Main character//POV//Impact Character confusion *sadface*
by Illia Belyana
Question: I am writing a simple quest story.
the POV character (Paul, for ease) is an emotionally challenged, hermit-style chap who has sought solitary seclusion after a great tragedy. When the other characters come upon him, he is emotionally blackmailed into aiding with their quest (getting a young girl to safety).
The de-facto leader of those who come across Paul is a well-meaning man of conscience (David, for ease). Despite his virtue and honour, he is a poor leader and prone to making errors of judgement.
The story I wish to tell (besides the physical labours of the journey) is the conflict between Paul and David. Paul is of the belief that in order for David to take on the mantle of leadership, he must discard his conscience and become remorseless. He must change his view point on life and see every decision in terms of numbers and calculations rather than emotions and moralities.
My question is...
I believe David is the protagonist but is he also the main character? Is he the Impact character because Paul is the POV character.
If Paul dies near the end, can I switch viewpoint to David to show whether he has maintained his view or switched to Paul's?
Although I do not want to because it would be an entirely different story, should I just make it easier on myself and switch the POV character to David?Answer:
Of course, it all depends what kind of story you want to tell. One choice is not necessarily easier to write than the other.
As a side note, it sounds like you have a pretty good grasp of story theory.
Here's my take on it...
In terms of archetypal characters, it sounds from your description that David is the protagonist, in the sense that he has embarked upon a plan and he can consider/help others to see the value in achieving the goal.
It also sounds like Paul is the Guardian - helping and advising David what he must do to achieve the goal.
As to the choice of Main/Impact character, it depends what message you want to convey in your story.
The main character is the primary POV character. He is the character through whose eyes we experience the story, and whose inner conflict we are privy to. The impact character is a character we look at. He provides an example of a way of being/doing that is opposite to the
main character's. Often, the main character's decision at the climax of whether to change and follow the impact character's example is what determines whether the goal is achieved.
If Paul is the main character, then it sounds like a story in which Paul must decide whether to start to feel empathy again. Assuming Paul has survived up to now by shutting off his humanity, the question is whether the example of the impact character, David (or possibly the girl), will convince Paul to change his attitude and start to let empathy guide his decisions. And if so, and Paul changes, will it resolve the turmoil inside him? If, in the end, he regains his humanity at the cost of his life, will it be worthwhile (a judgement of good)? In other words which is better, to die for others or survive cut off from humanity?
On the other hand, if David is the main character and Paul the impact character, then it is a story about whether it is better to give up one's humanity and one's values in order to achieve a worthy goal (whether the ends justify the means), or whether human weaknesses like self-doubts and empathy actually make you more likely to succeed. We will see David choose one path or other at the crisis, and see the results.
Now regarding your question...
"I believe David is the protagonist but is he also the main character? Is he the Impact character because Paul is the POV character.
If Paul is the POV character, that makes him the main character. The main character does not have to be the protagonist.
"If Paul dies near the end, can I switch viewpoint to David to show whether he has maintained his view or switched to Paul's?
If Paul is the main character, the reader should know what choice Paul makes before he dies. I mean, he's not going to make a choice after dying, is he? Well, it would be tricky to do.
We should probably see whether the judgement is good or bad - whether Paul's inner turmoil is resolved by his decision. I'm not sure how you could show this after his death - except by a gimmick like a note left behind.
What you might need to convey from another point of view after Paul's death is whether the story goal was achieved - whether Paul died in vain.
Hope this helps you in your choice.