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  1. Justin Attas

    Justin Attas Active Member

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    A Spotlight for Supporting Characters

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Justin Attas, Jun 11, 2020.

    Curious to see if anyone else has done this in their own works. I saw this done in a few books before, and I absolutely loved the type of story arc. I'm talking, of course, about shifting the spotlight of your plot from the protagonist to his or her band of misfit companions.

    During this time, the protagonist is somehow out of commission. They might be imprisoned, in exile, incapacitated, or actually dead, depending on the genre. This allows a much deeper exploration of your characters, as arguably the most instrumental one is gone. This forces others to reflect on the role the missing person played, and inevitably step up. Or fail horribly. Either way, it allows for an entirely different chemistry between your characters and can develop them in a very unique way.

    In the case of my story, I had my protagonist get impaled by his rival and go braindead from blood loss. The journey of 6 of his friends to find someone who could remedy this state, all while carrying him around with a ventilator, is honestly one of the most powerful sections in the series. It shows just how much my protagonist meant to them, and sees several others step up in his stead. It really gives a new dimension to everyone involved.

    Have you seen this in any books you really enjoyed? Have you implemented this kind of story arc into your story?

    Justin
     
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  2. hirundine

    hirundine Contributor Contributor

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    I have quite a bit of this going on in my current project. It started out as a bunch of short stories in the same setting and with the same characters. But it naturally evolved so that even though it's still made up of several individual stories, there is a wider plot arc running through all of them, so they also function as chapters in a larger story. There are two main protagonists in the wider arc, Brynjar (he's the one I've been referring to as the protagonist on here) and Michael (who I'd more likely refer to as the mentor since he functions as one to the other characters). They're definitely the protagonists of wider arc, but due to Brynjar's tendency to become incapacitated, and Michael being quite a bit older and less suited to running around doing stuff, Tara, the main supporting character, ends up being the protagonist of some of the individual stories. Currently the first, the third (which is the one I'm working on right now) and the sixth, off the top of my head, but I only have about half of the wider story planned out so far, so I expect there will be more. I feel like it's working well for me so far.
     
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  3. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Um... Yeah? Sorta'?

    My longer pieces tend not to star a clearly defined MC, but rather an ensemble of people with equal billing. I don't think that's exactly what you're talking about, but it satisfies the same urge you mention, it scratches the same itch.
     
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  4. Xoic

    Xoic Prognosticator of Arcana Ridiculosum Contributor

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    This is how The 5th Head of Cerberus is set up, by Gene Wolfe. Amazing grouping of 3 stories that end up intertwining.
     
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  5. Simpson17866

    Simpson17866 Contributor Contributor

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    I do exactly the opposite in my WIP:

    The narrator Alec looks like the lead protagonist for the first 2 chapters where he's the only protagonist, but then his boss Charlie shows up at the end up chapter 2, and it turns out pretty quickly that she's the lead protagonist (even though he remains the narrator) :)
     
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  6. jannert

    jannert Retired Mod Supporter Contributor

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    I think there can be a difference between the protagonist of the story, and an important person whom the real protagonists are focused on.

    In your example, @Justin Attas , perhaps the brain-dead person who is the focus of the efforts made by the other characters to bring him back to life is not actually the protagonist. If he eventually survives, due to the efforts of others, and is virtually unchanged by anything he himself has done or realised, then I think a case could be made for him not being the protagonist.

    The best way to determine your protagonist is to decide who experiences the most growth or change during the course of the story.

    It might actually be the onlooker, who is focused on your charismatic character ...then wises up. Or it could be a sidekick who has to face his own fears—or get to grips with his own personal character flaws—or recognise that he's actually not inferior after all—in order to turn the tide of events.
     
  7. LazyBear

    LazyBear Banned

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    It can work in third person, but it just throws me off the drama in first person if chapters break narration style or have the characters too similar. I would make a spin-off novel to give a longer introduction of the side character, because I'm not really a fan of out-of-touch third person either.
     
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  8. Justin Attas

    Justin Attas Active Member

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    This sounds like a recipe to have a fan-favorite character emerge! Much like Samwise in the Lord of the Rings. He's just a gardener, until the other characters really need him. Through his perseverance in the stead of others who were "chosen" he became absolutely beloved by the fanbase. Tara sounds like she shows much potential to steal the show a little bit!
     
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  9. Justin Attas

    Justin Attas Active Member

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    I do actually really enjoy that about stories with shifting perspectives. It creates a more complete picture of the overall plot!
     
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  10. Justin Attas

    Justin Attas Active Member

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    I haven't heard of this one. I'll have to give it a look!
     
  11. Justin Attas

    Justin Attas Active Member

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    Ooh that sounds like a fascinating twist. I've always wanted to pull the old full protagonist switcharoo, just haven't gotten around to it yet! I really enjoy the fact that the narrator isn't the protagonist, too. Very Great Gatsby, which was an awesome read.
     
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  12. Justin Attas

    Justin Attas Active Member

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    An interesting supposition! In this case, the brain dead person is definitely the protagonist, if not one of several who cooperate to share the spotlight. This event happens midway through the second book in the series, which really centers around his experience during a revolution of his home. Though he isn't a key player at first, the whole saga follows his development over the course of his struggle to make a difference. He does eventually make it back to the world of the waking, and continues to be an instrumental center of the story in the next two books.
     
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  13. Justin Attas

    Justin Attas Active Member

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    Yeah, that's definitely down to personal preference. I could see that being super jarring in a first person story, but I (as a reader) would probably enjoy that. After the shock of the switch, so long as the two characters had distinct perspectives, I think I would keep reading.
     

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