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I am writing the first novel which will be part of a trilogy. For plot reasons, I am considering to change the main character in the other two parts (will be the same in the last two books).

But I don't know if it would be a good idea to change the main character in the trilogy, so I don't know if keep the same protagonist in all the books, or do what I have planned.

What do you think that would be the best?

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  • You say "plot reasons" -- can you expand on what those reasons are? – Roger Dec 5 '14 at 19:27
  • I am planning to kill the character at the end, and for that reason, I don't know if keep him alive and develop the history with him, or definitely let him die. – LordWater Dec 5 '14 at 19:30
  • Readers invest their emotions not in a story, but in the story of a character. Switching the narrative viewpoint to another character - or killing a character off - are always disruptive to the reader's involvement, no matter how well you pull it off. Therefor, if you do it anyway, the story must be worth it, that is, it must be better than the average book out there. I tend to avoid future books by authors who have killed the charakter that I identified with. – user5645 Dec 6 '14 at 14:08
  • "One book per character" is not really unheard of. OTOH, such asymmetry is weird. – SF. Dec 10 '14 at 11:42
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There's certainly precedent -- Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles switches main characters in its original trilogy: Louis in the first, Lestat in the next two. In that case, Lestat was a major character in the first book, so it made the transition a bit more smooth since we as the reader already had an idea of who this character was.

Since you say you want to kill off the protagonist of your first book and give the reins to someone else for the second two, there are several ways you can go:

  1. Let the second person's POV dominate all three books. The main point-of-view character and protagonist don't have to be the same person. (Think John Watson versus Sherlock Holmes.) The current main character can still be the focal point of the story, but his tale can be told through the eyes of this second character.

  2. Give the second person a strong presence in the first so that the transition to the second book isn't jarring. Since your reader knows the main character is dead, seeing someone else in the lead won't be a shock, and having it be someone they're already familiar with will help them to be more comfortable and keep you from having to introduce a new character.

Both of these assume that the two characters have some kind of relation to each other and are both present during the events of the first book, of course. Since I don't know for certain that's what you have planned, these may not work for you. If the second main character isn't directly involved in the events of the first, then you may want to consider:

  1. Bring back supporting characters from the first book as guideposts for the new main character. This is another way to give readers something familiar from the first book to latch onto and relate back to. This gives you as the author a chance to call back to the events of the first book and connect the narratives into a cohesive trilogy.

Switching main characters between books certainly can be done (and has been done), but you definitely need to examine why you feel it's necessary and how you are going to keep the books feeling like one complete story instead of separate tales that just happen to share a title.

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George R. R. Martin's "A Song of Ice and Fire" kills off many important characters as the story progresses, and characters you might have thought were the main protagonist or the "hero" are frequently dead by the end of the book. This works because there are lots of characters and so there are at least a few established ones to carry the plot forward in the subsequent volumes. However, readers who are really invested in your main character may find that his or her death is too much for the story to bear, and not bother reading the subsequent volumes.

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I think that would be just great. I mean changing the protagonist doesn't seem to be a problem at all since after all its your writing and you basically have control over what you write as long as you do it the right way. From a readers perspective, I find that somewhat interesting and it makes me want to read more and know what happened to make the new protagonist the main character in the other books, so if you have the capabilities to keep the level in intensity and be able to kind like convey why was the protagonist changed indirectly and write convey the new protagonist in the same way you did with the original one then I think that would be great. After all it all depends on your capabilities of keeping the level of strength in your writing throughout your trilogy.

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Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee sort of did this with the Rama series. The first novel reads startlingly like a history book from the future and focuses on the military and government people who find a spaceship which has reached Earth. Books 2, 3, and 4 are more traditional narratives around human and non-human families and other characters.

Anne McCaffrey did something more like what you're thinking in her Harper Hall trilogy. Dragonsong and Dragonsinger are about Menolly, a girl who is abused by her father for her musical ability until she escapes to Harper Hall to become a professional musician, while the third book, Dragondrums, focuses on Piemur, a different apprentice in the same Hall. Piemur is a secondary character in Menolly's books, while she barely shows up in his. Both are tertiary characters in other books in the overall Dragonriders of Pern series.

As long as you establish some manner of continuity between the stories — in the Dragonrider books the characters overlap; in the Rama series it's about the same ship and species — I think you're okay.

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If you've ever read Darren Shan's Demonata series you'd know that switching characters can work effectively, as he uses three different main characters who meet up at the end. So there is definitely grounds for a character switch, it's just about how you go about performing said switch.

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