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  1. SNJade96

    SNJade96 Member

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    More than one protagonist

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by SNJade96, Jul 1, 2020.

    Can a story have more than one protagonist? I'm aware that in the romance genre, there tends to be two, but since I'm not writing in the romance genre, that's irrelevant.
    Essentially, my situation is that I'm currently trying to get the bare bones of a plot down for the fantasy book/series I'm writing after my current WIP, and originally, I had three protagonists, intended each to have their own character arc, make choices, and have a pivotal role in the plot. I think my story might call for more than that, though; I think I'll have four in the beginning, and as more people come on, the number might grow. For this new count, they would have all the things already listed above for the original three. These people wouldn't be secondary characters just with POV scenes, either; they would be full protagonists.
    I'm aware that this sort of multi-protagonist-the-whole-way-through sort of thing is relatively uncommon, but I'm currently writing a story with only one protagonist and POV character, and I find it rather restricting, and though part of that might be because I don't particularly enjoy writing in that genre (it just doesn't accommodate the "hero's journey" sort of story that I absolutely love) I think I just don't like writing in just one character in general.
    So, would this multiple-protagonist thing be appropriate for the fantasy genre, or any genre?
     
  2. TheOtherPromise

    TheOtherPromise Active Member

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    Of course a story can have multiple POVs, all of whom are equally the protagonist. Several fantasy series do this, like A Song of Ice and Fire and The Stormlight Archive.

    However I want to warn you that it's not a decision to take lightly. On both of my (unfinished) WIPs I intended to have multiple protagonists only to realize that one or more of the characters weren't pulling their weight and it was ruining the story. The problem was so bad that the best solution was to cut down the POVs to just one, which meant a sizeable rewrite. Now that's just me biting off more than I could chew (newbie mistake), so if you think you can handle it go for it.
     
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  3. SNJade96

    SNJade96 Member

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    Would planning everything out to make sure each character has an important role fix this issue? I was going to go into extensive planning anyway to avoid some of the mistakes I made on my current WIP that will have to be fixed in post, so that would make this relatively easier.
     
  4. TheOtherPromise

    TheOtherPromise Active Member

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    The problems I ran into were the result of a mix of issues. Most notably was my lack of experience writing, I hadn't (and still haven't) finished even a first draft of a manuscript. Lack of planning was another, as was poor execution.

    I think what really made me give up on the idea for multiple protagonists (until I get more experience) was that I simply couldn't balance them in a way that felt like each one was interesting enough to warrant being a protagonist. Basically only one of the characters felt like one I'd want to read about and all the others were just taking pages away from them. This would probably be a non-issue if I was a better writer (or at least better at writing characters), but until I reach that point I decided it's best for me to stick to one protagonist per book.

    Now, I want to reiterate, this might not be a problem for you. I don't know if my experiences should be generalized. I just know that when I realized the amount of changes I'd need to make, I got hit with a bad case of writer's block. And so I just wanted to give you a little bit of a warning to help you avoid that fate. I had seen a lot of beginner advice warning about how hard it could be to write multiple POVs that I ignored because I thought since I read stories mostly with multiple POVs it would be easy for me, and it wasn't.
     
  5. GraceLikePain

    GraceLikePain Member

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    I humbly suggest avoiding multiple POV if at all possible. While it's not automatically wrong, it can lead to overexplaining to the reader. Mystery comes from not explaining people's motives, and multiple POVs means less mystery. That, and when it comes to your worldbuilding, when you use multiple characters for this, it can lead to people telling the reader things, rather than learning of things through plot, setting description, or implication.

    That said, having multiple POV can work if you have a different character in an extremely different location, and the two locations build up to intertwining plotlines. Or maybe they each do their own thing, affecting each other but never realizing the other exists. That could be fun.
     
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  6. SNJade96

    SNJade96 Member

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    Each of the characters will come from incredibly different backgrounds. Personally, I've always found multiple POVs where people are from the exact same place and background very boring, for all the reasons you spoke of above, and it also just felt like a reiteration of the first character. Basically, all the main characters would come from incredibly different places, but eventually would come together and perhaps have a sort of "found family" thing.
    I'll also try and keep the antagonists mysterious, and keep the protagonists unpredictable enough to try and avoid overexplaining. Thanks for the warning, it's greatly appreciated.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2020
  7. SNJade96

    SNJade96 Member

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    I think I'll give it a shot. I'll try to avoid all the problems you ran into. On the bright side, now I know some of the things that can go wrong, I can try hard to avoid them. After all, I can always just write something else and come back to it once I'm more experienced if it comes to it.
     
  8. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I've got no use for kale... Contributor

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    How's that?
     
  9. GraceLikePain

    GraceLikePain Member

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    Isn't it obvious? You're getting information from various perspectives, and therefore the reader does not have the opportunity to guess about their motivations, and the MC has less opportunity to make interesting mistakes based on his own false assumptions.
     
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  10. Larro

    Larro New Member

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    If I remember correctly JK Rowling alternated the POV in the Cormoran Strike detective novels so that one chapter would be Strike's POV and the next would be his partner Robin's. I thought it worked well.
     
  11. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I've got no use for kale... Contributor

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    Didn't hurt the zillion of multiple POV books that are out there.
     
  12. GraceLikePain

    GraceLikePain Member

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    I would argue that it did. Multiple POV tends to be the way of the newbie YA author, and most novels that are actually good resist the idea. Having a supporting cast is one thing, but being continually led around by various perspectives, like a chapter for each character, is generally more annoying because it causes the reader to have to remember who they're reading as, which makes them think about the book instead of about the story.

    Not that it's never worked ever, but it's a technique that tends to be more of an obstacle to be overcome than something that truly enhances the story.
     
  13. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin I've got no use for kale... Contributor

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    Song of Fire and Ice series, Expanse series, Dune, Tale of Two Cities, War and Peace, most of Cormac McCarthy's catalogue, most of Toni Morrison's, everything by Tom Clancy, nearly everything by Stephen King, everything by Neil Gaimon, everything by Neil Stephenson...

    I get that you don't like it, but to say it's a hindrance or ineffective or a newbie tool isn't supported in sales, popularity, or accolades.
     
    Last edited: Jul 1, 2020
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  14. SNJade96

    SNJade96 Member

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    I think this is a matter of personal opinion, and not any actual critique. You're allowed not to write it or like it, but I've always found only having one POV character almost suffocating, and I think it'll be much more fun with multiple POVs. A lot of my favourite books or in multiple POVs. I know this is a slight backtrack of what I said before, but Homer made many good points, and people are allowed to change their minds. Thanks for trying to help, though; I really do appreciate it, even if I don't take all advice.
     
  15. Cephus

    Cephus Senior Member

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    Every damn story I write has more than one protagonist. The current series I'm working on has 3. The one before that had... 3. Before that, depending on the book, it had anywhere from 4-6. The next series on the dock will have 2, I think, although that might change when I get to it. 1 is boring. I've only done a handful of books that wound up that way.
     
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  16. Catrin Lewis

    Catrin Lewis Contributor Contributor Community Volunteer

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    Sure, that can happen. Or it can increase mystery. If both characters are in the same scene, you can write it from the POV of the one more likely to misinterpret the situation. And make the misinterpretation plausible.
     
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  17. GraceLikePain

    GraceLikePain Member

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    Well sure, anything is possible in writing if you know what you're doing. Multiple POV is working at a disadvantage because it risks overexplaining, but a disadvantage can be overcome.
     
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  18. Antaus

    Antaus Active Member

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    Multiple Protagonists, if you can pull it off, is just fine and not that uncommon really. I'm working on a story that has two protagonists and most of the events that take place are seen from two PoVs. But as stated above, be careful. I've had a few stories with similar results, had more than one protagonist, then it ended up with one. It's not that the characters sucked or were lacking in my personal experience. As it turned out they were really support characters to the protagonist and the majority of their story played out through his.
     
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  19. SNJade96

    SNJade96 Member

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    I'll keep that in mind. Thanks.
     
  20. Viridian

    Viridian Member Supporter

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    Multiple protagonists are fine, and if anything I think they can heighten suspense (if that's what you're going for). BUT, you do have to be careful about the whole over-explaining thing. It's not as difficult as you may think, and will most certainly require many edits to get it right, but it's completely doable. Planning ahead is a good idea, but also bear in mind that as you write the story, quite often a lesser character will grow much bigger than intended. This is the nature of writing and in my experience, the characters that grow of their own accord are usually the more interesting. My advice would be to go for it, but prepare to be flexible and if something doesn't work - if you really can't find a way to fix it or make it happen - then cut it, no matter how much it pains you to do it.
     
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  21. Richach

    Richach Contributor Contributor

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    If you take George RR Martin as one example, he is vastly experienced. Newbie writers can only hope to gain anything like that experience. But we are not here to make excuses. It is clear it can be done but there is no denying the challenges are significant. For a newbie writer, such challenges may not even be apparent. It all comes down to experience and knowledge. Just because these qualities are lacking, it does not mean that will always be the case. There are many ways to learn; study, write, read, failure, success.

    I would say go for multi protagonists, hell try rotating third limited too! Try lots of different things and no matter what keep plugging away. Depending on where you are at will determine the end result. People will always learn and become stronger unless they never try or give up. And nobody wants that.
     
    Last edited: Jul 7, 2020 at 10:53 PM
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  22. SNJade96

    SNJade96 Member

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    Thanks for the encouragement, for one. Thanks for the advice, as a second.

    Honestly, I already decided to basically go all out. Rotating third limited, too, just whatever I needed to make my story work. I know I'm putting this huge thing ahead of me that'll be incredibly hard, but I can't get better at it if I don't do it, so, why wouldn't I? Besides, I'm lucky enough that I don't have to finish it by a specific time for a publisher, either, so I can restart as many times as I'd like to get it right. That's sort of the mindset I've developed since I posted this.

    Anyway, I've never tried third person before, so it'll be very interesting to try writing in it. I've done second person, but for some reason, not third. (By the way, writing in second person isn't as weird as it sounds. It's actually a lot of fun.)
     
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  23. Richach

    Richach Contributor Contributor

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    I wish you well with your journey. I have taken that road some time ago and I have not and do not intend to deviate from it. If I could change one thing from my experience, I would have got beta readers in much earlier, even after 3 or 4 chapters in. That might be something you may consider. :)
     
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  24. SNJade96

    SNJade96 Member

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    I'll take it into account. Thanks.
     
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  25. Aled James Taylor

    Aled James Taylor Contributor Contributor

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    The protagonist and the POV character need not be the same. Imagine a super-hero story written from the point of view of the side-kick. There's no reason why that wouldn't work. The overall story should work for every character so that it would be possible to write it from any POV. Each character should have their own motivations so their actions make sense in the context of their own story. Even the antagonist will perceive themselves as the hero, embarking on a noble quest, or righting some previous wrong.
     

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