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  1. Kratos
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    Kratos Contributing Member

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    Who to root for?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Kratos, Jan 19, 2009.

    A lot of experienced writers tell aspiring writers to begin their books by introducing the protagonist and antagonist. They mention how they both need to be believable, but you should be able to tell who is the protagonist and who is the antagonist. But what if I want to write a book in which the "antagonist" is no more evil than the "protagonist". Is it ok to have readers choose which character to root for?

    Thanks for the input.
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    I don't see why not. Very common in oriental literature that the protagonist and the antagonist are much less cleanly defined than they are in western writing.
     
  3. Acglaphotis
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    Acglaphotis Contributing Member

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    I love those kind of books. You know when stories get all in your face, pummeling you to death while yelling "THE PROTAGONIST IS RIGHT"? It's annoying, and it gets old. If you can pull it off, it'll be great.
     
  4. Penny Dreadful
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    Penny Dreadful Senior Member

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    I think people have been sick of obvious good vs. obvious evil for some time now. Heck, I've always been one to root for the protagonist.

    As one of my English teachers once told me, the "protagonist" doesn't have to be evil, they're just the character who impedes the forward rhythm of the story.
     
  5. Acglaphotis
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    Acglaphotis Contributing Member

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    Penny, you're referring to the antagonist.
     
  6. Kratos
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    Kratos Contributing Member

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    I think you mean the antagonist. Ah, too late.
     
  7. Etan Isar
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    Etan Isar Contributing Member Contributor

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    In response to the question:

    When I write stories, I don't set anyone up as the hero or villain. I might be rooting for a certain character, but that has as little effect on their actions in the story as I can manage. I think it's a very interesting way to look at the conflict, and many of my favorite books work on this concept.
     
  8. Penny Dreadful
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    Penny Dreadful Senior Member

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    I was... I'm awesome at thinking one thing and typing another. It's a real gift.

    But, yes, huzzah for sympathetic villians... Though, there is something to be said for a nice, blunt good vs. evil plot every now and then now that I think about it. Still, I always like my villians to have a sense of humor. If a villian (in fiction, of course) has a sense of humor, I can forgive them just about anything.
     
  9. Shadow Dragon
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    Shadow Dragon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I say go for it. Blurring the line between good and evil is awesome. That's what I'm doing in my story. My mc is has a strong sense of justice, is honorable, loyal... vengeful, sadistic and wants the replace the nations of his home continent with his own empire.
     
  10. AnonyMouse
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    AnonyMouse Contributing Member Contributor

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    A plain good/evil story is a little harder to sell these days. I think most modern audiences expect a villian to be deeper than that. A villian should have understandable motivations and be more than just "doing it because it's what bad guys do."

    If you can sum him/her up using one (or maybe two) of the seven deadly sins, you've got a 1-dimensional villain. That's the rule of thumb I measure them by. It usually works.
     
  11. Fluxhavok
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    Fluxhavok Active Member

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    like spy vs spy, my friend always votes for the white spy and i always vote for black.

    or like that movie "the break-up," men pick the side of logic and sanity, while women pick jennifer aniston's side.

    in both situations the antagonist/protagonist line is never clearly defined. and that makes the debate all the more fun.

    i'm sure there are other much better examples but i'm much too drunk to think of them.
     
  12. tehuti88
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    tehuti88 Contributing Member

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    It seems a story could come across as forced if both protagonist and antagonist are introduced right off the bat, especially if the lines between them are blurred. Sometimes somebody can start out as one type of character and gradually become the other. I notice that I usually don't even introduce my protagonist in the first chapter/prologue, and more often I'll show the antagonist first. And some of my antagonists don't even show up until well into the story (though those are usually lesser antagonists).

    Blurring the lines between "good guy" and "bad guy" is not only fine but widely accepted nowadays. Take all advice with a grain of salt. If you think something might work for your story, then try it.
     
  13. Unsavory
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    Unsavory Active Member

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    Perhaps the trick is to introduce the protagonist and antagonist early on as exactly what they are, and then blur the lines later by way of the plot and how events unfold. I think it would be difficult to have two gray characters right at the start, but to have characters evolve in unexpected ways could be a pretty interesting story.
     
  14. Noodleguy
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    Noodleguy Senior Member

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    The villains tend to be my protagonists anyway. i.e. my most recent works include protagonists as:
    -A dragon setting out to kidnap a princess
    -A computer virus
    -A con artist
    -An insurance agent (Oh, but he's quite evil)
    -A goblin leading a revolt against humans
    -Aliens invading the earth, from the perspective of the aliens

    and so on and so forth...

    I always find sympathetic antagonists or strange protagonists to be the best. There's nothing wrong with what you're doing, actually it's probably better writing than black and white stuff.
     
  15. delhi
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    delhi Member

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    I hate when there is a pure white side and a pure dark one, leading to extreme characters. In any case, the very development of the story will eventually show who you root for, but it's great when you plant the seed of doubt, (who should the readers root for?). Of course, be careful not to tell the readers who to root for unconsciously.
     
  16. Kas
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    Kas Contributing Member

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    Nice thread!

    If you want to create truly believable characters, to the point where the reader may not know who to root for, I would highly reccomend George R.R. Martin's "Song of Ice and Fire" series as research material (and a great read).

    I'm so happy to see the responses here because I'm writing with the same idea as you. The heroes and villains may seem obvious in my story, but as the plot developes, readers will be forced to rethink their assumptions. My favorite character (I know, I shouldn't have a favorite:p) is one of the apparent villains.

    It's not even necessarily a case of grey morality. Some villains are morally reprehensible, yet accomplish more 'good' with cold cunning and logical schemes than those who bind themselves to a moral code. Incidentally, the good guys tend to screw things up by exacerbating certain conflicts, or creating issues where there were none.

    Flawed characters, or those with comprehesible villainous intent are always the most interesting, I find. The white light 'paladin' type of character always puts me in mind of a religious fanatic, for some reason. And usually the only way this kind of character can actually accomplish anything good is if you create some absurd evil that could only exist in fantasy.

    But to be fair... I loved the black and white tales plagiarised from Tolkien when I was 6-10 (read LotR at 6)... Childish writing is perfect for children.
     
  17. ArckAngel
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    You want bluing the lines between protagonist and antagonist?
    Watch The Prestige.
    Tell me who the protagonist is in that.
     

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