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I have decided on my antagonist for my first novel. They are pretty much being brought back to power by traitors in an otherwise squeaky clean institution.

It's the protagonist I'm not sure about. I have several options and two in particular. They are all involved in fighting the antagonist but I'm not sure who should actually be the "main" character.

This probably seems weird and I guess it's because I'm a novice writer.

I'm thinking of teaming all of these potential protagonists together and just let things flow for the first draft but my problem is that now I am unsure about POV which brings me to my second question: Which POV should I use?

I'm thinking of doing multiple POVs like Game of Thrones but sometimes it makes it hard to get used to all the characters. I then think to just stick with one viewpoint. But with so many potential main characters it makes it difficult to decide.

I've also considered writing from the antagonist's view but I want them to be feared and I don't want the reader to know what they are thinking.

Anyone have any ideas?

Thanks in advance.

  • If you tone down the multiple POV to two or three, you don't need to get used to a lot of characters. It's probably simpler to use 2-3 POVs than simply one, since it allows you to 'see' events that affect different characters. – Sara Costa May 27 '17 at 21:32
  • Thanks Sara, I'm thinking that I may use just three in order to do just that! Hopefully I'm on the right track! – DOC2017 May 27 '17 at 21:41
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Some ways to sort it out:

  • Which character will have the hardest time dealing this particular antagonist's tactics, strategies, and goals?
  • Which character will have the hardest time doing the final thing that is necessary to defeat this antagonist? (Maybe some moral value that the character would never, ever violate.)
  • Which character will suffer the most from the specific kinds of things that this particular antagonist does?
  • Which character is this particular antagonist most motivated to harm (or destroy)?
  • Which character has weaknesses that this antagonist is peculiarly able to exploit?
  • Which character most strongly represents the opposite of the antagonist's primary qualities?

Characters like that will have the most difficult and interesting conflicts, given the things that make your antagonist unique and interesting.

  • Thanks so much for the useful tips. Some of them have made it clearer for me to decide! – DOC2017 May 27 '17 at 23:54
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You say you're a novice writer so I strongly suggest you just write! You're doing way too much thinking.

Let it flow.

My first novel had the classic hero + villain + love interest. It took on a life of its own when the love interest decided to kill the hero and the villain.

You should write your first few novels for the journey, the experience. Once you've developed your characters you may find they have different plans to you.

I've had villains who really and truly thought they were the hero and heroes who are corrupted by their own halos.

Sometimes its a case of putting a a fire ant, a mosquito, a beetle, and a cockroach in jar a watching what happens.

  • Yeah. I am definitely over thinking parts of this. I'm definitely going to take your advice and just see how the characters play out. Thanks! – DOC2017 May 27 '17 at 23:55
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Now that you have your antagonist, you may want to experiment with writing two "partial" stories with each of the two candidates as the protagonist. Eventually, the choice may become clearer, but the effort spent on the other will not have been wasted. That person could become a third, rational, "balancing" character that serves as the "adult chaperone" for the other two.

Unless you decide to marry the to candidates to each other. In one story I wrote, I started with two male protagonists, and then changed one of them to a woman so that they could get married and become one "protagonist."

If the story warrants it, you can have two points of view characters. The example I can think of is "Treasure Island" by Robert Louis Stevenson. Most of the story was narrated by Jim Hawkins, the cabin boy, but Dr. Livesey took over the "protagonist" duties when Jim was "missing in action."

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You can also come from the angle that you don't need a clear cut MC from page 1. There are many stories out there where a group of people start out together and it isn't until a conflict point happens that the MC rises up above everyone to become their leader or to save everyone or what ever it is you want the MC to do. There are also stories where the person you think is the MC ends up dying within the first couple chapters and a new MC or the real MC is then displayed if they are not already in the story. Don't be afraid to write the story with options! So many people think that they need to write with everything set in stone. Just write! Have a group of 5 people 10 people be your potential MC. Write the story and see how it evolves. Some times, you might find that the character you had in mind to be MC turns out to be the least likely candidate after you start seeing how it unfolds.

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In your situation, I would consider three possible approaches but there are others.

1. Tell several stories

This approach just allows each protagonist to have their story arc against the antagonist. The antagonist is the character that ties these shorter stories together.

this is a lot of work as you have to help the reader to care about each protagonist in each short.

Anthology stories, where there is an overarching story that runs across several shorter stories can be really interesting but they are much, much harder to make compelling. Only try this if you are very confident in your abilities.

2. Use the antagonist as the point of view character (or even narrator)

This solves your hook character as the story is now essentially the rise and fall (tragedy) of the antagonist.

On the plus side, you will have an easy time creating a sympathetic antagonist but on the other side of that coin, the "protagonists" are likely to be less compelling.

Effectively your antagonist is the tragic protagonist and your protagonists are now antagonists (it's all a matter of perspective after all).

3. Use a neutral audience surrogate character

This is the approach that I would recommend for new writers. It gives you a single protagonist to tie the story together. Admittedly this character is effectively the side-kick to every other character and you will need to work hard to give them reasonable motivation to stay in the story.

In many ways, this is not so different from the "Tell several stories" plan. However, you are pretty much assured of interesting characters for your viewpoint character to interact with and someone for each successive protagonist to interact with. Which, trust me, makes characterisation a lot easier.

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