1. Kallisto
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    Kallisto Active Member

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    Dual protagonists

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Kallisto, Jul 5, 2015.

    I'm writing a book, that seems to have two protagonists, at least in the beginning. They both experience very different things in the story and each is very vital to explaining the events. My question is, how do audiences feel about this. Are they going to be confused as to who to relate to? Is that even a problem in books. I know it's often an issue with movies.
     
  2. Simpson17866
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    Simpson17866 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Not a problem in the slightest. When I'm not working on something extremely short, I can't imagine trying to make the entire story be about just one person.
     
  3. Ms. DiAnonyma
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    Ms. DiAnonyma Active Member

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    I think that might give your readers some freedom to choose... if choose they must. Are the two protagonists at serious odds with each other, or are they fairly compatible with each other? How much do they interact? Are they equally important to the ending and meaning of the story? Is their importance more dependent on perspective or otherwise?
    You said "at least in the beginning"- Would the story be able to carry on at some point without one, but not the other? (Not necessarily recommending that you eliminate one, but it might help you to decide just how you might try to balance them).
    Personally I think you could probably work it just fine; might just make you more aware of character balance.
    Hope that helps.
     
  4. Kallisto
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    Kallisto Active Member

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    It's a fantasy setting and the protagonists are a woman and her seven year old niece. They interact a fair amount in the story, but experience vastly different things. Through the aunt, I explain a lot of the political and social stuff going on and through the niece I explain much of the magic mechanics and much of what happens has to do with her. But as the world is better explained, the niece's role does fade out a little.
     
  5. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    There's tons of options in what you've described - two protagonists at the start.
    Does one die?
    Does one turn bad?
    Do they turn on each other, both fighting for good, but seeing each others' methods or causes as evil?
    <option #4>?

    Sounds exciting!

    (edit) Whoops, there was another post added while I wrote the above sentences.
     
  6. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    This sounds to me like a natural pairing - kinda like in buddy movies. So there's no real choice that has to be made. Each should have their own story goals and arch though. And I wouldn't let the niece fade off too much if you've built her into a co-mc, readers might get disappointed. If she needs to fade off - I'd make sure the reader is warned.
     
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  7. Viridian
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    Viridian Contributing Member Supporter

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    Sounds interesting to me. Definitely wouldn't put me off, if anything I think it gives the story more of an edge. I agree with peachalulu regarding the niece though, perhaps fading her out when she's a MC would be a mistake?
     
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  8. Kallisto
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    Kallisto Active Member

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    To be fair, she's not completely phased out of the story all together. It's just very difficult to write the story, give the readers all the information from one POV. It can be done, but I'll miss a lot of character development for the niece, who is definitely critical for the story.
     
  9. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sack-a-Doo! Contributing Member Contributor

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    For commercially-oriented novels, only one character can be the main character. The other can be almost as important, but not quite. This has to do with audience identification which is usually linked to theme, the lesson learned by the focal character (see The Art of Dramatic Writing by Lajos Egri). You can get there via several means:
    • make one the protagonist, the other the antagonist,
    • make the older character the mentor, the younger one, the mentee (of course, this means the older one will have to die just before the third act starts so the younger one can show in the climax how she learned what the older one was teaching even though up until then, it looks like she didn't--see Star Wars Episode IV or anything else based on Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey),
    • make one character the first-person narrator and the other the main character (sort of a Watson/Holmes thing); this might be tricky for several reasons, but if you take the time to set up a structure a la Dwight V. Swain (Techniques of the Selling Writer) and/or Blake Snyder (Save the Cat!, Save the Cat! Goes to the Movies, and Save the Cat! Strikes Back) you can work out the kinks ahead of time,
    I used the third option above for Aliens Don't Bend at the Knees and the most difficult thing I found was relating events the narrator didn't witness. Dialog can work for this once the narrator and the main character get back together, but you can also show the two meeting up and then drop in a chapter break after which you're free to relate the missing scene as a sort-of third person flashback. Then do another chapter break to go back to the meet-up scene, again told in first-person, and show the narrator's reaction to the story the MC told.

    For what it's worth. :)
     
  10. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    It should work.

    I think you should have in mind who of the two is your "primary" protag just for the sake of the story arc and who you prioritize when push comes to shove between their storylines. I started with one protag - but her roommate/sidekick asserted herself so strongly that she really needed to help with protagging duties. So now I follow two arcs and refer to the former sidekick a "co-protagonist" - my original MC is still just "protagonist" or "main character". But now it's more Pilot and Co-Pilot than Batman and Robin. Sometimes I let the pilot take a break and the co-pilot gets to fly the plane for a while.
     
  11. Kallisto
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    Kallisto Active Member

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    I actually came to realize during rewrites that while a good chunk of the story does follow the niece, most of the story follows the aunt. And many of the scenes with the niece, while lengthy, only repeat information that was already established, so I'm planning on cutting them. And the scenes that do split, and do look like they're following separate stories, the aunt is taking the role of the antagonist. When the roles do settle and the minor conflict is resolved, she takes on a mentor/protector role to the niece.
     
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  12. Sack-a-Doo!
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    Sounds like you've got a solution. :)
     
  13. Hubardo
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    Hubardo Contributing Member Contributor

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    Murakami's 1Q84 did this really, really well. I'm sure others have as well. If you can skillfully show parallels or cross their stories over, bonus points :p
     
  14. Mattiemae
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    Mattiemae Member

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    Wouldn't it just be like Harry potter where the three of them went up against evil as a team and might just get in arguments and disagree at times.
     
  15. ToeKneeBlack
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    ToeKneeBlack Contributing Member Contributor

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    I too am building up to a point in my series where there are 3 main protagonists, with a leader, a planner and a physically strong individual. Don't feel like you have to limit yourself to a specific number of main characters - just make sure it's clear who's point of view is being explained.
     

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