Saturday, November 17, 2007

The Proactive Protagonist

In response to Solvejg's post over on the Maggot Farm: I've been thinking about the awful bit of dirge I've been writing recently for the Fiction module of NAW - it's not dirge really, I quite like the opening chapter (I should do, I've been trawling over it since June), I'm just having trouble keeping at it, since I've already made up my mind that I have more interesting projects I wish to work on as soon as the Fiction module is done (I guess I'm not ready to invest too heavily in Second Fist at this time).

So what is my point today? Well...

Solvejg's been talking about protagonists needing to be motivated (thanks Solvey, I do need to get back to McKee's story sooner than later) and it brought up the problem that readers of Second Fist's synopsis had with the whole story:
  1. I'd decided to make Jackson Fisk the protagonist - I'd had the original idea for the story with him in mind (wielding two spirits in his fists that turn him into a sort of spiritually/demonically super human)
  2. The story is told, alternately, by two other characters in first person point of views - i. Kitty (who wants Jackson to solve a big problem for her); ii. Raziel (who wants to capture Jackson and use him to... well, to stop Kitty, really
Sounds fairly straight forward doesn't it?

I need a single protagonist to garner reader empathy/sympathy/identification. The story isn't so much an ensemble cast list, despite the main three characters (now: Jackson, Kitty and Raziel) all suffering psycholigically in a similar way and their pasts, their choices, their futures all based around the same single theme: life moves ever onward, and no matter how hard you try to recapture what your life was like, you can't.

So, what's the problem?

I've chosen Jackson as the protagonist, yet we never get his pov. We begin the first chapter with Kitty, then move onto Raziel, and through him we meet Jackson. Also, Jackson is very passive throughout the whole story, and, as I realised in a response to one of my fellow students, he's the Mcguffin of the plot - his abilities are what everyone seeks to use to their advantage. I can't have him as the protagonist because he's only ever responding to the needs of others, and is, for the most part, borne upon melancholy for things that have happened previously.

With that in mind, I need to bring the story more to bear upon Kitty. She's really the driving force, making all the decisions.

It was also, thanks to the remarks of a fellow student:

How and why would people / spirits do this? What need would it fulfil generally? And what does it say about the place of humanity in the universe (which is what stories about the supernatural are ultimately about)

that I realised I really need to reassess the purpose of the story as a whole, change the direction and really elaborate on the people and their motivation (their humanity) rather than what was originally and action-led horror-cum-fantasy story with a passive protagonist. Certainly, it makes more sense to have at least one pov character as the protagonist!

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