1. Cerrus
    Offline

    Cerrus New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2011
    Messages:
    177
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Right Behind You

    A Story With Only One Character?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Cerrus, Jul 16, 2012.

    I had an idea just recently about having a story with only one character throughout the whole thing. Is this even possible? I know I read the book A Girl Named Disaster which had a large chunk of it with only one character out on their own, and also the book Hatchet had the same thing, but both books in parts of them had interaction between two characters. Here's my idea for a story.

    My idea is the only character being a space bounty hunter much like that of the Metroid video game series or Boba Fett from Star Wars. The whole story would revolve around the character on their journey and the things that they would discover on alien planets. The mood of the story I would want to mainly be isolation. Perhaps the bounty hunter crash landed somewhere and must fight their way off the planet. I don't know, it still in the brain storming stage.

    Register to remove this ad


    Anyway, do you think that it's possible to create a story with no other characters but the one MC? Perhaps there's inner dialogue from the MC? Or maybe journal entries throughout the story of the characters finds on these alien planets? Please, tell me what you think.
  2. Youniquee
    Offline

    Youniquee (◡‿◡✿) Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 18, 2010
    Messages:
    737
    Likes Received:
    34
    Location:
    Under your bed.
    Hmm, I don't know.

    The main character would have to be really, really interesting and his loneliness and psychology will have be explored thoroughly for me to be interested. There's reasons other character's are included in stories. The interaction with other characters shows the MC's personality, it's interesting to explore a variety of personalities and seeing the MC create relationships with other characters.
    Seeing a 500 page book of some character walking around an isolated place isn't very exciting... ~_~

    My two pennies. I hope that helped.
  3. Warde
    Offline

    Warde New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 13, 2011
    Messages:
    45
    Likes Received:
    4
    As with any plot, it depends on how you write it. That said, I imagine that this would be much harder to write well than a story with multiple characters. I would also note that, for most characters, that degree of isolation would likely trigger a fair bit of thinking about the past and working through memories. Flashbacks would allow you to give us an indication for how your MC interacts with other characters while maintaining their isolation in the timeframe you are focusing on. As Youniquee pointed out, it is difficult to paint a vivid picture of your MC that the reader can relate to without at least some interaction with other characters.
  4. BBBurke
    Offline

    BBBurke New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 12, 2012
    Messages:
    32
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    California
    Anything can be done, but some things are harder to do that others. Regardless of the number of characters, you still have to accomplish the same things: you need to get the reader invested in the character and you need to have conflict to overcome. We often learn about characters through their interactions with others. If there are no others, you need something else for them to interact with (though being alone for long periods of time they could start interacting (talking) with themselves). And you still need a conflict or some kind for them to overcome. It could be entirely mental, but that would be hard to keep interesting.

    In the end, it may not work. But I bet it would be a fascinating exercise to try.
  5. Ettina
    Offline

    Ettina New Member

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2011
    Messages:
    419
    Likes Received:
    8
    I've seen it done in many post-apocalyptic stories, so yeah, I don't see a problem with it. Like anything else, it depends on good writing.
  6. peachalulu
    Offline

    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    May 20, 2012
    Messages:
    2,301
    Likes Received:
    871
    Location:
    occasionally Oz , mainly Canada
    Could try reading the Old Man and the Sea which I think only has one character - unless you count the fish. I also read this ya fiction book called the Girl in the Box by Ouida Sebestyen in which the main character has been kidnapped and thrown into a fruit celler - she spends her days in the dark, blindly typing out messages and slipping them under the door. However the story relies heavily on flashback. I also read this amazing sci-fi book about a man who is shrunken down and befriends an ant. It was called Atta.

    I think you'll probably have to have a few flashbacks to balance out your character , lonely people tend to think of good times they had with people. Also as Younique and the others said - having character no matter if they're actual people or creatures is important - interaction would be something your hero would
    crave and seek out.
  7. Whiskey Jack
    Offline

    Whiskey Jack New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 15, 2012
    Messages:
    3
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Here
    I think it's possible and could be interesting if done right. I suppose it'd be an excercise in world building. My writing is always so dialogue heavy I'm not sure I could pull it off, but I love isolation stories and world building. Think Waldon.
  8. nzric
    Offline

    nzric New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2010
    Messages:
    114
    Likes Received:
    12
    Location:
    New Zealand
    IMO it would only work if something else in the story, e.g. an animal, the environment, a goal, etc. was fleshed out to such a level that it became a character itself.

    Check out "between a rock and a hard place" - the biography of Aron Ralston (made into the movie '127 hours'). He does pretty well to make the rock (and some other things) into a character - i.e. in his level of focus on them and their importance in the book - not painting a face on it and calling it Wilson. But Ralston still uses flashbacks.
  9. Show
    Offline

    Show New Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2008
    Messages:
    1,497
    Likes Received:
    29
    It's quite possible. I imagine it's a lot more challenging but if you're up to it and you got an idea stirring you, why not?
  10. Cerrus
    Offline

    Cerrus New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2011
    Messages:
    177
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Right Behind You
    Thanks for all of your guys input. My idea is to flesh out a whole new world and for it to be very organic feeling. Also, I have some ideas for a bit of a twist. I'm planning on having a lot of inner dialogue as well as flash backs. The story will revolve around the main character and his challenges and discoveries. Also, his own mental psyche will be a big factor in the story. I'm going to be brainstorming on this for a while. Maybe I'll draw up some concept sketches.
  11. CroZ
    Offline

    CroZ New Member

    Joined:
    Jan 10, 2007
    Messages:
    26
    Likes Received:
    0
    Yeah you can do it. I hop your writing's up for it though.
  12. Shaun4
    Offline

    Shaun4 New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 9, 2012
    Messages:
    8
    Likes Received:
    1
    I suppose you'd have to make it a very dynamic character. Their personality, big decisions, etc would have to be really well developed, and I would imagine such a story's climax would be a personal revelation- a decision to change his/her life, a realization of a truth, etc.

    If it's more than a short it would be very hard (but not impossible), since so much of novel writing (in my experience) is having characters you can come back to later.
  13. Cogito
    Offline

    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    May 19, 2007
    Messages:
    40,231
    Likes Received:
    1,572
    Location:
    Massachusetts, USA
    I've written at least one such story, a science fiction short story. A doctoral candidate doing a solo research project is on her way home, when she is fired upon by an alien craft. She is pursued, but never sees who or what is on the other ship, or what their motives are, nor does the reader ever find out. The story is entirely about her survival in an unarmed ship, and her reactions to what she must do.

    Yes, it's certainly easier to write a short story with only a single character, but it can also be done in a novel. There have been quite a few "sole survivor" end of the world stories, and survivor stories in general, with just one character. Another possibility is a "walkabout" story, a journey alone for self-discovery.
  14. Morkonan
    Offline

    Morkonan New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 18, 2012
    Messages:
    101
    Likes Received:
    7
    Why wouldn't it be possible?

    There are bajillions of stories with only one protagonist. Hundreds of bajillions, even. There's nothing secret about creating such a story. Here's the magic formula.. Are you ready for it?

    /begin secret magic single-character story formula

    Something happens.

    /end secret magic single-character story formula

    Come to think of it, that's the secret formula for every story ever written that was worth reading. So, my advice to you is to quit worrying about having just one character and start writing that story! The premise sounds promising and there's no need for any gimmicks to create any relationships amongst unseen characters. You could write an entire story that focuses on your protagonist making breakfast, if you wished. Of course, it would be a good idea to make that interesting.

    Go for it!

    Characters don't have to be people. They can be just about anything. A nagging telephone. A troublesome toaster. Uncooperative weather. As a matter of fact, I have a short-story that doesn't introduce any other character than the protagonist until the very end. Instead, all the other foils that the story uses are inanimate, or mostly inanimate, objects. It was easy and, better yet, it "worked" as a story. If you feel the need for something that the character has to interact with in a way that is similar to another human being, then fire up your imagination and create an inanimate object that becomes a "character" or use old cliche's like the weather or an unforgiving mountain that is working against your protagonist's goal of climbing it.

    For instance, what about a car (or spaceship, in your case) that won't start reliably and seems to have a mind of its own? What if the character yells at it and beats it every morning until it starts? What if that makes him late for an appointment or a hot date and he decides to take his revenge out on it? What if he goes crazy interpreting all the things that happen with his car as that car being somehow intelligently working against his goals? That's a suitable story and there's no need to turn it into King's "Christine", either. In this case, a simple inanimate object becomes a character without the fussiness needed to place a person in that role. That is, if you need such a hook. If you don't, you don't.
  15. killbill
    Offline

    killbill Member

    Joined:
    Feb 27, 2012
    Messages:
    562
    Likes Received:
    23
    Location:
    where the mind is without fear...
    Yes, it can be done, but as a reader I don't think I'll be too excited about reading it. I wasn't even impressed by Tom Hanks in ...(forgot the name of the movie) and I am his fan. Morkonan explained how to go about utilizing pretty much anything to built up the story in the absence of other characters. What I like to add is the internal thought writing, because it is inevitable in a one character story and it can be very boring if not done right. My advice is to restrict internal thoughts where ever possible, concentrate more on the character's senses. But the best way is to have the two together, if this is making any sense. A good example is Crime and Punishment as far as good internal thought writing is concern, I would even say Crime and Punishment is practically a single character story.
  16. Dubya
    Offline

    Dubya New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 11, 2012
    Messages:
    40
    Likes Received:
    0
    Location:
    Ayrshire, Scotland, UK
    Robinson Crusoe is a classic which comes close to your suggestion, and I suspect Killbill was thinking of the modern Tom Hanks version, Castaway. It would be tricky without interaction with other characters, but it can certainly be done.
  17. Complex
    Offline

    Complex Member

    Joined:
    Jun 28, 2012
    Messages:
    120
    Likes Received:
    3
    I've never had a problem with single character view points. Strong individual character development is how I write the backstory to my characters. For the insane asylum background, the focus is the character, but the interaction of the staff and others are muted and impersonal. Like a caged animal and fed as such, the insanity and madness fills the pages with no other characters intruding. As the days wear on, the environment becomes mentally degrading and insanity spirals until the first person account turns nothing into dribble and rambling from a once coherent, bright and astute writer. Written as a journal, I only need one character in this isolated storyline which shows how social degradation and madness is tied to isolation. Strangely enough, it is actually a real phenomenon.
  18. Mackers
    Offline

    Mackers Senior Member Reviewer

    Joined:
    Apr 30, 2012
    Messages:
    457
    Likes Received:
    260
    Location:
    Co. Tyrone, Ireland
    When you have a story with only one character, and it's written in the first person, it would be very easy to slip into the trap of the character seeming self-indulgent. Every thing would be me, me, me and what I think. Unless it's written well it would be a chore to read
  19. MVP
    Offline

    MVP New Member

    Joined:
    Apr 17, 2011
    Messages:
    99
    Likes Received:
    6
    Stephen King did this in his work, "Gerald's Game."
  20. jane elliot
    Offline

    jane elliot Member

    Joined:
    Jul 16, 2012
    Messages:
    23
    Likes Received:
    1
    If the character potentially crash lands on an alien planet and is forced to fight her way off, then does the character not have any interactions with her threats or challengers? Or does she only face environmental strife? Like, from plants, animals, or the landscape?

    The thing that came to mind when I read about your idea of a single, solitary character was the movie Into the Wild (as opposed to the book, which is basically just a journal), but then I remembered that the main character did interact with other people briefly and intermittently throughout his isolation, only to realize at the end that "Happiness is only real when shared." Like, the benefit of life was the gift of sharing it with other people. Not that that is an overarching theme in every isolation story--it's definitely not, but my concern would be that a character too isolated would just become unlikeable, and people wouldn't want to read about her for long. But as long as your internal dialogue is interesting, your character likable, and your external environment stimulating, then I think this story could work.
  21. Cerrus
    Offline

    Cerrus New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2011
    Messages:
    177
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Right Behind You
    Me and a friend of mine have been brainstorming over this idea for quite some time now. There's now a lot more than just a crash landing, but it would take a long time to explain. Though, I will answer some of your questions. The whole planet itself is desolate and there are no intelligent life forms, only creatures. Back story will be revealed on what happened to the preceding alien life forms. Also, the entire planet itself is one big living thing. Oh and another thing, I don't want this story to be a survival story. Although I've read many survival story books and have thoroughly enjoyed them, this story is based on discovery. I want the reader to be immersed in the new world.

    Oh and here's a quick sketch I did of the character for fun. I hope it's alright if I post it.

    http://fav.me/d57vl2p
  22. LizRein
    Offline

    LizRein New Member

    Joined:
    Jul 19, 2012
    Messages:
    5
    Likes Received:
    0
    I don't know if your have read/skimmed any of the 50 Shades of Gray books but they are all in first person. Almost everything is in her view point. You could do something like that. It was weird to read but after a while I got used to it. It would really emphasize the loneliness of the character.
  23. vVvRapture
    Offline

    vVvRapture New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2012
    Messages:
    52
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Northeast
    First off, awesome that you know Metroid exists. :p

    However, remember, Metroid works because it's a video game, has great game-play, and the narrative is either supplied by lore or other interactive information. However, do note - Samus is not always by herself the entire time. Metroid Prime 2, Metroid Prime 3, Metroid Fusion and Metroid: Other M all have other characters that she interacts and speaks with. And, even then, she isn't the only "character" in other games, like Metroid Prime (Ridley definitely counts as a character).

    But, I do understand the idea you are going with here. It's hard to pull off with a book because this kind of idea needs to be very supported by a ton of description that would otherwise be supplied by visuals in a movie or video game...or the character talks to himself or herself the entire time.
  24. Cerrus
    Offline

    Cerrus New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 3, 2011
    Messages:
    177
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    Right Behind You
    @LizRein

    My parents would never let me read 50 Shades of Gray haha.

    Well it is the best video game series ever. =D

    Also, I understand where you're going with how Metroid does have interaction with other characters such as Ridley, or the SAX in fusion and there are enemies that my character will have to face. As I said previously, there are no intelligent life forms on the planet, but there are other things on the planet that he'll have to fight.
  25. vVvRapture
    Offline

    vVvRapture New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 22, 2012
    Messages:
    52
    Likes Received:
    2
    Location:
    Northeast
    If you ever get published, I must buy your work just because you said that. Metroid is indeed the best video game series ever.

    Well, with that said, I can definitely see your character talking to himself or possibly creating another persona in his head to talk to. With that kind of isolation, it's very much possible for that to happen.
Similar Threads: Story Character
Forum Title Date
General Writing Writing a story with many characters and without a particular goal May 19, 2014
General Writing Usually, you choose how many characters for your story? Apr 29, 2014
General Writing When a Character is Reading a Story. Jul 19, 2013
General Writing I feel stuck with this character and his story... Feb 13, 2013
General Writing How to write about fictional characters and story on a non-fictional setting? Dec 16, 2012

Share This Page