Noobs or Pros, which type of char do you prefer?


Journeyed there and back again
Most of my favorite characters in fantasy begin the story as either completely inexperienced "noobs" or as world-weary, highly effective professionals. I've found myself wondering which characters I prefer: Harry Potter, Ron, and Hermione or Dumbledore, Snape, and Voldemort? Jezal, Artee, and Collem or Logen, Bayaz, and Glokta? Rand, Mat, and Perrin or Moraine, Thom, and Lan? Caine or Darrow? Kvothe or Granny Weatherwax? Locke Lamora present day or Locke Lamora flashbacks?

It sort of surprised me when I realized that so many of my favorite characters are the highly trained professionals, because I really do like bildungsroman novels.

What do you guys think? Do you prefer noobs or pros?

Hand of Fear

Journeyed there and back again
Didn't Locke Lamora
accidentally burn down a building in one of his earliest outings

I think I like to see characters grow overtime into their roles, and get better learn from their mistakes.

Matticus Primal

Journeyed there and back again
I think either newb or pro works depending on what story's being told. And the newb certainly works as a great proxy for the audience to learn the world along with the character.

But either way, I want my characters to be clever/ capable at something at least. Sure they may be ignorant, but ignorance is a lack of knowledge rather than ability. Without something special about them, no matter how minor, the I lose interest.

Ryan W. Mueller

Journeyed there and back again
I like both if they're written well.

What irks me a bit is the noob who turns into a pro in the course of two weeks (though I may be guilty of this myself from time to time).

With magic, you can sometimes get away with it, especially if something unlocks the character's powerful abilities. But with something like swordplay or archery, I have to shake my head. Nobody can become a master swordsman in two weeks.


Journeyed there and back again
When I first saw Star Wars as a young lad, my sympathy was definitely with the pro, i.e. Obi-Wan. I admired him for his wisdom, knowledge, and strength; all the things that Luke lacked. It was the same in other books with a similar setup (e.g. the character Ogion in Wizard of Earthsea). However, when I finally grew up and watched or read many of the same stories again, my preferences have changed. I started identifying more with the newb - not that I can claim to have saved the galaxy or Earthsea, but being in a different place in my life, I just view characters differently. Another example: I yawn at every plotline about desperate parents searching for their children. Maybe I ever have children myself though (not sure if the world would be a better or worse place for it), that might change and I will start to identify with these characters.

In other words, I can appreciate both types of characters. They each have their charm, as long as they are well-written, as others have mentioned. And why not have both in one? To complete my example from Star Wars, one of my favourite scenes is the beginning of RotJ, when Luke walks into Jabba's palace. His confidence and demeanour is the completion of his transformation from newb to pro, which is always a great character arc.


Journeyed there and back again
I enjoy both, if they are written well.

For me, both as a reader, and as a writer, fiction is very much about finding small and bigger truths through the experiences of an imaginary character or characters. Newbies or pros, as long as they are bound to learn/discover some interesting or meaningful truths, about themselves, or about others, or about the world as a whole, and as long as it's all interlined into the progression of an interesting plot - that's usually enough to make me very fond of the book that achieves it.

I don't characters who are too weak or powerful in a meaningless way, so for me it's not at much about the character's immediate abilities and skills, but more of the ways in which this character changes himself, or the ways in which he affects the people and the setting around him.

And usually most of the better books kind of have a bit of the both ends of the pendulum, spread in different amounts among main and secondary characters. Having one universal emotion or level of abilities, or worldly knowledge is boring anyways - it's the contrast and the constant change for better or worse that could make a certain plot truly captivating to read about.


Journeyed there and back again
I love a good bildungsroman, but in general I'd rather read about the pros. Its not a like a pro can't experience substantial growth anyway and I would agree with Alucard that there's more things you can do with mature characters. Which is why I prefer the pros. I feel like I've read all the bildungsromans. I'm not opposed to reading them again, but I'm trending towards novelty.

Also, its very easy to lean too much on immature teenage dumbness to fuel conflict. That shiznit wears.

That said... you want me to name my favourite books, they're probably bildungsromans. But you want me to name my favourite characters in them? Probably the pros.

Darth Tater

Journeyed there and back again
I prefer the pros. I feel like the variety of stories you can tell is higher with this type than with the noob. I don't care much for stories about growing up pains.
Agreed. I like noobs too but the veterans are my default faves because they usually carry a certain mystique, history and wisdom to them.

Kelsier > Vin
Moiraine>the novices
Scooby Doo > Scrappy Doo

Silvion Night

Sir Readalot
Staff member
As more people have stated I like both if they're written well.

What I really don't like though are dumb novices. If they pull some stunts due to their inexperience (Rand, Locke Lamora, Harry), it is fine, but they should be able to learn fast in order to keep my interest.
On the other hand, I also don't like novices who gain skill too fast (Kvothe, Eragon). I think in WoT Jordan handles this very well. He found a good middle ground when he showed his protagonists from slowly acquiring their skills in physical combat.

World-weary pro's are interesting, especially when these pro's are somehow partly incapacitated by something and have to restructure the way they see the world. Think of a sudden handicap due to physical trauma (loss of limb, sight etc), emotional trauma or old age. Think for example of these awesome characters:

Jaime Lannister losing his hand and thereby his entire identity as the world's most proficient sowrdsman
Rick Grimes losing his hand
Vykers having both hands cut off thereby virtually becoming a cripple. Also him swapping bodies with a woman was great. Where he relied on strength before, he had to work with guile after the swap
Also Rand losing his hand would fall in this category
As well as Roland


Journeyed there and back again
I liked the noobs. Origin stories and characters are often more interesting because the character changes a lot. I look at Name of the Wind and Blood Song as examples of that. Wheel of Time also has many characters like that. BUT rushing that development to unrealistic improvement is a big no-no. Star Wars has good and bad examples of this. Annakin in the horrible prequel trilogy was a perfect example of how not to do a character right. Rey in episode 7 instantly operates the Falcon, can fix anything and also become an expert lightsaber wielder with the force to take down Kylo Ren. Too fast!

Pros are cool too like Royce and Hadrian in the Riyria books. But I'll take the noobs for $500 Alex!

Darth Tater

Journeyed there and back again
Let me clarify. I like both too. I agree with the majority. But the question was along the lines of "which do you prefer?" So given THAT choice I picked the pro over the noob. I felt it was too easy and non-committal to list the positive attributes of both. I think almost all of us like both when done the right way, so I thought about it and that is what I came up with. :)

Noor Al-Shanti

Dueled with Lord Voldemort
As everyone else said I like both when they're well-written. I think I lean towards noobs a little bit, but I most enjoy books with both types as POV characters, just the pros in slightly smaller doses.

I agree with what others have said about characters sometimes learning too fast, but I think the opposite is also annoying. For example Harry was a great noob character who learned and grew along the way, but in the seventh book I felt as if he was still too incompetent and blundering. He didn't seem to have a plan and didn't seem to be doing too much to improve his skills, learn new spells, etc, just kept wandering around the countryside and discovered the horcruxes largely by accident at the last possible second...>.>


Journeyed there and back again
To a certain extent, this isn't just noob vs pro. Its primary characters vs secondary characters too, because most of the noobs mentioned so far are primaries and the pros secondaries. We're not in secondary characters' heads as they make their big mistakes, they don't have these big changing arcs that are so easy to mishandle. Would people still prefer pros if more of them were primary characters, and noobs were secondary characters more often?


Journeyed there and back again
I'm going to split hairs.
What about the novice or journeyman, or near expert.? I find I enjoy those more than either. Or where do you go from noob?

I hate noob to pro stories, but can enjoy a well written one, sometimes. It reminds me of an old star wars joke, Luke is practicing on the falcon and Han solo scoffs at the idea of the force, Luke says " you don't believe in this thing I only found out about yesterday...pfft. plebians, I'm an expert"

A noob that stays a noob, or becomes a novice, apprentice, or that sounds interesting.

This is why I think ariya stark, and the queen of everything (ha, I mean targerian) are the two most boring characters in game of thrones....every week they show up I sigh and mutter "tell me about how awesome you are this week..." but the novices in the show that get better are entertaining.

With out splitting hairs, I think I prefer pros. You can skip all the cliche origin stories that you've read a hundred times before, they can get straight to the heart of the plot and deep characterization. Plus I am finding more and more sword and sorcery is my favorite sub genre, that's a pro haven.


Journeyed there and back again
Good shout on the journeymen instead of the master. I'd argue that Rek in Legend is a stand out of this type. You could argue a lot of the secondary PoV characters in Discworld are like this - neither Harry nor Dumbledore.

Maark Abbott

Journeyed there and back again
I much prefer that characters start out with certain proficiencies.

Jon Snow

No Power in the Verse can stop me
Staff member
Yeah, I like the pros too.

Kelsier, Wax and Wayne, Locke Lamora, Glokta...

With noobs, I feel like too many times the author just makes them get lucky for ages or suddenly they become awesome in a very short span of time. The Magician is a fine example of this.

One of the better noob to pro stories that is done well is Arya Stark, but how many books did that take?