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Thursday, March 19, 2020

Writing - part xx168 Writing a Novel, Protagonist Examples: Johnny Rico

19 March 2020, Writing - part xx168 Writing a Novel, Protagonist Examples: Johnny Rico

Announcement: Delay, my new novels can be seen on the internet, but my primary publisher has gone out of business—they couldn’t succeed in the past business and publishing environment.  I'll keep you informed, but I need a new publisher.  More information can be found at  Check out my novels--I think you'll really enjoy them.

Introduction: I wrote the novel Aksinya: Enchantment and the Daemon. This was my 21st novel and through this blog, 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 beginning with

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 websites
The four plus one basic rules I employ when writing:
1. Don't confuse your readers.
2. Entertain your readers.
3. Ground your readers in the writing.
4. Don't show (or tell) everything.
     4a. Show what can be seen, heard, felt, smelled, and tasted on the stage of the novel.
5. Immerse yourself in the world of your writing.
These are the steps I use to write a novel including the five discrete parts of a novel:

1.     Design the initial scene
2.     Develop a theme statement (initial setting, protagonist, protagonist’s helper or antagonist, action statement)
a.     Research as required
b.     Develop the initial setting
c.     Develop the characters
d.     Identify the telic flaw (internal and external)
3.     Write the initial scene (identify the output: implied setting, implied characters, implied action movement)
4.     Write the next scene(s) to the climax (rising action)
5.     Write the climax scene
6.     Write the falling action scene(s)
7.     Write the dénouement scene
I finished writing my 29th novel, working title, Detective, potential title Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective.  The theme statement is: Lady Azure Rose Wishart, the Chancellor of the Fae, supernatural detective, and all around dangerous girl, finds love, solves cases, breaks heads, and plays golf.  
Here is the cover proposal for Blue Rose: Enchantment and the Detective
Cover Proposal
The most important scene in any novel is the initial scene, but eventually, you have to move to the rising action. I am continuing to write on my 30th novel, working title Red Sonja.  I finished my 29th novel, working title Detective.  I’m planning to start on number 31, working title Shifter
How to begin a novel.  Number one thought, we need an entertaining idea.  I usually encapsulate such an idea with a theme statement.  Since I’m writing a new novel, we need a new theme statement.  Here is an initial cut.

For novel 30:  Red Sonja, a Soviet spy, infiltrates the X-plane programs at Edwards AFB as a test pilot’s administrative clerk, learns about freedom, and is redeemed.

For novel 31:  Deirdre and Sorcha are redirected to French finishing school where they discover difficult mysteries, people, and events. 

Here is the scene development outline:

1. Scene input (comes from the previous scene output or is an initial scene)
2. Write the scene setting (place, time, stuff, and characters)
3. Imagine the output, creative elements, plot, telic flaw resolution (climax) and develop the tension and release.
4. Write the scene using the output and creative elements to build the tension.
5. Write the release
6. Write the kicker
Today:  Why don’t we go back to the basics and just writing a novel?  I can tell you what I do, and show you how I go about putting a novel together.  We can start with developing an idea then move into the details of the writing. 

To start a novel, I picture an initial scene.  I may start from a protagonist or just launch into mental development of an initial scene.  I get the idea for an initial scene from all kinds of sources.  To help get the creative juices flowing, let’s look at the initial scene. 

1.     Meeting between the protagonist and the antagonist or the protagonist’s helper
2.     Action point in the plot
3.     Buildup to an exciting scene
4.     Indirect introduction of the protagonist

Ideas.  We need ideas.  Ideas allow us to figure out the protagonist and the telic flaw.  Ideas don’t come fully armed from the mind of Zeus.  We need to cultivate ideas. 

1.     Read novels. 
2.     Fill your mind with good stuff—basically the stuff you want to write about. 
3.     Figure out what will build ideas in your mind and what will kill ideas in your mind.
4.     Study.
5.     Teach. 
6.     Make the catharsis. 
7.     Write.

The development of ideas is based on study and research, but it is also based on creativity.  Creativity is the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  It is a reflection of something new created with ties to the history, science, and logic (the intellect).  Creativity requires consuming, thinking, and producing.

If we have filled our mind with all kinds of information and ideas, we are ready to become creative.  Creativity means the extrapolation of older ideas to form new ones or to present old ideas in a new form.  Literally, we are seeing the world in a new way, or actually, we are seeing some part of the world in a new way. 

So, modern characters must look like the reader’s impression of the protagonist.  This is an interesting problem as culture and society change as does the impression of the readers.         

I’ve been presenting the means to develop protagonists and characters your readers will enjoy—precisely those that will entertain your readers.  Mainly, the ideas I’ve proposed are these: seeking knowledge, readers, decisions the reader would make, pathos building, and overall, entertaining.  

If we agree, any breech between the protagonist and the reader is not desirable, we can move forward.   

Most of the novels I have read that I enjoyed I not only like the protagonist, I love the protagonist.  I can throw out examples:
1.     Johnny Rico from Starship Troopers
2.     Sara Crew from A Little Princess
3.     Menolly from Dragonsong and Dragonsinger
4.     Anthony Villiers from New Celebrations
5.     Lord Darcy from Randall Garett’s novels
6.     Hornblower from the C.S. Forester novels
7.     Keith Gersen from Jack Vance’s Demon Princes
8.     Adam Reith from Jack Vance’s Tschai
9.     Glawen Clattuc from Jack Vance’s The Cadwal Chronicles
10.  Flavia DeLuca from Alan Bradley’s novels
11.  Douglas Spaulding from Dandelion Wine

These characters are fun, entertaining, enjoyable, and likable.  I want to evaluate what makes them such good characters.  Let’s start at the top with Johnny Rico.

Johnny Rico is pictured for us as a common middle class kid graduating from high school.  We learn later that he is from an upper crust family, but that doesn’t detract from the story.  The depiction of him as a common man is a classic form in Romantic fiction.  It also drives pathos.

Johnny Rico is the common person seeking life, a future, and a purpose.  In this way, Johnny is like almost every person I have ever known in the first world, and especially America.  In the USA, the choices of any person’s life are based not on birth but on desire, effort, and work.  Johnny Rico depicts this perfectly because he doesn’t know what he wants to do, doesn’t have any desire, has no focus for any effort, and isn’t working toward anything.  He is the perfect example of the unformed person seeking his life and future.  In this way, he is like almost everyone who graduates from high school.  He even emulates those who do know where they are going because at some point they were seeking too.  This is the number one key to Johnny Rico, he is absolutely the common man at his age.  The circumstances and opportunities open to him also make him like the common man.

Johnny Rico is a reflection of the young people facing the Second World War, Korea, and the Cold War.  One of the opportunities in Johnny’s society is to join the government which includes the Starship Troopers, their future example of the Marines.  Johnny finds he is only fit to become a Starship Trooper, which is the lowest and least elite section of all the government employment.  In this, he is like many if not all of us.  Remember fifty percent of everyone you meet is below average.  Most of us are average, but everyone thinks they are above average.  Johnny Rico has his averageness shoved in his face—he is only capable of being a Starship Trooper. 

Almost every person who lives eventually has his or her averageness shoved in their face.  If you haven’t, you haven’t lived long enough.  The intellectual are usually below average physically, the above average physically are below average intellectually, and the beautiful aren’t usually the top in either.  No matter what your skills, you will find someone is above you in every area.  In fact, development means you start low and move high.  The expert physicist is only an expert physicist because he isn’t an expert football player.  Johnny Rico only begins to hone his skills when he starts to train as a Starship Trooper.  Again, this is like all of us.  When we start that first job, or begin college, we are honing our skills.  How well we succeed depends on us—this is the lesson of this initial education in life.

This is the initial point that endears us to Johnny Rico—he is just like all or most of us.  We understand him, and then he begins to change.  Johnny Rico slowly but surely discovers the thing he loves, and Johnny loves the rough and difficult military world of the Starship Trooper.  In this, he is also like all of us.  Every person who is a reader and especially an intellectual reader desires to find their calling in the world.  We are all seeking our calling, Johnny Rico finds his.  The finding is a desire of all and especially readers.  Those who have found their calling, completely understand.  Those who are still seeking their calling also understand.  Johnny finds his calling and through hard work begins to succeed. 

The success are one’s calling is another direct appeal in the novel.  Johnny doesn’t shy away from danger or hard work and in this he very much appeals to readers, but is different from many readers.  This is also where Johnny Rico’s decisions are more important as an appeal than his likeness to the reader.  We know many people who did not follow through with their desires or goals.  We know many people who didn’t succeed at their goals.  What almost every person wants to see is the protagonist making the decisions they wanted to make or that they knew were right in retrospect.  Johnny makes those decisions.  Johnny faces some very difficult decisions and some difficult circumstances.  The readers might not have faced the exact same and especially not the life threatening decisions and circumstances Johnny faces, the point is that if they did, they would have wanted to make the decisions Johnny did.  Johnny’s decisions and actions are all those the reader would have made in the same circumstances.

Johnny Rico, common man, common person seeking his calling and future.  Johnny Rico, making decisions that propel him forward in his field and that put him in danger.  Johnny Rico the man living out his life in an exciting and entertaining fashion that makes him seem to be just like the reader.  Let me write also, most readers have no desire to join the Starship Troopers even if they existed.  Most readers have no stomach for the danger and the risk to their lives.  Most readers would not go the way Johnny Rico did.  But, most readers see themselves and their own lives in the example of Johnny Rico.  They didn’t strive to become Starship Troopers, they strove to become teachers, scientists, electricians, business people, and all.  Not the same work or life, but the same striving.  Or at least, their mental impression of the striving is the same.  Johnny Rico appeals because he is a regular person who is seeking and succeeding.  This is ultimately the appeal of the Romantic character.  It is the appeal that drives readers to like and love characters.  It also helps that Johnny Rico is unique, well developed, and appealing to so many readers.       

Next, let’s look at Sara Crew.

The point is that we need to keep our readers content and pleased with our characters while presenting the revelation of the protagonist and the plot.    

The beginning of creativity is study and effort.  We can use this to extrapolate to creativity.  In addition, we need to look at recording ideas and working with ideas.    
More tomorrow.

For more information, you can visit my author site, and my individual novel websites:

fiction, theme, plot, story, storyline, character development, scene, setting, conversation, novel, book, writing, information, study, marketing, tension, release, creative, idea, logic

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