All of the Pieces
The Centaur Incursion is 10k words deep and The Hydra Offensive is nearly through Round 1 of Paper Edits. I don’t have classes this summer, so I should be able to tear through my workload on both of those.
There, I started with an update!
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
As I work on The Hydra Offensive, I’ve run into a problem. I originally had planned to have 6 total POV Characters, including return characters Raedan, Hadrian and Eadric from The Cerberus Rebellion and three new POVs. There would be 2 sets of 2 POVs that would follow basically the same plot lines and then 2 independent POVs with their own plot. Those 2 wouldn’t get a lot of time until mid-way through.
Well, one of the plot lines (2 POVs) has grown into a lot more than I originally planned for it to be. According to my initial outline, I should be at around chapter 12 or 13. I’m at Chapter 23. I’m finally approaching the point where the 2 independent POVs should start getting more time, but I’m beginning to worry about the end size of Hydra if I put them both in.
If I do put both of them in, I can see Hydra ballooning to over 120k words, and while that’s not as big of a concern as it may have been before, I’m more concerned with running into the George RR Martin problem of diluting the focus of the novel.
I’ve looked at it and I can reasonably push one of the subplots into the next novel, tenatively titled “The Centaur Campaign”, but if I do that, I worry that I’m going to run into the same problem until I run out of novels to push storylines to. Cutting the proposed storyline won’t either because this is a major character who features prominently in the series going forward.
Funny enough, and on a related note, I’m actually going back through my novella “Battle for Broken Plains” and adding in a new major POV. This character got some time later in the story, but I think that things will flow better, and avoid as much infodump, by adding the character in earlier in the piece and slowly introducing the content.
Have you ever had to push a character into the next book to make sure your novel doesn’t get fat?