Writers: have you ever had a protagonist change on you? I don’t mean by that, has your protagonist ever taken on a different personality, or changed in some substantial way?
I mean, have you ever had a protagonist fade into the background and let a different character take over, AFTER the completion of a first draft?
It is SO insane how characters feel so real to us that they push and shove their way to a starring role!
THE PROTAGONIST PUZZLE
I’m having real trouble getting back into the swing of writing fiction after my break to put together “Writing for You.” I’m not sure why, but I don’t feel like I have the energy or the drive to tackle my draft from last year’s NaNoWriMo. Part of the issue is protagonist troubles.
My draft is titled “The Esclavan Abductions,” and from the start I imagined a sorcerer character named Zate Polve to be my protagonist.
- I wanted him to be a protagonist because of his strong magic: important for sword and sorcery fantasy.
- He is mentioned in my original Herezoth trilogy, but never appears, so he’s a nice but very subtle connection to link the book with my trilogy without being a continuation of the trilogy
- He’s really rough around the edges, which is new for me in a protagonist and a fun challenge/ change of pace.
I originally wanted to have every scene in the novel from Zate’s point of view.
Then, when I started outlining, I realized he needed to share the spotlight with a member of the royal family (the king’s sister, Melinda).
Now, I’m realizing almost all the changes I need to make to my plot involve throwing even more attention on Melinda.
This is problematic because the heightened emphasis on the royal family makes the book feel like a sequel of the trilogy, a continuation of it, rather than something that could stand apart, which is what I’d hoped to write.
But that’s enough about my issues…. I might have to scrap the whole idea for this book and start writing something else. (Hey, I’ve done it before).
CHARACTERS SCREAMING AND FIGHTING ME
If I’m going to keep editing this story, I’m going to need some way to make my characters pipe down. I’ve never been in this situation before! It’s kind of nuts.
I’ve written about how characters can be like toddlers, but I’ve never felt this responsible for them, and their places in the story, and making sure everyone is content.
I’ve always thought about my characters as though they were real people, and tried to really get to know them and what makes them tick, but characters real enough to make me shift who the protagonist is? That’s different.
The funny thing is, Zate wouldn’t mind being less of the focus. And Melinda would actually prefer NOT to be in the spotlight (things would be much easier on her that way.)
Anyway, I’ll figure this whole mess out. For now, the situation has got me thinking about the role of character in fiction (from a character’s perspective).
SOME RELATED REFLECTIONS ON CHARACTERIZATION
- What exactly does it mean to be a protagonist? Does it mean, solely, that you’re the character the narration follows most closely? Does it mean you will be required to take great action of some type solely by virtue of the title SOMEONE ELSE bestows on you? That’s kind of a raw deal….
- Can an author thrust a character into the spotlight who doesn’t want to be there? Can a character fight back? Maybe by revealing depths of emotion that resist acting in the way the author would like?
- Can a character manipulate an author by causing so much trouble in a scene or subplot that the author is required to cut him or her out of it?
I think a character can. I don’t know if that’s what Melinda is doing to me or not, but I know that the plot–I’d say the plot, rather than me–forcing her into a more prominent role is not something either of us really wants.
If this story is going to work out at all, I know Melinda has to take the starring role, as frustrating as that is for me. I guess I’ll keep going a bit longer and see what ends up happening!
So, have you ever had a protagonist back down, or had a secondary character claw his or her way to greater prominence?
I hope you enjoyed this post! If you’re interested in reading more about protagonists, you can check out the first post in my series on heroes/protagonists and go from there.
Also, I’ve decided to extend the introductory sale price of “Writing for You: A Novelist’s Guide to the Craft of Fiction” another week, because it’s doing pretty well. If you haven’t snagged a copy yet, you’re in luck. You can find out more about the book at the link above.