1. Amideus
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    Amideus New Member

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    A Victorious Antagonist

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Amideus, Jun 6, 2012.

    Hey There,

    So I've got my plot down and, even though I'm new, it is a series plot. I understand that publishers won't take series from new writers, but each book can stand alone if needed - each has a definitive end to it. The problem I am encountering right now is that the end to the first book would include a victorious antagonist. How much of a problem is this if this were to be a standalone book?

    (It's a medieval-type fantasy if anyone is wondering)
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    The question is the same as always. Is that novel a complete story?

    If the antagonist wins, what does the protagonist gain? Is there a Pyrrhic victory for the protagonist?

    If it's clear that all the protagonist finishes with is the chance to retuen for a second round, you won;t fool anyone, especially the submissions editor.

    Publishers do not want to commit to a follow up book by a new author, nor do they want to provide the launching pad for a competitor to pick up the rest of the series if it is a success.

    No publisher will commit to more than one book at once from an untried author; a new writer is always a poor risk. If your book is clearly the beginning of a series, you are stacking the deck against yourself. As a new author, you're already fighting the odds.

    Moreover, as a new author, presenting what is clearly a jumping off point for a series tells the publisher you are a rank amateur.

    And one more thing. If you are a new author, you are on the steep leading edge of the learning curve. Your writing had better be improving greatly from your first novel to your second, and from your second to your third. This usually makes for a very uneven series, and you might even be embarrassed by your first book by the time you are on the third. Or by the third, you may well wish you hadn't committed to that series at all.

    Really, there are many reasons to to enter the world of published authors with a series, even if you can slip it through. Save it until you have well-received stand alone novels published.

    It's no skin off my nose if you ignore this advice. My only agenda is to maximize your chances of success.
     
  3. Amideus
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    Amideus New Member

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    Well, by the end of the first book, any reader would assume the protagonist is dead and the antagonist has been victorious.

    I understand what you are saying, though. The problem is that this is the plot in my mind and it's the one I have a desire to write.
     
  4. Show
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    I think it depends on what closure there is at the end of the first book. Antagonists can "win" in books, but there has to be closure to the story somehow. Is the victory total? Or is it a hollow victory where the antagonist gets what they want but it doesn't really matter? Obviously, you don't want to make it obvious that this is a series. If the series fell through, there has to be a satisfactory closure to this story.
     
  5. Amideus
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    Amideus New Member

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    Thanks, Show.
     
  6. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    A dead protagonist and victorious antagonist would certainly raise a question about your choice of protagonist.
     
  7. koal4e
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    koal4e Member

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    Im on my first novel too in a similar arena to you Amideus, I have a plot that will take me to four books and worry about the issue Cogito talks of about a series. This being said, I have had some great advice from a fellow member and its about building each book into an act, in a sense the book could stand alone without being in a series, or it could continue to be a series.

    Cogito offers many words of wisdom I have learnt, but at the same time I need to write my story as its burning to be put on paper.

    I hope you enjoy the forum and also cant wait to get into some fantasy swashbuckling, sword fighting talk!
     
  8. psychotick
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    psychotick Contributing Member Contributor

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    Hi,

    My thought would be that with the antagonist victorius and the protagonist dead (or seemingly so), you end up with two possibilities for your reader. Either the reader believes that the story is ended, in which case many will feel unhappy with the book, or he believes that there is more to come, i.e. it is part of a series. I'm not sure which is worse - or better.

    One thing I can say, it would take a fantastic writer to make me read a book in which the guy I'm rooting for ends up dead in a ditch and the bad guy wins, and I still enjoyed the read. As a reader I'm happily shallow. I want a happy ending of at least some sort.

    I could be happy if the hero died victorius (i.e. a stand alone book). I could survive if the bad guy won but the hero achieved some sort of success like living to fight another day (i.e. your series). But complete and total disaster? No.

    Cheers, Greg.
     
  9. Show
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    The OP has several options that can still make the "dead protagonist/victorious villain" work. If you think about it in terms of just this story, it might come easier. But not knowing anything about your plot, I can already come up with many possible scenarios. It's doable. You just might have to (at least for the moment) stop thinking about it in terms of a series.
     
  10. koal4e
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    What if there were more than one protagonist, the first one dies and another takes there place to continue the fight?
     
  11. Program
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    I read somewhere that a story must have a beginning, a middle and an end. If the "antagonist" wins, but it's still an ending, you should be okay. Just don't try cliffhanger endings... because those don't exactly "end" the story.

    In addition, I don't recall ever hearing "you can't let [insert type of person] win in your story"

    Also, I'm pretty sure a protagonist is just a main character and an antagonist is a guy opposing the main character. So if Abe is a protagonist and Bob is an antagonist, aren't they be interchangeable? I could say Bob is a protagonist and Abe is opposing him.

    Take something we all know, like Harry Potter. Harry Potter is the protagonist, and Voldemort is the antagonist. But why is that? Why isn't Voldemort the protagonist and Harry Potter the antagonist? If killing people was a charitable deed and trying to stop someone from killing people was an evil deed, would't Voldemort be the protagonist and Harry be the antagonist? I may be wrong, but I think protagonist vs. antagonist just becomes good vs. bad, which is a complete question about morals and has no definite answer.

    There's nothing wrong with having the bad guy win, and just because he's bad doesn't necessarily mean he must be the antagonist.

    So once again, if you have a solid beginning, middle and ending, you should be fine. Just know that this could be difficult because you are making an ending that must make the book look like it has ended and you must make the same ending be able to connect to the start of your next book in the series.
     
  12. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Again, the same questions arise about the choice of the protagonist focused on by the story.

    The problem isn't just the stand alone storyline, it's trying to make one that is compatible with the series goal. A writer could certainly write a story in which it's unclear which is the protagonist, the hero or the antihero, but trying to make that serve double duty as the intro to a series is not particularly compatible. That isn't to say it's impossible, but it will very likely be beyond the skill level of any first time novelist. I'm sure there are first timers who will consider this a challenge to be met, but to them I say this: Don't let your ego get in the way of your success. I don't care how much innate talent you think you have, learn to walk, and to jog, before you try out for a world-class sprint.
     
  13. digitig
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    digitig Contributing Member Contributor

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    You will almost certainly need to cut the thing down by 50-70% in the editing (first drafts by inexperienced writers almost always need that) so by the time you've finished you can probably get the whole series into one book.
     
  14. Show
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    Don't be so sure. I had the opposite effect in revision. I found my story was too simple and needed some fleshing out. Just about everything I've written grew pretty noticeably upon revision. (And I've never heard anybody yet say it was better when it was shorter.) Not saying this is the case with everyone, but it's hardly "almost certain."

    And really, until we actually know what the heck is going on with the OP's story, speculation is just fruitless.
     
  15. digitig
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    I can only see it working if the protagonist has achieved the goal that was driving the book: if the protagonist wasn't trying to kill the antagonist but was trying to thwart the antagonist's fiendish plot. If the protagonist dies (or appears to) but has saved the world (for now) it matters less that the antagonist lives.
     
  16. Show
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    Well, it could also work if he's convinced another character (who maybe was either not ready or not a supporter) to take up the cause via their death. For example, maybe the goal is to overthrow the government and there's a character who thinks that the protagonist is just some nutty revolutionary. (But ends up having to stick with the protagonist for survival or whatnot) And the protagonist's death somehow wakes up this other character to the necessity of the fight and he/she ends up taking up the cause and even though the antagonist wins (although I imagine "doesn't lose" would be a more appropriate term) and the protagonist dies, there's still some closure because the protagonist still can sort of live on in this other character, who readers see will continue the fight.

    Again, made that up totally off the top of my head. But my point is that the OP's idea can work and work well within a stand-alone book.
     
  17. Amideus
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    Thanks for all the opinions everyone, they have been a help.

    I believe the end of the book would have a solid close to it, as the second book in the series would pick up a couple of years after.
     
  18. Mckk
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    The very idea that the fight is not over means it is not closure in any sense of the word, and is certainly screaming: "I am a series! SERIES!"

    Which contradicts your claim that it'd "work well" as a stand-alone novel... :rolleyes:

    It could work well as an ending - but it certainly is not a stand-alone novel. The fight - which is the main conflict of the book - has not been resolved, meaning an open ending, meaning...... yes, series!

    But tbh OP, just write what you want. The truth is, if the idea doesn't work, you'll certainly find out soon enough. A novel is much more like a plant than it is like a building - it will become what it naturally must become, and the author can only shape it to a certain extent. (which sounds strange since the author calls all the shots, technically - but you make a decision and there're natural consequences of said decision that is sometimes hard to foresee because there're too many factors)

    There're certain things that you cannot force. So just write it the way your heart says you should. You'll know soon enough if it works, if it contributes to the story, if it's necessary, or if it was a bad idea that you need to ditch, but no one will convince you better than the novel itself (and the writing process) will.
     
  19. Show
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    ^^^^That's not necessarily true at all. It hardly screams "series!" It merely indicates that life/the battle will go despite the protagonist dying. If the story is the story of a particular person, that person's story can end with their death but the knowledge that their legacy will live on. It's actually not that uncommon of an ending type. If the protagonist dies, they often end up having somebody else carry on their mission. Does it leave the possibility of a series wide open? Sure. Does it keep the novel from being standalone? Hardly. Closure isn't always the complete resolution of everything. It all depends on exactly how the story goes. It won't work in every scenario (and given what I know about the OP's story, it's not necessarily an option for him), but it's one way to bring a degree of closure to a story where the antagonist kills the protagonist. If anything, some stories (not all, but some) would probably benefit from such an ending over the cliche "kill the bad guy" one.
     
  20. randi.lee
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    randi.lee New Member

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    I love the victorious antagonist. In fact, one of my WIPs is a one-off where the antagonist wins at the end of the day.
     

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