7 April 2012, Development - Protagonist's Helper
Introduction: I realized that I need to introduce this blog a little. I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. The working title was Daemon, and this was my 21st novel. Over the last year, I gave you the entire novel in installments that included commentary on the writing. In the commentary, in addition to other general information on writing, I explained, how the novel was constructed, the metaphors and symbols in it, the writing techniques and tricks I used, and the way I built the scenes. You can look back through this blog and read the entire novel.
I'm using this novel as an example of how I produce, market, and eventually (we hope) get a novel published. I'll keep you informed along the way.
Today's Blog: To see the steps in the publication process, visit my writing website http://www.ldalford.com/ and select "production schedule," you will be sent to http://www.sisteroflight.com/.
The steps in making and using a character in a novel are as follows:
1. Development of the character (history, description, personality, etc.)
2. Revelation of the character (within the novel, show don't tell)
a. Description of the character - introduction
b. Voice of the character
c. Continuing revelation by showing
In a classical plot (and in most of my novels) you have a protagonist, an antagonist, and a protagonist's helper. If you develop these three characters for a novel, the plot will naturally fall out of the development of the characters.
In spite of what you may have experienced or been told, a single character can't make any kind of great literature. Any time you have one voice, you are telling and not showing. To show, you need description and conversation. The moment you have conversation, you no longer have a soliloquy--you no longer have one character. Why a single character would even make an interesting subject is for the groupies and idolists to figure out. For the rest of us, the characters are important, but not as important as the plot, yet the character is what drives the plot. I hope you got that paradox. The importance in Oliver Twist isn't Oliver Twist. You don't read Oliver Twist to read about Oliver Twist. Oliver Twist is a child with serious issues in a world of pain. You don't read Oliver Twist to read about Oliver Twist, you read Oliver Twist for the plot and theme and through them to live the pain of Oliver Twist. Some people put themselves in the place of Oliver. Some people just live in his world vicariously, but the point isn't the characters, the point is the role and play of the characters in their roles.
Therefore, in developing the novel, it is the interplay of the characters that matter, and that interplay is what builds the plot and the theme. So, we start with the protagonist. I have intentionally not written much, except in general, about the protagonist. I think enough has been written and is understood about the protagonist. But a protagonist isn't enough. Add the foil to the protagonist, and you have the antagonist. I've put enough for now in the aether about the antagonist (there is much more to say). If you add a third character, you can write a love story. Two are not enough. The third character is the protagonist's helper.
Now, let's not get all wrapped up with modern ideas on characterization. In some of these ideas, instead of the protagonist's helper, you can have mutual protagonists or dual protagonists etc., etc. I've written a little about this. Let's put it in perspective. If you write a novel where the character changes each chapter, you might be able to convince me you have dual protagonists. You also have an experimental novel that is not in a classic style, and you are likely headed toward failure. (It is also possible you have hit on something--but let's not go there for now.) If you have a normal novel where there is consistently one character--the protagonist--as the focus (this is the classical form), the love interest must be the protagonist's helper. The title of protagonist's helper doesn't imply this is a servant, slave, or under the control of the protagonist, it simply means the character who ends up supporting the protagonist. You can reasonably have as many protagonist's helpers as necessary, but you will find it difficult, if not impossible, to write clearly and cohesively with more than three primary characters.
If you don't believe me, try to write a conversation with more than three characters. Two is easy. Three is all right. Four or more and you have two major characters and the others just chiming in at specific moments. You also will rightly note, all conversations are between two characters. No matter how many characters you have in a location and participating, the characters will end up speaking within a structure that is two--one after the other. The others become implied participants. Anything else is really too confusing to write or read. This goes directly back to character voice that I wrote a week or so ago.
I'll write about classical forms in literature, and I'll write more about characters, especially about the protagonist's helper, and plot tomorrow.
I'll repeat my published novel websites so you can see more examples: http://www.ldalford.com/, and the individual novel websites: http://www.aegyptnovel.com/, http://www.centurionnovel.com/, http://www.thesecondmission.com/, http://www.theendofhonor.com/, http://www.thefoxshonor.com/, and http://www.aseasonofhonor.com/.