On characters : whose story is this anyway ?

Hello gentle reader,

Today is Sunday, so here is my weekly post about the writing process. Hope you all had a lovely week. If you’re here to enter my Stuck In A Good Book Giveaway, click here.

As you may know, I’m currently revising my WIP The Last Queen, and this week I have been thinking a lot about characters and points of view. In most stories, the viewpoint character and the main character are the same person. But it doesn’t have to be. In my WIP, my main character is not the hero of the story. And it’s perfectly fine to write your story this way, as long as you know what you’re doing.

In The Writer’s Digest Guide to Science Fiction and Fantasy, Hugo Award winner Orson Scott Card explains:

“When you’re deciding whom the story is about, remember that the “hero”, the main character, and viewpoint character don’t have to be the same person. Most of us use the term hero as an informal synonym for “main character”. But in our day (…) it’s useful to keep a distinction in mind.

The hero is the character that the audience hopes will achieve his goals and desires – the character we are rooting for. There’s a moral judgment involved here. (…) We want him to win.

But the hero isn’t always the main character. Sometimes the most important character in a story, the one who makes everything happen, the one whose choices and struggles the story is about, [is another character].”

One of the best examples of this duality in a story is the movie Sucker Punch by Zack Snyder (2011). In this story, the main character is a girl named Sweet Pea.

She is the narrator of the story and the leader of the group of characters. She makes the decisions, and the story revolves around her choices and future.

But she is not the heroine of the movie. The heroine is another girl, named Baby Doll. She is the one the audience connects with and cares about. She is the one we follow to find out if her hopes and desires will be fulfilled. And it so happens that her desires and hopes involve giving Sweet Pea a bright future.

So how do you go about choosing your main character?

1)      You decide what you want to write about. What you want to say through your story.

2)      You decide whose story you want to tell. You choose your main character,  a voice to speak throughout the story, a character who connects with the reader.

3)      You decide if this main character is the hero of your story. Most of the times, the answer will be yes. But sometimes, it might worth considering the answer no.

 Then you write.

“And finally this question, the mystery of whose story it will be. Of who draws the curtain. Who is it that chooses our steps in the dance? Who drives us mad? Lashes us with whips and crowns us with victory when we survive the impossible? Who is it, that does all of these things?

Who honors those we love for the very life we live? Who sends monsters to kill us, and at the same time sings that we will never die? Who teaches us what’s real and how to laugh at lies? Who decides why we live and what we’ll die to defend? Who chains us? And Who holds the key that can set us free…

It’s You.

You have all the weapons you need.

Now Fight!”

Sweet Pea in Sucker Punch

So how do you go about choosing your main character? Is your main character always the hero in your stories? I’d love the read your input below!

7 thoughts on “On characters : whose story is this anyway ?

  1. sjp says:

    really great post 🙂 love sucker punch

  2. Juliana Haygert says:

    Nice post!
    Have Sucker Punch in bluray but didn’t watch it yet. Should I? Is it good? =P

  3. EM Castellan says:

    I love this movie because it’s all about girl power and the power of imagination. But I have to warn you, there’s no romance in this story 😉

  4. I think it’s perfectly acceptable for someone else to tell the story – Wuthering Heights has a very removed, but nosy narrator; and To Kill a Mockingbird is uniquely powerful because it is told through the eyes of a child. I personally find it really hard to know who the hero is in my story – because in the grand scheme of my epic fantasy several people carry the torch until the trilogy reaches its final conclusion. And right now I have no idea if I’m going to be able to pull it off.

    Lots to think about though. By the way, my husband loved Sucker Punch – because of the great special effects…!

  5. Talynn Lynn says:

    Hey!! I’m stopping by through the blog hop. I wanted to give you a follow, but I have yet to figure out how to follow a wordpress blog:(

    This is a lovely post and I enjoyed reading. I have a manuscript where my Mc and the hero are not alike. And it’s funny. I got the idea after watching Sucker Punch. I really liked the movie and thought it was a creative way to show awesome girl power:)

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