- Passive not= dull/weak
- The lack of strong desire and wants = lack of conflicts = dull/weak
Eventually, the protagonist must choose to act. It's true even in literary fiction where most struggles are internal. Characters are defined not solely by their desires and wants, but also by their actions with regard to these desires and wants. Again, what I'm suggesting here is to make your protagonist's "non-action" a strong, valid choice. It could work in literary fiction, and it could work in genres such as romance, thriller, mystery, etc.
Pride and Prejudice (literary, romance): Both Elizabeth and Darcy are rather passive in the beginning, both choosing not to act on their attraction to each other, or rather, to act by running away from their feelings. Again, the reasons are very strong. There comes a point in the story they must act to resolve their conflicts.
The Da Vinci Code (techno thriller): Langdon is very passive in the beginning, reacting to almost everything happening to him with confusion and inaptitude. However, there comes a point when he must act to save his own life PLUS satisfy his desire to find the truth.
Misery (horror, thriller): while Sheldon's very passive, he has strong desires, too -- to be rid of Misery....
I think opening a novel when a protagonist must do something is a viable choice, but not always necessary. The idea of hooking the readers in the beginning can be achieved in many ways, most importantly by creating a problem for the protagonist. But IMHO, it's not necessary that the protagonist must take action immediately at the beginning. However, give him a real, strong motivation to act (active) or not act (passive -- maybe based on fear or trying to protect his family or whatever), and your readers will be hooked.
Category: Ray, Writing, Fiction