1. DaveLu
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    DaveLu Member

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    Multiple Protagonists...as in more than three. And male dominated casts.

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by DaveLu, Apr 2, 2015.

    I'm just going to get it out of the way and say it right now. It's a superhero story.

    Originally there were six characters, but I recently realized there absolutely needed to be a seventh. The reason why is because they each represent elements. Let's just say it would be the equivalent to there being "earth, wind, water, and nothing else." haha

    I live by the idea that every story needs a strong character and premise, which is why I'm having a crisis. Macbeth -- Ruthless ambition leads to its own destruction. All seven of my characters -- uuuuhmm

    See what the issue is? haha

    I am so in love with the characters and environment that I've created. I can't imagine any of them less or more important than another (though one of them is technically the leader from a political stand point). Once upon a time, I did see a main protagonist, but as each character grew, I just loved each and every one more and more.

    It seems like I may have to bring one or two forward, and send five or six to the back. The other characters would be present, just not as prevalent. They all play important roles, but the story would revolve around the one/two. Again this is hard for me because I've already built up strong conflicts between each of them.

    Does seven characters as protagonists just seem like too much in general?

    Do I need a premise for all seven characters as one or individually? (Most of them have their own substories, but eventually they all come together in the group to unite under a common goal.)

    One of the reasons it works for something like the Avengers is because we're already familiar with the characters, individually. But mine don't have previous, separate sagas.

    AAAnd on another note.

    Originally there were five guys one girl. I thought that this seemed kind of unbalanced, and it may rub off on some people the wrong way, so I tried to even it out. My friend disagreed with me, that I shouldn't change the sex of my characters just because of what people think, but there just seemed like so much testosterone! So now the ratio is 4b:3g. I kind of like keeping it slightly unbalanced because I like the dynamic, but would it bother any one else? Do you think that 5 guys and 1 girl is a little too male dominated? There are plenty of other heroes in this story who are female but our main characters are this group.

    I tried to ask my friend, but he gave me an answer that made me think he was a misogynist, so I need someone else's opinion.
     
  2. Shadowfax
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    Shadowfax Contributing Member Contributor

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    You seem to want to be a little vague about what the question is...

    It's hard to have a story where 7 characters are ALL the MC. It's hard (probably bloody impossible!) to have a scenario where 7 characters are ALL the leader. Try as you may, somebody will always be the one who says "This is what we're gonna do". And it probably won't be Superman, it'll be some runt with a brain instead of a superpower. And there's no reason (perhaps quite the opposite!) why it wouldn't be a girl whose thinking isn't dominated by testosterone. Even more so if she's the only girl around. Check out Margaret Thatcher.
     
  3. kfmiller
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    kfmiller Active Member

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    If you want to stick with the seven protagonists one way you could do that is by making each chapter from a different character's POV à la A Song of Ice and Fire series. Also- just me, but I wouldn't force a certain gender on a character to make it balanced. It'd write the character how I imagine it. The Avengers movie only has 1 girl and I haven't seen anyone really care (although I haven't looked for it, either).

    Is the 7th protag.... Captain Planet? :supercheeky:
     
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  4. DaveLu
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    DaveLu Member

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    I know for sure there will only be one leader (and actually by leader I probably mean spokesman of the group). But I'm just trying to figure out the whole MC deal now. I can definitely see how it's hard to deal with 7 MCs but I have no idea which one I'd choose, because I love them all (admittingly some more than other) but it comes down to four. And of these four, I just can't decide who. >.<

    And the testosterone statement wasn't really referring to any of their personalities/characteristics. I just said that cuz I thought it was a funny way to say there were more guys than girls. lol One of the female MC's (or now, possibly the MC) is practically a tom-boy.
     
  5. DaveLu
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    DaveLu Member

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    Haha xD

    I can't imagine switching POVs that much, I've just been using Omniscient Third so far (I believe that's the right one I'm thinking of). And I agree, forcing it.

    When I offered to change the leader to a girl, my friend said I needed a strong male figure not a female as the leader, at which I got mad and then wanted to change the sex of the character just to infuriate him, prove him wrong, and get away from preset standards myself.

    So now one of my characters is having an identity crisis... Part of me wants to change it for the reasons previously stated, but then again part of me feels like I shouldn't because it doesn't feel right for the character.
     
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  6. kfmiller
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    kfmiller Active Member

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    I'd absolutely follow your gut.
     
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  7. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't think seven protagonists is automatically too many, but it is a lot. I think it will make it more difficult for readers to really get attached to any of them. Again, not impossible, but you'll have to work at it.

    In terms of a "premise" for all of them? I'm not sure premise is the word you want? I think you need a plot for all of them. I think you need characterization and hopefully a character arc with a satisfying resolution for all of them. But I don't think you need a thematic message for each of them, more than just whatever comes from their character arc...
     
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  8. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Go with your gut and do what's good for the story. You could always write another book with a female leader later. Your friend's still sexist and wrong even if you have a male leader lol :supergrin:
     
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  9. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree -- don't change the gender of the character just because. Go with what feels right. Stories often fail because the writer tries to lead instead of letting the characters do it for them.

    As for seven MCs, it's possible, but difficult in one book. Like BayView said, it's going to be hard for a reader to get attached to anyone and really care about them. Now, if you were planning a series, you could do each book told by a different character. The series Everworld by K. A. Applegate did this. She had four major characters, and each book was told by a different character. It was really interesting to read, because you got a good sense of who they all were. But that's only useful information if you were planning on writing multiple books.. lol

    If you really want to choose one (two could be done also) main character... Which character changes the most? Which one has the most growth? Which one gets ripped up and torn down then builds himself back up? That's the character whose head I'd want to be inside the most. Don't think of it as choosing a favorite. They'll all still be there. But there will always be one person better suited to tell it than another, especially if they are together a lot.
     
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  10. DaveLu
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    DaveLu Member

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    Ok so I forgot the important part where I mention the fact that this actually IS supposed to be a series haha


    This helps a lot, I almost forgot about these important deciding questions.
     
  11. Wyr
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    Wyr Active Member

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    Seven MCs is a lot, but totally doable if you spread them out over a series of books. Rick Riordan's Heroes of Olympus series does exactly that- seven protagonists (though he even adds two more in the final book) written in third person. He handles it by focusing on 3-5 of the characters per book and switches between their PoVs by chapter.

    Don't shoe-horn female characters into your book just to reach a certain ratio or quota, that's a recipe for flat, throwaway characters. If you are really that worried about having more guys than girls, take a long, hard look at all of them (even the female one) and imagine them as a different sex. Brainstorm if/how that would affect them. Would it open them up more or reduce them to nothing more than cardboard placeholders? Switching the sex for one of my side characters in the story I'm currently really breathed new life into it after I thought I had hit a brick wall on it, but in the end you should go with whichever feels better for the character. Like Mckk said, go with your gut.

    Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaand now that theme song is stuck in my head... thanks. :superagree:
     
  12. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually I think it's more like every three chapters. He always put the characters in a difficult situation and follows them until it's resolved.

    That's my favorite series ever.... :love: I feel like such a child saying that. lol
     
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  13. DaveLu
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    DaveLu Member

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    Uh oh, at first glance that series looks a little similar to mine. I'll take a read.
     
  14. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Nah, yours is super hero. Heroes of Olympus is about Greek and Roman gods and their children. You're cool. :p
     
  15. Commandante Lemming
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    Commandante Lemming Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well you do see "ensemble casts" which is more of a "there is no protagonist and the story is about all of these people interacting" - but pure ensembles are rare. You might be able to pull it off - I know I have a really big cast and most readers think it works - but it's difficult. That said - just write what you want to write and see who emerges. You might end up with, say, three characters who get the most interesting stuff and four who don't. But for now just write.

    That and look into how "true ensembles" are constructed. Game of Thrones/Song of Ice and Fire is a big one in the public consciousness right now. You see it a bit more on TV - especially long running shows. Modern Family is an ensemble without a firm protagonist. Grey's Anatomy, where Meredith Grey is technically the protag, often functions as an ensemble because Meredith is the least interesting person in her own story. CSI does this at times although in workplace shows (whether it's a drama or a comedy) the boss often ends up as the protag...although that's part of the reason the Grey's Anatomy ensemble worked so well, it was a workplace drama that put its protags at the bottom of the organizational structure at the beginning.
     
  16. ZYX
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    ZYX Member

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    I don't see a problem with seven MCs. If you're doing third person omniscient you can still kind of focus on certain characters more than others. It might also help to have them split up sometimes ? Then it's more like two sets of about four people to deal with, and you can switch those small groups around so that everyone gets their interactions with the rest of the cast.
    To decide who to focus on, I'd try writing segments from each of them in third person limited and see who's narrative flows best and you can write the easiest and go with them.

    I wouldn't worry too much about the genders. It will turn away some readers who aren't up for reading something with a ton of dudes but having a mix will turn away just as many readers. I wouldn't force yourself to write them as girls if they feel like boys. If you're worried about representation within the main cast, you can try to vary race and sexuality and see if those flow more naturally. Then just try to work on making more female minor characters. Don't force yourself to write things for other people's benefit.
     
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  17. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    Actually, in the Everworld book I mentioned earlier, there were four main characters, and they were all male except one. and that never bothered me. :) So again, I wouldn't worry too much about it.
     
  18. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    In my and my writing partner's WIP, there're 6 POV characters + 1 extra POV that is only for one chapter. A recipe for annoyance, doom, and whatnot, perhaps, but the way we've done it is that 3 PoV characters are the main characters and the rest are less main, although they have Point of View moments. So I have faith in ensemble casts, but since this manuscript hasn't been published yet, it's difficult to say if what we've done works. In Ice & Fire there're plenty of PoVs and people seem to like it. You skip the PoVs you don't care about, and that's fine. In Hyperion, we also get several characters whose stories the reader becomes familiar with. It works, as they're all interesting individuals.

    As for the story being male dominated... Yeah, don't feel pressured to go down the PC quota road. Let those who really want to write female dominated or 50-50 casts do their thing, and you do your thing. It's possible you get ideas for new female characters at some point and maybe end up switching some of the current ones, but don't do it to please readers... Some of them will never be pleased, and you end up with three female characters they call sexist, one-dimensional, and stupid even though you tried your damnest to be inclusive. Female heroines might be more marketable in S/SF nowadays, but it's a slippery slope if you try to write to please a certain audience...
     
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  19. TWErvin2
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    TWErvin2 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Being 'in love with them all' as main characters doesn't necessarily mean it's a wise choice in storytelling. Being an author is often about making tough choices. Sometimes there are wonderful scenes or great phases, descriptions, settings, bits of dialogue that you're enamored with and would love to be a part of the novel/story, but sometimes those just have to be cut for the betterment of the story.

    You might just have to pick and choose which of the 7 characters make the cut as leads, and which are given strong supporting or supporting roles. If you write more than one novel in the world, there will be opportunities for the others to step forward and to be the central focus. Too many characters can dilute the story, even a character-driven story.

    I am guessing that there will also be at least one or more villains that will require screen (or page) time.

    How to choose? Maybe you won't have to. Seven main characters can be done...there is no absolute 'right' or 'wrong' in this area. But if you consider the plotline, the main story arc and conflict...which of the 7 superheroes are the ones best suited to tell the story...for the readers to experience the story. Because, in the end, it's about the readers (unless your intention is to write this simply for yourself--and nothing wrong with that, but that would change the focus of the story's content for sure).
     
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  20. DaveLu
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    DaveLu Member

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    Yeah someone above mentioned asking questions like "Who changes the most," and I've been doing that. I guess I kind of knew the story was going to focus around either one or two of the seven characters. I just need to find a personal goal for him/the two.
     
  21. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't remember where I read it, but I remember someone discussing how groups often have The Smart Guy, The Handsome Guy, The Strong Guy, The Geeky Guy, and The Girl. The men have personalities and attributes; the woman is defined by being a woman. Period.

    It sounds like your one-female-character option is at risk of following that pattern. Who is this woman? Is she The Geeky Hero, The Smart Hero, The Strong Hero? Is she someone, or just The Girl?
     
  22. Megalith
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    Megalith Contributing Member Contributor

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    I have multiple protagonist in my work of fiction. Like @kfmiller said I'm switching POV's each chapter, and the characters do run into each other, become friends, but their each so specialized and powerful, having them in the same place is a waste of valuable resources.(That's just my excuse.) So they don't stick to each other for long, and usually each have their own side characters to order around. (This way they don't' steal each other's thunder, even though they are all technically under some one else's orders.)

    Your story sounds a lot like mine actually. only instead of elements each character represents a fundamental force of nature. Their personalities are loosely based on their powers, which evolve as their personality does. So maybe think of the powers, or simply let the element inspire your character. It is a little cliche' but it is a working formula that you simply need the inspiration, to make work.
     
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  23. DaveLu
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    Damn I definitely have fallen into that pattern. The girl I have usually doesn't stick to a particular role but if I had to choose I'd say she keeps everyone level headed, witty, she's peaceful and loving in times of stress. Smart, but not geeky. And nimble looking but oh so strong.

    I guess I have the Handsome Smartass Friend, The Brave and Objective Leader, The Wise Guy (sagacious not as in smart ass), I don't think my main character really falls into one of these roles.

    However these characters change, for example the handsome guy completely stops being a douchebag as time goes on. The wise guy doesn't get smart until later, etc.
     
  24. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It sounds like she's The Caregiver. A stereotypically feminine role, but at least it's a role.
     
  25. ZYX
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    TV Tropes calls it the Five Man Band. They define it as Hero, Hero's Friend, Smart guy, Tough guy, Girl, basically. It's not necessarily bad if your characters fit, since I don't think it's a cliche, but if you're worried it may be worth playing with.
     

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