1. thebeautifulanddamned

    thebeautifulanddamned New Member

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    Only one linear character?

    Discussion in 'Plot Development' started by thebeautifulanddamned, Apr 13, 2017.

    Hi all! New to the forums and writing as a hobby (I'm generally a short story/poetry writer but I'm trying to stretch myself!) so I would love some advice if it isn't too much trouble?

    My latest idea is magical realism. It involves my dissatisfied protagonist waking up with a different version of her life every day, experiencing the consequences—and some rewards—of all the different paths she could have taken in life. The thing is, whilst some of my main cast are gonna stick around day-to-day, and the format of my novel (as of yet) is more a collection of short successive stories than an epic narrative (it's an experiment, although there are definite plot threads, a Beginning, Middle and an End), I'm concerned that if I were to develop this concept into a fully fledged novel then the only character that would grow throughout the story is my protagonist, since the cast rotates and essentially gets erased every chapter/section. I thought I could perhaps solve this by introducing a magical realism type 'genie' to 'guide' my protagonist and explain how the magic works, which sounds cool, right? Well, I certainly thought so, since I've already used this idea in another (much more elegant) magical realism WIP I've got ongoing. Both of these ideas grew from the same place, but are discrete concepts, hence I'm reluctant to rehash my other WIP as I'd like both projects to exist in their own worlds, as they appear to me.

    Anyway, back to the point: should I worry about only having one linear character in my narrative? Or should I give my protagonist a 'companion' to develop with instead of going it alone? It'd be like Doctor Who, except with exactly one less blue phone box. Maybe, like a Time Lord (I'm showing my nerd here), he/she could take different faces? Like an old man on a bus, or a little kid in the street? Hmm. Perhaps not. I would want it to be one guy, to balance my female protagonist, and to develop him into a complex character in his own right. But then it would be too similar to something I've already done. It is favourite character dynamic, after all. Ugh. WDYT? Does my novel need a genie? What else could solve this plot/concept/really big problem? And have you ever used a major idea in more than one project? TIA!
     
  2. BayView

    BayView Huh. Interesting. Contributor

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    I'm not sure I really understand what you mean by a linear character, but if you're asking if it's okay to have just one main character... sure. No problem. Happens all the time.

    So possibly you're asking something else...?
     
  3. Apollypopping

    Apollypopping Member

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    No, personally I don't see it as a problem. I haven't read it, but that to me would be a selling point. None of your characters are 'safe,' in a sense, apart from your main character. It could also give your MC some loneliness and fear of losing loved ones to deal with.
     
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  4. thebeautifulanddamned

    thebeautifulanddamned New Member

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    Thank you for your reply! By "one linear character", I meant that only my protagonist would develop from situation to situation, whereas all of my other characters would be very different from the versions of them we have seen before. The whole point of the concept is that little things constitute our character, and any little changes would alter us into a different version of ourselves. If that one thing had never happened, the self we are today would not exist. We would be "dead". That's essentially what happens to my cast of regular characters. They have the same faces, the same starting point, but a tiny thing changed and they are not the person my protagonist knew, or was growing to know. They are a new character entirely (or are they?). I was inspired by Chaos Theory/String Theory if that helps clarify a bit more. My protagonist is the only character that will remember all these versions of reality and develop 'linearly' as she lives through each one, rather than being erased. So I wouldn't just have one main character—essentially, she's my my only character!

    I guess I just wanted to get the consensus on the idea of building up these supporting characters in one chapter, then dumping them in the next. My MC wouldn't really have any developing relationships throughout the narrative as a whole, and any connections she does make would be obsolete as she's shifted to the next universe along. That's where my idea for a 'guide' came in. Then my protagonist would have at least one relationship that the reader can become invested in. But as another poster said, maybe the loss and loneliness would be the selling point. Or maybe this is just too confusing, haha! Thanks again!
     
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  5. thebeautifulanddamned

    thebeautifulanddamned New Member

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    Thank you for the reassurance! Yes, the loss and fear is a huge thing in my plot, it's kind of the whole point. Is this level of loneliness too bleak though? Wouldn't you need to unload onto someone if you were essentially watching your friends 'die' everyday? If magic messed with my life, and I had no idea what was going on, I'd be a nervous wreck! Maybe I'm thinking too much about it, haha.
     
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  6. Apollypopping

    Apollypopping Member

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    If you feel it's going to be too bleak, then yes maybe add a permanent support. I wouldn't do it immediately though. Let your character suffer a bit.
     
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  7. Millyme11

    Millyme11 Member

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    I think this is an amazing concept to run with. I do like the idea of them going it alone, because that way the MC has to figure things out by themself. This way the reader could be 'learning' at the same time/rate.

    I hope everything goes well. I'd love to beta read it :)
     
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  8. Millyme11

    Millyme11 Member

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    When they need to vent they could be venting to a character that we know is not going to be able to help them because the next day they won't be there. Then maybe the MC could find person (different version of that person) to find comfort in speaking to them again, but also knowing that they have no idea about what the MC is going through, and that it's pointless because they will be gone again in the next chapter. I think it gives the reader the want to be able to jump into the book to say "I'm here with you, you're not alone" which I think gives it more of a dramatic effect.
     
  9. Apollypopping

    Apollypopping Member

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    Exactly this.
     
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  10. truthbeckons

    truthbeckons Active Member

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    I think it depends on what your gut's telling you. If you feel more like you can make it work one way rather than the other, go for it.

    But even if no other character has a linear arc, that doesn't mean the story will be worse for it, or that there can't be complex things going on with the progression of the other characters (if you really want to have other character arcs; there's no reason you have to have more than one real character arc). I'll give two examples from other media.

    The graphic novel Seconds had a similar kind of plot, where the main character kept switching between versions of her life by making different decisions and seeing where they led, so she was the only one who got to have a traditional arc, while other characters' lives kept changing. But the other characters were also interesting to learn about, and they were explored in their complexity because we got to see some of the results of how they developed in different situations. There was also a guiding magical character who facilitated the alternate universe hopping, but she didn't really have an arc, although we learned more about her. It was important to that story that she remained kind of mysterious and timeless, as part of her magical nature. If she'd developed and learned a lesson like a human, she wouldn't have had that same eerie magical quality, so that's worth thinking about.

    Another example (which I wouldn't call nearly as good, but it was interesting for a pretentious Ashton Kutcher movie) was The Butterfly Effect. Again, the main character travels through different versions of reality, this time without a guide, but also again, the other characters are developed by seeing them in different circumstances and learning more about their backstories and defining moments. We discover what the deal is with some important characters throughout the movie.

    I think the take-away is that you can have discovery/development/progression of other characters, even if the different versions of them aren't arranged on a strict linear timeline. Although in both these examples, there were at least two or three other major characters who remained in the main character's life, although often in drastically different ways. But it's a proven concept that you can get just about all the thematic interest and emotional complexity of a character arc through exploring characters in other ways.
     
    Last edited: Apr 14, 2017
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  11. thebeautifulanddamned

    thebeautifulanddamned New Member

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    Thank you very much for the kind comment! You've definitely cemented my confidence in my idea, and I feel like it's gaining a lot of momentum in my head after reading all these replies to my thread!

    Your point about the reader learning at the same rate as the protagonist is very helpful. It would certainly make a lot of sense dramatically, and there would be more 'figuring out' than info-dumping, which is far more interesting. And more fun to write, too.

    I love this idea! It seems so obvious now. Of course she would seek comfort in her friends and loved ones, but that only adds to the heartbreak. And the thing about the reader wanting to jump into the narrative is so interesting. Love it.

    Thanks again for your help Millyme! :)
     
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  12. thebeautifulanddamned

    thebeautifulanddamned New Member

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    This comment is incredibly useful, thank you so much truthbeckons! I will definitely check out Seconds and The Butterfly Effect, it'll be valuable to examine how this concept has been done before, and how I can make it my own. Your point about the 'eerie magical quality' has also given me something to think about—do I want the 'eerie magical' tone, or do I want it to be more grounded in reality? There will also be a handful or major characters that reoccur in all versions of my protagonist's reality, like in the examples you described, and I'm excited to explore and develop their emotional complexity and progression given this format—it'll be very interesting! Thanks again for the detailed response!
     

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