Thread: Fatal Flaw?
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Old 04-03-2010, 04:56 AM   #201
Mac H.
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 1,852
Default Re: Fatal Flaw?

Jim - I just read your linked website and I think I see why there is some confusion.

You define : "The Main Character is defined as the character through whose eyes we experience the story"

That definition is just confusing. You could define it that way - just like a cooking expert could define: "Parmesan Cheese is defined as the topmost ingredient in a Lasagna"

But would that definition help chefs (and potential chefs) to understand cooking? You could argue that the definition is true for most recipes - but then you'd get stuck with other dishes. You would argue that a given ingredient MUST be Parmesan cheese just because it is topmost on the dish !

It will just confuse chefs who already had a definition of 'Parmesan cheese'.

Every movie goer already has an idea of what the 'Main Character' of a film means. Their definition may not always agree ... but it isn't going to help your discussion if you arbitrarily define 'The Viewpoint Character' as 'The Main Character'.

Here's an example. Imagine if we filmed this anecdote:

"When I was at school, I used to sit behind my friend Tom in math class. Tom was always getting in trouble. Tom used to flick pencils at the girl who sat in front of him until she'd get mad at him. He eventually got up the courage to ask her out on a date, but by then he'd been diagnosed with Leukemia. That changed everything.

Eventually of course, they fell in love and, when they graduated, got married."
Ask any movie goers to identify the antagonist and protagonist.

There would be argument whether Tom's Leukemia was an antagonist, or whether his own insecurities were. Some people might argue that his love interest (who he eventually married) was the antagonist. But would there be any argument that Tom is the protagonist ?

And - here is the real question - who is the Main Character? Ask any movie-goer.

The options are:

(1) Tom
(2) The girl who sat in front of Tom - the one he eventually married
(3) Mac H. - because he is the narrator and is the viewpoint character.

Any movie-goer would answer (1). Can you think of anyone (who hadn't read your definition) who would answer (3) ????

Surely your definition just doesn't make sense. It might be true in many cases - but that doesn't make it a definition !

Using it as a definition just makes all conversations confusing.

Why not just use the phrase 'Viewpoint character' ?

Your opening post on this thread would also makes perfect sense if you did that ! Writing is about communicating. Your opening post in this thread failed to communicate because you had an odd definition of 'Main Character'. If you don't have the same definition as your readers then you simply can't communicate. Why not just use the same language as your readers and use the phrase 'Viewpoint Character' ?

In fact - I urge everyone who can't make sense of Jim's arguments to go and re-read his original post - but replace the phrase 'Main Character' with 'Viewpoint Character'. It actually makes sense !

In fact, I'm going to repost it using the normal definitions of the words:

The idea that the Protagonist and the 'Viewpoint Character' have to be the same person is an outdated concept that stifles writers and obfuscates true meaning in narrative fiction.

As Steven points out, you can combine the two to get the classic "Hero" character that most writers are comfortable with. However, if you want to write something different, something unique and closer to real life, then yes you can split them apart as in the aforementioned "Mockingbird." "Shawshank Redemption" is another great example of a story where the two are split.

Why would you want to differentiate between the two? Because the thematic issues that affect everyone in the story are not the same as those that affect the Viewpoint Character personally. In point of fact, it is the differential between these two that actually provides the meaning audiences are looking for. In real life we cannot live both within ourselves and also look outside at ourselves objectively - it is a physical impossibility.

This is why stories exist - to provide us with both perspectives and therefore give us the meaning we so often crave, yet can't find in real life.
See !! It actually makes sense now.

(I'm not sure I agree with every subtlety of it - but at least I can understand it well enough to have an opinion)

(PS: Jim - please don't force everyone who reads your posts to have a translation manual! It doesn't help the communication!)

Last edited by Mac H. : 04-03-2010 at 05:45 AM.
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