Three Main Characters. Do I need three Gandalfs/Dumbledores/Obi-Wans?
Question: I've read on this site that for every main character that you write in the point of view of needs to have his or her own story arc. They each need to have a clear antagonist, and I'm currently working on writing in the third antagonist. I always thought that that piece of advice adds so much depth to a story if one only perseveres to write more than one main character, so thanks for that.
My question is related to mentor figures, like Obi-Wan Kenobi, in multiple heroes' journeys. If I have three characters, and if I want to stick to that Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings take on the hero's journey, do I need to apply the multiple-villains-for-each-protagonist rule on each of my heroes when it comes to their mentors? Is that a viable path, or will it seem too repetitive after a while of it being done in the same story? How often should my mentor characters, you know, *mentor* their students?
I really don't want it to feel as if they're slowing the pace of the story. Maybe I should kill one of them, what do you think?Answer:
You need to distinguish between "protagonist" and "main character." They can be the same character, but often they are not.
The protagonist leads the effort to achieve the story goal, which is the focus of the overall story.
The main character is the principle point-of-view (POV) character, the person from whose perspective the reader views the story. The arc of his inner conflict is the subjective story.
It is true that every POV character is the hero of his/her own story. However, when you're using multiple POV characters, not all of them have to be fully developed. Often just the principle POV or main character is. It's your choice.
The overall story only needs one protagonist and one antagonist. (You might make your main character
the protagonist, for example.) More than one antagonist is unnecessary and risks letting your plot get out of control and becoming muddy.
Regarding mentors, I think you're confusing the Guardian archetype, which is part of the overall story, with the "impact character," who is part of the subjective story.
If you are going to develop a POV character, that means giving the character an inner conflict. Inner conflict is usually created by having the POV character encounter an impact character -- someone with a completely different way of dealing with problems than the POV character.
Sometimes impact characters can be mentors or Guardians who try to teach the POV character to take a new approach. But friends, love interests, and other characters can serve just as well in this role, as long as they can advise the POV character.
In other cases, the impact character is just someone the main character observes doing things in a different way. So long as the impact character makes the main character question his/her approach, it will serve.
You are free to decide how many POV characters you need, and how much to develop each one. Only the main character needs to be fully developed. If a POV only appears in one or two chapters, for example, you might not need to give him an impact character or develop a complete inner arc.
Sometimes two POV characters can serve as each other's impact characters, which happens sometimes in romances. (However, it's best to not have them both wrestling with the same issues.)
But lets say you have more than one POV character you want to fully develop. You don't have to make all the impact characters mentor figures. Variety usually works better.
For instance, maybe one character has a mentor, another has a love interest, another has his father's journal to guide him, another is challenged by the first character's approach, etc.
Lots of room for artistic license here.