinda need her to be captured this often for the story. One way I thought about making it less annoying is making sure it's never her fault for being captured, it's usually by an outside force she had no control over. Also, sometimes she manages to escape on her own, or avoids being captured altogether, so it's not like she's completely incapable.

Should I worry about this? Would this annoy people, even if it's not the character's fault?

  • By "captured" you mean "kidnapped"? You are going to need a good plot explanation why this is happening repeatedly. Or you can establish some grotesque setting that serves your story, like in "Series of Unfortunate Events." – Alexander Jan 9 '18 at 17:27
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    The main problem you should be worrying about is not how this makes the character look but rather how to not make the 5 repetitions of the "main character gets captured" plot twist not seem repetitive. – Philipp Jan 9 '18 at 17:32
  • Consider reading the A Series of Unfortunate Events books for an example of how to pull this off successfully. – Kevin Jan 10 '18 at 15:22
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A narrative work creates promises and then fulfills them. If the promises are not fulfilled this tends to frustrate the reader.

One of the major promises is forward motion in a work. This is let's say unlike an 80s sitcom where every episode is expected to reset everything.

One of the most annoying things an author can do is unmake progress that a character makes. It does not matter whose fault it is. If we get to a castle, and the princess is in another castle, the reader is frustrated if that's not how your narrative clearly works. If you have 8 castles then it's OK. But if we ever have to redo castle 5, it's annoying.

Now to getting into trouble. It's OK if it's moving the plot forward. It is absolutely annoying if it constantly unmakes the hero's progress setting them back over and over. Again think of the promise here. If you are promising an adventure with a goal, then it's bad. If you are promising a character that gets in trouble a lot, then it may be good.

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The reader expects fictional characters to have much more "eventful" lives than real people.

I once read that the average real-life policeman fires his gun at a suspect approximately once every 30 years. i.e. most policemen never shoot a criminal in their entire careers, maybe possibly once or twice. But police officers on TV have two or three shootouts with the criminals every episode. The average TV policemen kills dozens or hundreds of people every year. And yet generally the audience accepts it, because we expect fiction to be extreme.

If your heroine is captured by the villains 20 times, this is fine if the reaction of the reader is, "Oh no! She's been captured again! How will she escape this time?" If the story is entertaining, the reader should just accept this. The problem is if the story is getting so boring and or strained that the reader thinks, "Oh, right. She's just been kidnapped AGAIN? Why do her friends even bother trying to rescue her? She's probably used to it by now."

I've read plenty of stories where I think, "Wow, how exciting! The hero defeats an entire army single-handed!!" But I've had others where I think, "Yeah right, I'm supposed to believe that this one guy can defeat an entire army single-handed?" It's all a matter of doing it effectively. And if I had a simple formula for how to make a story engrossing, if I could say, "Just make your sentences this length and use these six words" ... I suppose I'd be a famous novelist and not taking time off work to post on this forum.

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I can see how this repetitive situation might get annoying to a reader. If a reader is into your story, they get emotionally attached to characters. I wouldn't want the character I'm rooting for to constantly get captured. You might be fine, if as you said, she shows improvement over time (escaping, avoiding capture), but if she keeps making small mistakes that lead her to get captured for the fifth time, the reader may give up on this character and your story even if "it's not her fault".

People have a tendency to victim-blame, even when the events are out of the victim's control.

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