who's my protagonist

by Marissa

Question: I have a character who I really like and I've always thought of her as the main character or one of the main characters. But she isn't actually met until book 2 and in book 1 she's just mentioned and you don't even know who she is at the time.

To get to her and her story I needed to create the first book to introduce the world and the bad guy and the main story arc. For that I have another character who gets thrown into this world and he has to learn everything and everything is totally new to him. He would continue to be a main character throughout the series.

The point of view would be mostly of him and her with a few chapters of other character POV. He's driving the main story arc in trying to stop the villain where as she is helping him but she is also for most of the books is separate from them and is doing her own little story arc. But she plays a major role in the story as a whole and she is the one that is to ultimately defeat the bad guy.

They're both main characters and the story revolves around both of them. But if you were to look at them side by side she would probably be the stronger character. So who would be my protagonist? Is it okay to introduce your real main character or your second main character in the second book? I just can't think of a single story that introduces such a major character that's not in the first book.

Answer: Just to be clear on terms...

The main character is the primary point-of-view character whose inner conflict the reader is privy to. How the main character resolves his/her inner conflict generally determines the outcome of the story.

The protagonist is the character who leads the pursuit of the story goal.

It seems to me that your guy is the main character. The easiest way to familiarize readers with an exotic story world is to have them discover it as the main character discovers it.

However, when you're writing from multiple points of view, you must bear in mind that every character is the main character from their point of view. When you provide multiple POVs, you are essentially creating multiple stories within the overall story.

Not all POV characters have to be fully developed, but if you want to make your female character a major POV character in the second book, then she will probably need her own inner conflict, the resolution of which allow her to bring about the ending.

Here's my suggestion...

Make the guy the main character of the first book. End that book with his personal crisis where he decides whether or not to change. You may need to create a resolution to the overall story so the first book has an ending that satisfies but also sets the stage for the next book -- perhaps a temporary standoff or setback for the hero. In a four-act structure, you would be ending the book at the conclusion of act three.

The second book will be the fourth act -- the race towards victory.

However, the guy's story would be a lessor plotline in Book 2 (he's already made his choice and the overall plot is 3/4 told). So Book 2 would shift gears and focus mainly on the female's story. The resolution of her inner conflict would prepare her to make a major contribution to the outcome of the story.

Often, when you have multiple POV characters, it helps to show that both of these characters make essential contributions to the outcome of the story, because of the way they resolve their inner conflicts. So the victory would result from the actions of both her and the guy.

Incidentally, you might consider having the guy be the impact character to the female in the second book. The impact character's job is to show the main character a different approach, so that she doubts her current approach (thus creating inner conflict) and must choose whether or not to change. This would be her personal crisis.

The downside to all this is that you may be writing an entire book as a prequel before you get to the character you really want to write about.

You may -- note, may -- discover that you don't need to write the first book at all. It might simply become the impact character's backstory, rather like how Star Wars: A New Hope shows us the end of Obi wan Kenobi's story while presenting the beginning of Luke's story. We don't need to watch Episodes 1-3 to familiarize ourselves with the story world and the conflict between the Emperor and the rebels. We just pick up all that as we go along.

You have to make a judgment about whose story you feel most passionate about and which one will better engage the readers, just as George Lucas realized that Luke's story was far more compelling than Obi wan or Anakin's.

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