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  1. Rainer
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    Rainer Member

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    My horror story protagonist dilemma.

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by Rainer, Oct 3, 2010.

    Hi all, this would be my first post on this very informative forum. And I thank everyone for all the tips I have picked up thus far via lurking.

    However, the time has come to probe your minds with my own question regarding plot.

    I have just began penning a new horror story, aiming at around the novella mark. The concept is quite outlandish, so please bare with me.

    The object of obsession in my story is a seemingly immortal man. He is over 100 years old and his body has stopped aging, however his mental state still diminishes, and as time goes on, the man just wants to be taken to the afterlife. The reason of his immortality is that he was an executioner in his day (or 'hangman'), and has seen the face of death so many times that he has seemingly become immune to it.

    Now, certain religious cults have become aware of this man. And one cult in particular (a bunch of very deranged individuals) believe him to be some kind of God. However, due to their obvious insanity, they mean to track him down and do very awful things to him.

    And my question is this: could the immortal man be the main protagonist? Keep in mind that his mental state is degenerating, and for most of the story he will be on the run with a friend of his, escaping the lunatics after him. I want to keep his dialogue minimal, as he is basically a senile old man.

    OR, would it be a better idea to have a main character as a newbie to the religious cult? However, along the journey, he realizes that the cult is basically insane and wants out.

    Any help would be very much appreciated to this newbie writer. I have been reading horror novels for many years, however the 'What Would King Do?' approach doesn't work on this one. Any questions about the story, characters, ect just hit me up.

    Many thanks.


    Edit - meant to put this in Plot Creation. My apologies. Please feel free to move it there.
     
  2. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    No reason why not. It's your story. If you can tell it best with him the pricipal focus and/or the POV character, then do it.

    The protagonist need not be likable or particularly sane, nor must the protagonist be the same as the POV character.

    In Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, the main character is Randall McMurphy, a troublemaker faking insanity to get out of a prison sentence, and who is lobotomized near the end of the novel. The POV character is a schizophrenic half-Native American who pretends to be a deaf-mute.
     
  3. Lee Shelly
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    Lee Shelly Member

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    Good question. Which is more important to you? What side of the story feels like the story you want to tell? Do you want those two ideas to interact, or is there only one way to tell it? Do an exercise, write a couple of pages from both points of view, and one of them will feel better to you, truer to the story. And once you start writing, your ideas will start to flow, and you'll have a much better idea of where you want the story to go.

    It sounds like a great idea, and one that I look forward to hearing more about =) Good luck!
     
  4. w176
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    w176 Contributing Member Contributor

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    You got to read Flowers for Algernon, a brilliant yet easy to read novel about a mentally disabled but happy man given a serum to boost his intelligence to genius levels, and then his reaction as the serums effects slowly wither. If you want to touch upon the subject of diminishing with is a must read. (And available at most library as well as online stores)

    And I say either could make a great book, or both. Give it a try, try both perspectives for a page or two and get a feel for what you would prefer.
     
  5. Beckahrah
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    Beckahrah Member

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    I think it would be interesting to have the crazy man as your protagonist. It might be more difficult, because you'd have to find a way to get your story across in an intelligible way while still portraying his descent into madness. Is this for a short story or a novel? Perhaps the crazy-protagonist would work out better in a short story setting, because there is less to write and keep track of. I've written short stories from a mad character's point of view, and they usually come of sufficiently creepy. It would be a challenge to do so for the entire length of a novel, though; but it could also be brilliant!
     
  6. Aszyllin
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    Aszyllin Member

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    Some of my favorite books I have read have a crazy protagonist.
    The opportunities are endless... with someone who isn't completely sane or going slightly "off his rocker" you can incorporate flashbacks, illusions, or even an interesting dialogue between him and... himself! Ha!
    On the other hand, if this proves too much work, then I suppose his sidekick could also help to fill the storyline :)
    Good luck, it does sound interesting!
    Aszy
     
  7. John Cleeves
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    John Cleeves Member

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    Of course he can. There can be more at stake than death, as there are far worse fates than dying.
     
  8. caimomile
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    caimomile Member

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    Interesting story concept. IMO, the immortal would be a much more interesting protagonist. I would also suggest you tell your tale in the first POV and have the immortal become an unreliable narrator. If executed correctly, the reader would feel the immortal's diminishing mental state.
     
  9. Ashleigh
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    Ashleigh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Sure you can. Look at The Nutty Proffessor, lol! He gets less intelligent over time.

    Just kidding, though - there's a science fiction book my boyfriend read, entitled Flowers For Algernon, which deals with a similar state of mind.

    If you write well, anything goes. Perhaps you could read Flowers For Algernon to get an idea of how it's done.
     
  10. Peerie Pict
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    Peerie Pict Contributing Member Contributor

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    I like your concept.

    I can absolutely see how writing from the POV of someone with a diminishing mind might be daunting. It struck me that perhaps he may not need to be actually losing his mind but rather, merely thinking he is. Is it strictly necessary that he be suffering from something that gradually erodes his mental faculties? Are you planning on the deterioration to be fairly advanced by the end of the novel?

    Of course, thinking he is losing his mind still presents difficulties as his paranoia may manifest itself in very similar ways to an actual mental disorder. However, it might allow you to maintain a fairly lucid POV while inviting the reader to speculate if he is, in fact, losing his mind, or merely imagining so.

    Then again, I don't recall ever having read a story where the protagonist's mind is gradually diminishing. Perhaps, if executed properly, it could be very evocative as the others have said.
     
  11. Elgaisma
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    Elgaisma Contributing Member Contributor

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    Have you read King Lear or Macbeth? - both Macbeth and his wife lose their mental faculties in various ways. I know they are not main protagonists etc Shakespeare in many of his plays takes a similar idea with a major character it may give you some ideas.

    It is a biography/autobiography but John Suchet's My Bonnie is beautiful as well
     
  12. SashaMerideth
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    SashaMerideth Contributing Member

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    Planescape:Torment It's an RPG with an immortal protagonist of sorts, can't remember much more, but it could be really fun to mess with your readers minds as your main protagonist degenerates into insanity.
     
  13. Rainer
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    Rainer Member

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    Many thanks for all your ideas, everyone. It's great to know that some people like my concept. I've gone for the immortal man as the main character, but told it from the third person perspective to be able to have more freedom over the scenes without him in.

    @ w176, Ashleigh - thanks for the recommendation. I've ordered the book already. Just about to re-read The Shining too to get into the right frame of mind.

    @ Aszyllin - excellent idea for him to have conversations with himself. Hopefully going to be able to explain his 'mythology' to the readers using this method. The opening scene is also him seeing an illusion in his garden of a hanging taking place (his old lifestyle which he longs for).

    Well the reason I came up with this idea was that I read an article on why immortality would be a worse fate than death. One of the reasons was that your mental capacity will get clogged up with useless info you don't really need to know the more you age, thus slowing down the inner workings of the brain, eventually forcing you to become a fumbling, senile old mess. This is what has happened to my immortal man. And when these people come after him, he can't understand why. He is simply just aging, and raised in a different time. The world seems scary to him, and when the baying for his blood begins, he becomes even more terrified and confused. So you hit the nail about him just thinking he's mad, but not actually being.

    The incident which sets his insanity off is when he discovers human remains on his doorstep (offered to him by an cult follower who believes him to be god, in an attempt to restore the immortal man's youth). By the end he will be severely demented and traumatized, indeed. But that's when the magic happens.
     
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  14. kaylynwrong
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    kaylynwrong Member

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    Definitely the crazy, immortal man. If I read a book jacket and saw a blurb about a crazy, immortal man on the run from religious fanatics, I'd probably pick it up. Sounds like a great idea!
     
  15. pumpkin
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    pumpkin New Member

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    Both Macbeth and King Lear would be considered the protagonists of their respective plays. Another Shakespearean example would be Hamlet, although his insanity is feigned (perhaps totally, perhaps in part), but still an example.
     
  16. Mirtzan
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    Mirtzan New Member

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    You might want to consider making the old man's friend the protagonist. Since he'd be following the guy around, you could tell the story from his perspective. That way, it would be easier for you to connect to your reader, although it might be harder to empathize with the crazy old man's state of mind.
     
  17. Danielle Serratus
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    Danielle Serratus New Member

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    I think you should write it as the immortal man, it would be far more interesting and also would provide more of an oppertunity to be original and adapt a unique style of writing.
     
  18. sereda008
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    sereda008 Senior Member

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    Great story. I would prefer if you would have him as the main pov character as that would deepen the mood in my opinion. I mean, it would be a lot better if the main character was the hunted, not some guy the pow has met during a grave robbery.
     
  19. Darkhunter
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    Darkhunter New Member

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    Do multiple POVs? Might be hard to start off but you could have the main protagonist as the immortal and switch to other people when you want to portray the scene a little different.

    I really like the idea of the immortal as the main guy since you could have some of his memories be 'overwritten' by others so when he thinks of old memories he realizes they have changed. Kind of in tune with your limited space idea you put up earlier.
     

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