The Lowly Protagonist
As is wont to happen, an idea for a new story floated through my head the other day. In my defense, at least this one is related to the Griffins & Gunpowder Universe. I haven’t decided if I’m going to make this concept into a series of short stories, weave it in with one of the other planned storylines set on Zaria, or turn it into a full-fledged series of novel.
The main body of the idea was easy enough, but when I got to my protagonist, I realized something: my main character was going to be different than every other Protag I have ever created. My MC is going to be a lowly soldier.
It was then that I realized that this is a common theme in both the Sci-Fi and Fantasy that I’ve read. So maybe I’m just not well read enough, but a lot of main characters are not lowly soldiers. The closest a great deal of MCs get is to be a lower ranked officer.
There are a lot of sub-genres of Sci-Fi and Fantasy that really don’t have this problem, but military themed fantasy definitely does. The closest that a lot of the stories I have read comes to having a “lowly” protagonist is a lower-ranked officer.
So why is it so rare to have a private, or even a corporal, as a protagonist in a story. What challenges does this create? Are there any advantages to have a “grunt” as an MC?
One of the biggest problems that you run into when you write an MC as a lowly soldier is that the character has very little initiative in their activities and no control of their setting. If your story is centered around a conflict, your Main Character is going to spend most of his/her time marching/camping/digging trenches and then there’s the occasional battle. Unless you add in some personal drama, you’re going to run into the problem of having a rather boring.
Another problem is that if you limit yourself to a single character, you’re going to have a limited strategic account of the rest of the campaign. Depending on your setting, news could still be conveyed by general announcements, newspapers, or good-old-scuttlebutt, but you’re not going to be able to convey an accurate picture of the campaign without breaking some rules.
On the other hand, there are some advantages to having a protagonist that doesn’t have as much control.
You can increase the amount of tension with a lowly soldier. The character isn’t going to know what’s going on with the rest of the campaign, they’ll be nervous as they march into battle.
I think that the reason that so few writers have lowly main characters is because it’s a more difficult approach to writing, especially military fiction. Of course, I could just need to read more =D
Posted on August 6, 2013, in writing and tagged creativity, flintlock fantasy, genre, griffins & gunpowder, Gunpowder Fantasy, muskets and magic, povs, worldbuilding, writing. Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.