1. The Peanut Monster
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    The Peanut Monster Senior Member

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    Two protagonists: same end, different means

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by The Peanut Monster, May 10, 2013.

    Hi there,

    I'm very new to writing, and so placing a tentative toe in the waters here to see what sorts of ripples I make...

    I'm writing a piece of dystopia, set in a fundamentally unequal society. I'm exploring the idea of having two protagonists, each with the same goal: trying to change the system, but with different approaches: one from within, one from without. The main conflicts are with each other and with the system itself. Is such an approach advisable? Has anyone tried this? Is it too much work to get the reader to empathise with two largely different MCs?

    A quick search on dual protagonist novels tends to lead me down the romance path, and I'm not really wanting to go there.

    Any tips on how to use multiple main characters is greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!
     
  2. Mauthos
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    Mauthos Member

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    Not sure on a good use, but try reading the Painted Man (Warded Man in America I think) by Peter V Brett. 3 books so far and he successfully uses multiple main character's especially 2 of them trying to head down similar paths but taking different approaches to get there.

    Also any of Joe Abercrombie's books are good to check out as again he generally writes about several main protagonists in his novels.

    Hope that is of some help.
     
  3. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    In the Warded Man the characters you are talking about are not heading down similar paths but rather their goals have adjacent results. Nevertheless it is a great example of what the OP is looking for.

    It is one of the most common approaches so you can find many examples if you look for them.
     
  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sounds good to me!... give it a go...
     
  5. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    My thoughts exactly. :)

    It's not difficult to get a reader to bond with multiple protagonists who are not romantically involved. Many tv shows and books take this route and are successful. I think balance is key. Don't favor one character over the other in terms of how often you show things from their pov. I'm not saying you have to be a stickler and have them equal down to the word count just have some balance. I like the idea of two characters with the same goal but with conflicting solutions.
     
  6. NathanRussell
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    NathanRussell Member

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    I'd have to agree with this, make sure their portrayals are balanced; it sounds like a very interesting idea and I'm sure that it's a great way to engage the reader.
     
  7. sierraromeobravo
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    sierraromeobravo Member

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    Can't think of a story like that off the top of my head but I'd love to see it developed. It would make for a great read.
     
  8. The Peanut Monster
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    The Peanut Monster Senior Member

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    Thanks all for your encouragement :)
     
  9. TerraIncognita
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    TerraIncognita Aggressively Nice Person Contributor

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    Glad to help! :)
     
  10. KaTrian
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    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Yes, do it! Sounds very interesting.

    Yup. Unfortunately the story turned out to be crap (it was about two girls starting a band), but it was fun to have only two main protags. Usually I have at least 3.

    Not at all, though I guess it depends on you as a writer. Are you able to invest into them both around as much? Only way to find out is to write.

    Pfft, so not necessery to do that. They can be friends, enemies, brief acquaintances, anything. And you can always write a gay character if that happened to fit the story.

    The danger with multiple POVs is that the reader ends up liking the other so much s/he skips the other character's chapters, so make sure to think of interesting hooks for them both and flesh both of them out, give them feelings and emotions (well, I suppose this is a given), cos even if they are not nice or are otherwise unlikable, if they are human, it's easier to care about them. Also, you have to be interested in both of them yourself, cos if you find the other less interesting, it's going to show in your writing.

    Many fantasy novels seem to employ two or more POVs, so you'll probably find inspiration from that genre, at least.

    Good luck!
     
  11. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Yeah go for it.

    Rather than reading how other successful authors did it maybe you can spend 90 minutes watching Evita; Che Guevara the revolutionary and Eva Peron the politician both trying to build a new Argentina. In Alan Parker's movie he switches between characters all the way through, one is starting fires, one is putting them out. At one stage they share a scene, they dance a tango and sing their beliefs to each other although they never met. Very clever.

    Go for it!
     
  12. ladyphilosophy
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    ladyphilosophy Member

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    I agree with what everyone else has said, inasmuch as it is an interesting approach and would certainly give a multidimensional feel to your novel and an opportunity for conflict. Funnily enough, my novel as it currently stands - in my head - features two main protagonists, who take very different paths and end up meeting...Well, I haven't figured out the ending yet, so very vague, but nothing romantic! Basically, I am experiencing similar doubts, so this thread is relevant to me, but think I need to add more dimensions, i.e. even more protagonists. Your story sounds brilliant to me though, much more thrilling than mine, which is set in the boring old real world...so I'd say go for it!!
     
  13. randomme1
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    randomme1 Member

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    I can attest for skipping certain characters chapters. I've done this once or twice when I realized how crappy one character was and how awesome another character is. Just make them both vital to the story and interesting and your story will be great.

    If you do this well, then when a conflict erupts between these two characters your readers will be drawn in, "at the edge of their seats." If you don't do a good job, then your readers will be rooting for one character to beat the other.
     
  14. erebh
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    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

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    Why would a reader be rooting for one character over another? They both have the same ending in sight.
    We don't know the plot of the story but we can assume one means is good and honest, the other not so. Who get's hurt? Are they toppling a government? One through political channels, the other a coup against an evil dictator?

    Going back to Evita I don't know if we favour one over the other, Alan Parker brought it to us a major tragedy with no winners. Eva died young, the country was in mourning for years; her husband who married her for popularity's sake cried, as did her enemies, even Che Guevara so until we know the plot of the OP's story we can only say if it's a good idea or point out potholes.
     
  15. The Peanut Monster
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    The Peanut Monster Senior Member

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    Thanks again guys!

    The plot details are still being worked out. But yes, essentially one character's trajectory is building up his political influence within the state, influencing key decision makers in restructuring the unequal parts of society (the society is class-based, the stratification occurring because of one or two isolated events in the past).

    The other protagonist intends to overthrow the government and replace it completely, a kind of "reset", because there is too much toxicity in the previous structure. This belief is mostly, though not entirely true. I want to avoid painting this character as the archetype "violence solves everything" character (which would bore me, I'm not sure about the reader though?) - and to make him more nuanced, I'm not quite sure how yet. Of the two, I think I need to spend more time exploring this character's motivations to ensure he retains his depth.
     
  16. Xatron
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    Xatron Contributing Member

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    You should watch the TV series Continuum. There is an extremely similar situation and so far I like both characters that correspond to your protagonists.
     
  17. SuperVenom
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    SuperVenom Contributing Member

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    An example I can think of is The Thief of time by terry prachett. There are two protagonists, both with the same goal but so different from each other. One starts in the mountains in a monastery and the other in a small town. They don't even really meet till the end.

    I doing the same now, I use chapter breaks, (i don't number mine, just leave a space.) And when they have time together I choose the POV (within 3rd person restrictions) of the one that fits the situation better. When i say POV i mean i don't head hop as this is a danger in such a situation.
     
  18. PyrZern
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    PyrZern Member

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    There's this anime called Code Geass.
    It's about 2 friends trying to change the corrupted government -- One by destroying it and install a new government, and another by going up the rank to the top to change it from within. They end up fighting each other because they are always in each other's way. One character is way more focused on than the other, though. You can look around for its further details. Remember, it's still an anime.
     

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