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Rushie
04-13-2009, 08:36 PM
Outlining a new novel, I have a dilemma and I could use some opinions. Here are the primary characters:

* A 92 year old man with a trauma in his past directly driving the plot. This man has the knowledge, equipment and expertise to address the crisis (disaster situation).

* A young hero (19) who will be the main physical force in their survival.

* The young hero's love interest.

* A bad guy, of course.

It will be written in limited third, from the POV of each of these four. These characters will act separately until they all come together (along with a few secondary characters) to face the catastrophe as a group.

The trauma in the old man's past occurred when he himself was 19.

So my dilemma is that I want to choose between the following, and can't decide which would be more appropriate:

Choice 1:

Write this as Young Adult - MC is the 19 year old hero. He is struggling to establish his worth in the world, and to find romantic/sexual happiness. He will find these things during the tough challenges facing him in this book. The opening scene is the present, the inciting incident is in the present although it is a consequence of long ago events. Those events are shown later in the old man's flashback or dialogue. I hate using flashbacks so another option is to open with the past event, showing the old man at 19, but then I won't be introducing my main until chapter 2. This feels a little choppy to me. I could make it a prologue but I really don't want to. There is some appeal to withholding the past event and letting it be a revelation later in the story. It's not crucial to the plot that it be up front, but it would be a dynamite hook opening.

Choice 2:

The old man is the MC. He is struggling with loss of independence and being weary of life, as well as not having yet come to terms with what happened to him way back when. He sees in the young hero a reflection of what he once was. Through the novel's disaster, he will make sense of his life and find peace. The opening chapter can be the past event, and the rest will flow well, as the MC will be in it from the start.

My dilemma is that the plot is more than anything, about events and issues surrounding the old man. However, I think a 19 yr old MC is much more palatable to today's readers, and more appropriate to this type of action story. Plus, the 19 year old is crucial to their survival and much more an active figure than the old man.

Am I overthinking this? Should I just write it, and let both the old man and the young hero BE who they are, each in his own POV voice? Then maybe by the end of the first draft I'll know which is the MC?

Can a book have two MCs? Do I really need to "designate" one over the other?

The Lonely One
04-13-2009, 08:45 PM
Outlining a new novel, I have a dilemma and I could use some opinions. Here are the primary characters:

* A 92 year old man with a trauma in his past directly driving the plot. This man has the knowledge, equipment and expertise to address the crisis (disaster situation).

* A young hero (19) who will be the main physical force in their survival.

* The young hero's love interest.

* A bad guy, of course.

It will be written in limited third, from the POV of each of these four. These characters will act separately until they all come together (along with a few secondary characters) to face the catastrophe as a group.

The trauma in the old man's past occurred when he himself was 19.

So my dilemma is that I want to choose between the following, and can't decide which would be more appropriate:

Choice 1:

Write this as Young Adult - MC is the 19 year old hero. He is struggling to establish his worth in the world, and to find romantic/sexual happiness. He will find these things during the tough challenges facing him in this book. The opening scene is the present, the inciting incident is in the present although it is a consequence of long ago events. Those events are shown later in the old man's flashback or dialogue. I hate using flashbacks so another option is to open with the past event, showing the old man at 19, but then I won't be introducing my main until chapter 2. This feels a little choppy to me. I could make it a prologue but I really don't want to. There is some appeal to withholding the past event and letting it be a revelation later in the story. It's not crucial to the plot that it be up front, but it would be a dynamite hook opening.

Choice 2:

The old man is the MC. He is struggling with loss of independence and being weary of life, as well as not having yet come to terms with what happened to him way back when. He sees in the young hero a reflection of what he once was. Through the novel's disaster, he will make sense of his life and find peace. The opening chapter can be the past event, and the rest will flow well, as the MC will be in it from the start.

My dilemma is that the plot is more than anything, about events and issues surrounding the old man. However, I think a 19 yr old MC is much more palatable to today's readers, and more appropriate to this type of action story. Plus, the 19 year old is crucial to their survival and much more an active figure than the old man.

Am I overthinking this? Should I just write it, and let both the old man and the young hero BE who they are, each in his own POV voice? Then maybe by the end of the first draft I'll know which is the MC?

Can a book have two MCs? Do I really need to "designate" one over the other?

Swear word incoming:

Fuck today's reader. Bending to their fickle whims is silly, not only because I really think readers don't know what they want--that's your job--but because by the time you write the damn thing and get it published the trend has changed.

My gut reaction was to go with the old man's POV before ever seeing your preference. That is MUCH more interesting to me than some young guy-hero (a common type of hero).

Then I had another idea--what about doing both, in different chapters, and intersecting them? There's the potential for that if you're schizophrenic enough to write it.

Anyways, it seems interesting from what you've posted. Keep us updated on it.

dancingandflying
04-13-2009, 08:56 PM
Fuck today's reader. Bending to their fickle whims is silly, not only because I really think readers don't know what they want--that's your job--but because by the time you write the damn thing and get it published the trend has changed.

QFT. The Lonely One has some real insights. I also agree that the old man's POV is the definite choice. That's where the majority of the action is, and the most potential character development.

d&f.

Dale Emery
04-13-2009, 09:01 PM
Am I overthinking this?

If your writing is stalled while you sort it out, yes.

Should I just write it, and let both the old man and the young hero BE who they are, each in his own POV voice? Then maybe by the end of the first draft I'll know which is the MC?

I think that's a fine idea.

Can a book have two MCs? Do I really need to "designate" one over the other?

You can have two MCs. If they both have a strong story arc, that will work just fine. If not, then one will emerge as the MC, and the other will be a strong supporting character. Write it and see!

That said, it's clear from what you've told us that the old man is the story.

Dale

timewaster
04-13-2009, 09:05 PM
I think you probably are over thinking it. I'd be inclined to start writing and see what happens. If it doesn't work one way try it another. Sometimes it is hard to tell quite what is going to work until you give your back brain chance to get involved and you start putting words on the page.

bettielee
04-13-2009, 09:22 PM
Whenever I have this delimna, I just start writing. When I get into it, I often see what will work, what won't. The stronger voice will call out to you, or maybe BOTH will be equally strong. I don't see why you can't have two main characters, as long as they have strong enough arcs.

Rushie
04-13-2009, 11:47 PM
Thanks everyone, this is exactly what I need! I will think of the old man as the MC but I will write the young guy's story as passionately as the character "comes to deserve" and see how it all comes together. I really appreciate the "fuck today's reader" sentiment, I really needed to hear that. My story will be better if I write the real story that's in me, not try to force it into some template I imagine exists.

Calla Lily
04-14-2009, 12:10 AM
This is what happened to me in my first ms: I had outlined an older woman to trek along with the MC. When I reached the point where the MC met the older woman and her family, the woman's oldest daughter shoved everyone behind her and would not shut up till I rewrote with her as the companion.

So--write how you think it'll happen, and let your characters tell you which one is the MC. :) Good luck!

Makai_Lightning
04-14-2009, 01:35 AM
My personal choice would have been choice 2, because while choice 1 sounds like it could be good, the old man sounds like he could have a really interesting perspective on things, and I think there's value to using a character that actually knows things about what's going on and can reflect rather than someone always running around trying to figure things out.

I also don't think you necessarily have to establish just one main character when both have good stories.

Am I overthinking this? Should I just write it, and let both the old man and the young hero BE who they are, each in his own POV voice? Then maybe by the end of the first draft I'll know which is the MC?

Can a book have two MCs? Do I really need to "designate" one over the other?

No, you don't need to designate one over the other, as long as both have a strong story and you can manage to write both. Personally, my advice is to just let go and write it, then see how it looks after your first draft.

My two cents.

Matera the Mad
04-14-2009, 05:51 AM
Let 'em duke it out as you write. Whoever starts to dominate wins the MC crown. Some of the best characters are grown, not made. Maybe they can share.

jy'lenn
04-14-2009, 06:12 AM
Personally, I LOVE books that change perspective. They seem to keep me intrigued all the way through and I usually end up wanting to know more about one particular character than the actual main character.

I'd say that if you can write it from the different perspectives and keep it from being confusing or jarring when you read it (guilty of both, unfortunatly), then go for it. You can always have others read it when done to point out the problem places. Here in the Share Your Work or people you know personally whose opinions you can trust.

It sounds like you've got enough of an idea and plot to start writing, so do just that. Write! Go with whatever feels most natural with you and your story.

Of course, I'm not published, so my opinions might not be all that great.

If you really get stuck, go to the local library and start browsing through the fiction novels. If you like fantasy, I'd suggest looking for "The Obsidian Trilogy" by Mercedes Lackey and James Mallory. Another that changes perspectives often is the Noble Dead series by Barb and J.C. Hendee (the first in the series is called "Dhampir", which is really good).

I'm not sure what books in other genres have multiple perspectives, maybe someone else here has a few suggestions?

WKolodzieski
04-14-2009, 06:24 AM
Agree with the others, I like choice number two. (I'm also going through a struggle right now planning my next book, and am having similar frustrations w/ MC's and POV changing, so I get your dilemna.) Good luck and keep us posted.

CDaniel
04-14-2009, 07:09 AM
I think you probably are over thinking it. I'd be inclined to start writing and see what happens. If it doesn't work one way try it another. Sometimes it is hard to tell quite what is going to work until you give your back brain chance to get involved and you start putting words on the page.

I agree with timewaster here, just start writing and let the story take you where it will. If you don't like, try it another way.

Cyia
04-14-2009, 11:55 AM
Generally, 17 is the upper edge for Young Adult, and even then it depends on the presentation and tone. 19 is too old, especially in a book where at least half of the story is dependent on an elderly man's perspective.

Many stories have 2 or more main characters.

I'm curious what brought you to your conclusion that 19 is more palatable to a modern reader? Protagonists in books are all ages.

Write the book - your book. You can't do that if you're holding everything up against some imaginary measurement.

Stijn Hommes
04-14-2009, 03:34 PM
Just use two MCs. From what I can see, the events in the story are not really any different and doing so will not constrain you in what character should get the focus.

MetalDog
04-14-2009, 03:41 PM
Three cheers for The Lonely One's approach. Write it how you feel it should be written and sort out what pigeonhole it's most likely to be crammed into afterawards.

Personally I'm tired of teenagers journeys - hearing from older people is always refreshing.