1. Killer300

    Killer300 Active Member

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    A Mentor Protagonist?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Killer300, Sep 3, 2013.

    I'm partially wondering whether a Mentor has been the main character before, or at least the one with the perspective of the book.

    Basically, what if there was a story from the perspective of someone like Gandalf or Obi Wan Kenobi? Or what such diminish the role, seeing as they seem to rely at least partially on being mysterious, in the mainstream anyway?
     
  2. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    Well, a fair number of murder mysteries have a senior-detective viewpoint character who mentors one or more lower-ranked police officers. However, the plot isn't primarily focused on that mentoring relationship, so that may not qualify.
     
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  3. Killer300

    Killer300 Active Member

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    There is that, but yeah, looking for something more focused on the relationship.

    Still, thanks for the example!
     
  4. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i'm a full time writing mentor... but my mentees are many, so i doubt you'd want to head in that direction... ;)
     
  5. Lucid420

    Lucid420 New Member

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    Hannibal Lecter was kind of a mentor to Clarice in Silence of the Lambs. He taught her new ideas and new ways to think about things, as well as getting her to expose many of her fears and insecurities.
    In the first book Red Dragon however he is very an much the antagonist trying to get the Red Dragon to kill the lead detective by giving him his home address from inside jail.
    In Hannibal we learn much more about Hannibal as a person, for the most part however he is still that evil shadowy figure that just wanted Clarice. Still the antagonist he is able to get Clarice to join him on his escapades.
    Then comes Hannibal Rising and we learn all about Hannibal's past and what makes him tick. He became who he was due to having to watch his sister be killed and eaten by deserted German soldiers of World War 2. He goes on to hunt all of them down and kill and eat them himself. Popular public opinion on the issue allows him to not be jailed for the crimes.

    So off the top of my head, Hannibal was the first I could think of.
     
  6. Killer300

    Killer300 Active Member

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    Hmm, interesting.

    Seems many works come close, but usually don't have the POV during the mentoring, or don't focus on this concept above others in the story.
     
  7. beltnoire

    beltnoire New Member

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    Outside of fanfiction, I haven't found any stories that focus on the mentor-student relationship from the Mentor's POV. The Hannibal Lector example above is interesting, and I admit that it could possibly be different in the novels, but the movies are not from his perspective.

    In mainstream stories, from my understanding, the mentor-figures are generally not the protagonists because they're often static characters. Just from personal experience, the mentor trope is more of a tool to transfer the MC (literally, metaphorically, spiritually) from point A to point B.
     
  8. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    If the traditional Student Protagonist has the mentor teaching the student how to get what the student wants, maybe the Mentor Protagonist should be teaching the student how to get what the mentor wants?

    The best example that I can think of off the top of my head is Breaking Bad (warning, Villain Protagonists abound): Walter White the chemistry teacher has the book-smarts to cook crystal meth; Jesse Pinkman the dropout has the street-smarts to sell it. However, while Jesse is shown to pick up surprisingly complete book-smarts from paying attention to what Mr. White tells him to do, Walter gets far more of his street-smarts from their increasingly brutal competitors than he gets from his own (far less sociopathic) partner.

    Even when Jesse combines his old street-smarts with his new book-smarts to come up with increasingly creative solutions, the focus is more on Walter for setting the goals than it is on Jesse for meeting them.
     
  9. Killer300

    Killer300 Active Member

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    Interesting, and seems the closet we've come is Breaking Bad, which doesn't quite get there.
     
  10. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    seems to me the reason mentors generally take a back seat to their mentees, is that the mentor is older and the audience/reader usually wants to follow the exploits of the younger character...

    bb has shown that given can be reversed if the bad guy mentor is so bad he becomes the main character by default, relegating the not-so-bad-guy mentee to second place..

    i'd love to see someone make a mentor a good guy/gal but still be the m/c...
     
  11. Garball

    Garball Banned Contributor

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    Would Sherlock Holmes be considered a protagonist mentor?
     
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  12. Killer300

    Killer300 Active Member

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    Hmm. Well, I may be trying to do the last soon, with the Protagonist training a teenager to combat a... well, rather terrifying opponent. It'd allow exploration of parenting and the like thematically, among other things that I think can be rather difficult to pull off in a more traditional character setup.
     
  13. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    To me, the reason mentors take a back seat to their mentees is that the mentors don't usually go through a character arc. The mentor is older, and went through his arc years or even decades earlier - that's what gave him the wisdom and power to be a mentor. His story is already over, and his role in the story is to pass on what he's learned to the younger, greener character - the mentee. Under the mentor's guidance, the mentee goes through his own arc. The story belongs to the mentee.
     
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  14. Andrae Smith

    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    This is what I had in mind as well. The mentor's story was already written. People don't want to follow him, he has nothing to gain.

    Still, give the character the right needs, give him the challenge of mentoring someone in order to meet those needs, and you may be able to write a pretty interesting story about the mentor. Or perhaps about the apprentice through the mentor's eyes. Maybe there is a twinge of jealousy in the Mentor/Protag. and he keeps hindering the Apprentice. Maybe he's going through an emotional development that is aided and or strained by the apprentice. So many things can be explored.
     
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  15. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    sherlock holmes was just the mc... dr w was his 'sidekick' and chronicler...

    nero wolfe and archie were patterned after doyle's duo, but archie did more detecting on his own than watson, since wolfe was housebound... so they would fit the mentor/mentee mold more than their predecessors...
     
  16. Killer300

    Killer300 Active Member

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    Very interesting. But okay, the Mentor being a static character seems like wasted potential. After all, do Teachers stay the same after interactions with their students?
     
  17. mammamaia

    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i do... don't know about any others, but i've been mentoring aspiring writers since the mid-'80s and i can't say it's changed me in any way...
     
  18. Killer300

    Killer300 Active Member

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    Well, okay, good point.:p
     
  19. Andrae Smith

    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Well, maybe the students don't change them, but then undergoing a life changing experience while being responsible for a student might change a mentor. I have had teachers who say they've been changed, at least a little, by their students.

    Maybe you could have your mentor not have all the answers, and struggle with trying to convince his pupil to trust him. Or he could be a reluctant mentor; he doesn't really want to do it, but this kid won't leave him alone and now they're stuck together.

    Perspective matters, but not as much as the story you want to tell and how you tell it. Your mentor could be static, and we get the events unfolding through his eyes. Or he could be dynamic, in which case we see that he wants something or needs something (and might not realize it) and the journey forces change in him. Kinda like the old man, Carl, in the movie Up, by Disney and Pixar-- even though Carl isn't a mentor, he acts like one to a degree.
     
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  20. KaTrian

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I like Andrae's ideas. Something like that ran through my mind as well. Also what minstrel and mammamaia said.

    I think you can write a good, interesting story from the mentor's pov too. It's bound to be different from the fledgling learning the craft and overcoming his/her insecurities, but I think every character type deserves a voice and a story -- as cheesy as that may sound.
     
  21. minstrel

    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    We should keep in mind that there probably aren't that many examples in literature of a "pure" mentor - someone who fills the function of a mentor and does nothing else. The one that pops into my head right now is Obi-Wan Kenobi in Star Wars. Most decent writers create more realistic characters, realizing that no person is ever through with learning, developing, and changing. Hardly anybody ever achieves Buddhahood, if that's the word for it.

    So Carl in Up does a little mentoring, but he starts his adventure with a broken soul - he travels to South America as a way of healing himself. Sure, he teaches Russell quite a bit, but Russell teaches him, too, mostly by being someone for Carl to care about. Carl isn't a mentor, even though he's the older one; he is the person who needs help. I think this is the kind of character is more realistic than the pure mentor.

    So we can write stories in which the "mentor" is the protagonist, but he'll probably be the protagonist to the extent that he is not a mentor, if you see what I mean. There's not much to say about Siddhartha Gautama after he attained Enlightenment, other than he spent his last 45 years teaching, that is, being a mentor. His real story ended with his Enlightenment; after that, as they say, he "lived happily ever after" (other than a few unimportant assassination attempts).
     
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  22. Andrae Smith

    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    @minstrel raises a very good point bringing in bringing up Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha. I agree. There are very few true mentors out there, because they don't have anything to gain after "enlightenment". Carl, is not a mentor in Up;I was just pointing out that he gains something from his experience with Russell. I think this is something you could do with a mentor if you are good at characterization. But then again, can a Buddha character gain anything else? That is a good question...
     
  23. WingedClover

    WingedClover Member

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    I think there is some potential in having a mentor protagonist and I plan on doing so with a story.

    I believe that the mentor can learn and grow but they would need to learn how to connect to their pupils, tailor their teaching styles to their students, not picking favorites, stepping out of their comfort zone and if it isn't a formal story have them relate something in their past to their pupils and then have them watch or take a step back as they let their students take the lead or give them a final push in a great endeavor.
     
  24. John Calligan

    John Calligan Contributor Contributor

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    An old dude can be a mentor and have a character arc.

    Imagine a 60 year old karate teacher that thinks jujitsu is stupid and mentors his students as they prepare for their fights with some jujitsu men. All his students lose, and he learns the truth. Then, the mentor becomes the main proponent of jujitsu and has to coax his students back into learning a second martial art, even if he isn't teaching it, but learning it with them.
     
  25. mashers

    mashers Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Holy necrobump, Batman... well it's an interesting thread though.

    I think there's a very good reason why this doesn't happen. Fiction is interesting because through it we see a character change and develop somehow. The mentor role is there to facilitate the growth of the protagonist. A work of fiction from the mentor's POV would see that character doing what he/she does to help others reach their goals, which would lead the narrative to feel detached. As a reader, I'd be thinking that I wanted to read about those changes from the POV of the people who were experiencing them, not of the person helping them to go through those changes.

    An interesting spin might be a story from the POV of a mentor who is struggling to get through to the person they are trying to help. The plot then becomes about how the mentor overcomes this resistance in order to help their mentee.
     

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