Fatal Flaw?

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  • JimHull
    replied
    Re: Fatal Flaw?

    Just to clear up any "horrifically bad information" I may be passing on...

    The idea that the Protagonist and the Main Character have to be the same person is an outdated concept that stifles writers and obfuscates true meaning in narrative fiction.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

    The Main Character provides the inner viewpoint, the Protagonist (prime mover of the plot), Antagonist, and so on provide that external 3rd person view.

    The problem you are having with "Star Wars" is that you haven't identified the true goal of the story. Before determining the Protagonist/Antagonist, it helps to figure out what the goal is first.

    Everyone thinks the goal of "Star Wars" is to blow up the death star, but this really doesn't come into play until the latter half of the film. The real goal, what everyone is most concerned with or interested in is rebelling against tyranny and oppression. Note that this is not the common kind of goal that most people are comfortable with and I'm sure everyone will jump on me, but when you really think of the concerns and issues present throughout the entire story, this goal of rebelling against tyranny is more accurate than simply "blowing up the Death Star".

    With that goal in mind, it becomes clear that Luke is the Protagonist (he wants to fight the empire) whereas the Empire is the Antagonist (they want to prevent him and his buddies).

    I have written two articles that explain this is more detail. Both contain slides that I use in my presentations given while teaching Story Development at the California Institute of the Arts:

    Archetypes That Make Sense
    Character Motivation Defined

    The latter also has a 10-minute video explaining in great detail the character archetypes present in "Star Wars".

    It has been awhile since I've seen "Thelma and Louise", but if I remember correctly, Thelma (Geena Davis) is the Protagonist while Louise (Susan Sarandon) is the Main Character. I'm not sure if this is the same kind of dynamic you have in your own story, but it certainly sounds like it.

    I hope this helps. If you have any questions about anything feel free to write to me at http://storyfanatic.com/contact and I'll try to help you out as best I can.

    The important thing to remember is to write first and only refer to this stuff when you are stuck or if you feel like what you have in mind isn't what everyone else is telling you. Your intuition should always rule.

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  • asjah8
    replied
    Re: Fatal Flaw?

    Originally posted by Ravenlocks View Post

    Re: Gollum, he was what Frodo could have become. I can't remember whether Frodo explicitly recognized that, but it could definitely account for the sympathy there.
    yes, i see what you mean. that does fall in place with golum. actually, just thinking about it, i wonder if frodo's character arc is almost on the level of a story arc?

    it makes sense. the antithesis of getting to the mountain, is going home (full circle). and if that is drawn as the character's need, then it's a simple and opposing goal that is strong enough to carry a 3-film spine. but, in order for the writers to pull it off, they'd need two things: they'd still need to show the protag's conflict at the singular film level. that's a huge problem with all those other story threads going on; easy to get lost in all the noise. too strong and the threads lose focus; too weak and the story loses momentum. golum, as a conflicted symbol of degradation solves everything neatly.

    the second thing the writer's would have needed was a solid sale of all three films, before they ever started writing the first one. can't write a 3-film spine with only one film in the bag.

    i mean, we all know tlotr is a literary series so two and three could reasonably be expected; but, many films have also been part of a series and they were drafted to potentially stand alone if necessary. i think star wars is a great example. tlotr though, none of the films can stand alone. it's like total commitment in the writing from 1 to 3.

    does any of my sleepy writing make sense, or am i off-track looking at it from this perspective? appreciate thoughts.

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  • reddery
    replied
    Re: Fatal Flaw?

    all it's saying is that the MC is the character that tells the story and the Protagonist is the empathetic character that the audience roots for and/or opposes the Antagonist.

    in the same terminology the 'Hero' the combination of the MC and ProTag

    Leave a comment:


  • reddery
    replied
    Re: Fatal Flaw?

    Originally posted by jonpiper View Post
    Steven, study this article concerning when the main character is not the protagonist, http://storyfanatic.com/articles/sto...e-protagonist/

    It may help you continue to discuss this issue.
    A Main Character is the player through whom the audience experiences the story first hand. A Protagonist is the prime mover of the plot. A Hero is a combination of both Main Character and Protagonist. In other words, a hero is a blended character who does two jobs: move the plot forward and serve as a surrogate for the audience. When we consider all the characters other than a Protagonist who might serve as the audience's position in a story, suddenly the concept of a hero becomes severely limited. It is not wrong, just limited.
    Do we need more movies like Last Action Hero?

    Leave a comment:


  • TwoBrad Bradley
    replied
    Re: Fatal Flaw?

    Originally posted by TwoBrad Bradley View Post
    Which is the reporter, Thompson, in Citizen Kane? He seems to be the character with the goal while the story is more about someone else.
    And what about Pirates of the Caribbean? Elizabeth is the protagonist while the story is Mainly focused on a different Character.

    Leave a comment:


  • Steven Jenkins
    replied
    Re: Fatal Flaw?

    Originally posted by jonpiper View Post
    Steven, study this article concerning when the main character is not the protagonist, http://storyfanatic.com/articles/sto...e-protagonist/

    It may help you continue to discuss this issue.
    Thanks Jon
    I've gone back to all the books and to Dramatica's manual and seen I've got it all completely wrong.

    I still have a few problems with Star Wars though, even if I agree Luke is the Protagonist, MC and Hero.

    Leia is the one tasked with delivering the plans to the rebellion.
    Obi wan gets the call to adventure when she passes the baton to him via R2D2 when she gets caught.
    Luke is merely tasked with helping Obi Wan deliver the plans, and also help Leia - so he's just kind of Obi's helper and jedi apprentice.
    Luke then becomes Leia's rescuer, and helper to get the plans away from Darth and to the rebellion. Even the plan to rescue Leia quickly becomes Han's plan, assisted by Luke.

    So although Luke mostly plays secondary dramatic functions he's still the protag, as without him all would be lost after Obi gets killed by Darth. And of course, he's the one who actually destroys the Death Star and transforms because of it.

    Assuming the above is a fair analyssis, now I need to apply Dramatica to Thelma & Louise, as this is the kind of story my own idea most closely resembles - at least in the method of assigning role functions.
    Last edited by Steven Jenkins; 03-29-2010, 06:33 AM.

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  • Ravenlocks
    replied
    Re: Fatal Flaw?

    Originally posted by asjah8 View Post
    i never thought about it that way; good point raven. i tend to think of an arc as more internal and character-altering. frodo isn't really conflicted about what he has to do, although he's afraid; and he recognizes evil for what it is. all through the story he tells others the darkness is his cross to bear. the only point i really hesitated, was golum. frodo didn't recognize golum's deeper evil because sympathy blinded him.

    well, this blows my fabulous theory all to hell. in a good way though, so i appreciate the insight.


    Your analysis of the dramatic throughline stands. We've got all those POV, but the main story is always Frodo getting the ring to the mountain.

    Re: Gollum, he was what Frodo could have become. I can't remember whether Frodo explicitly recognized that, but it could definitely account for the sympathy there.

    Leave a comment:


  • asjah8
    replied
    Re: Fatal Flaw?

    Originally posted by Ravenlocks View Post
    Frodo does actually evolve. He comes under the ring's influence and starts to turn darker, so that's one type of evolution triggered by something external. But he also arcs simply because of everything he goes through during the story. When he gets back to the Shire at the end, he realizes he doesn't really belong there anymore. Of course, he has to take care of that little Saruman problem - and he can. He's not the hobbit he was when he left.

    I can't remember how it played out in the movies, though. Maybe he was more static in them.
    i never thought about it that way; good point raven. i tend to think of an arc as more internal and character-altering. frodo isn't really conflicted about what he has to do, although he's afraid; and he recognizes evil for what it is. all through the story he tells others the darkness is his cross to bear. the only point i really hesitated, was golum. frodo didn't recognize golum's deeper evil because sympathy blinded him.

    well, this blows my fabulous theory all to hell. in a good way though, so i appreciate the insight.

    Leave a comment:


  • reddery
    replied
    Re: Fatal Flaw?

    catalyst

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  • jonpiper
    replied
    Re: Fatal Flaw?

    Originally posted by Steven Jenkins View Post
    I guess it's just a mix-up of terms, probably from my having recently read the theory behind the "Dramatica" program, which they agree is a little different to established thinking.

    Steven, study this article concerning when the main character is not the protagonist, http://storyfanatic.com/articles/sto...e-protagonist/

    It may help you continue to discuss this issue.

    Leave a comment:


  • Ravenlocks
    replied
    Re: Fatal Flaw?

    Originally posted by asjah8
    now, what's even messier is that frodo doesn't really evolve at all; he is a static character. the story evolves via his involvement in everyone else's lives; the dynamic supporting characters. actually, frodo has to be a strong static character in order to carry the spine while the writer plays with povs of other threads. otherwise, the whole thing would fall apart.
    Frodo does actually evolve. He comes under the ring's influence and starts to turn darker, so that's one type of evolution triggered by something external. But he also arcs simply because of everything he goes through during the story. When he gets back to the Shire at the end, he realizes he doesn't really belong there anymore. Of course, he has to take care of that little Saruman problem - and he can. He's not the hobbit he was when he left.

    I can't remember how it played out in the movies, though. Maybe he was more static in them.

    Leave a comment:


  • TwoBrad Bradley
    replied
    Re: Fatal Flaw?

    Which is the reporter, Thompson, in Citizen Kane? He seems to be the character with the goal while the story is more about someone else.

    Leave a comment:


  • Steven Jenkins
    replied
    Re: Fatal Flaw?

    Right

    I'll go back and re-assess what's what. I need to get these things down-pat.

    And, thanks for all the input everyone

    Leave a comment:


  • JeffLowell
    replied
    Re: Fatal Flaw?

    Scout is the narrator, not the main character. It's like saying that Nick is the main character of Gatsby. (Please, don't someone say that.)

    And yes, you can tell LOTR with anyone being the protagonist. (See "Rosencrantz and Guildernstern Are Dead.") That doesn't change the fact that Frodo is the protagonist and main character of the movie as it exists now.

    Steven, art is subjective, but the meaning of the word "protagonist" isn't. And it's not just semantics - your main character is your protagonist and his goal defines the plot of the movie. I'm not sure who's teaching you the theory that makes Sauron the protagonist of LOTR, or the Emperor the protagonist of Star Wars, but you should never talk to that person again, because they are giving you horrifically bad information.

    Leave a comment:


  • Ronaldinho
    replied
    Re: Fatal Flaw?

    The Sauron-Frodo thing makes an important point: you can tell stories from multiple points of view. You could make Sauron the hero, tell the story from his side. (Somebody did this online somewhere - he's trying to overturn a racist hegemony).

    But one needs to be careful with this. In a good story, every character has strong motivations, they want something - that means anyone could be the protagonist. I mean, imagine Boromir as the tragic hero of LOTR: he's sent on a quest to find a weapon he needs to save his people, he doesn't get it, and millions die in a war as a consequence.

    As Bill has pointed out, often in action movies the hero is reactive: in Die Hard, no bad guys = no movie. No John McClane ... well, you still kinda have a movie there, albiet a very different one.

    Nevertheless, the hero is driving the particular action of the film. Die Hard with Holly as the hero is a very very different film, even though the bad guys are the same and have the same plan.

    In LOTR, Frodo's decision to take the Ring to Mordor drives the particular action of the film. In the absence of Sauron's plan for world domination, that quest doesn't exist, but that doesn't mean Frodo isn't the protagonist.

    There is a larger story of which Gandalf is the protagonist - his war against Sauron, as part of the council. The events of the books end up being the third act of that story - the pieces Gandalf has set in motion in his life up to that point (digging through ancient books, developing relationships among the various races so they would be ready when the time came, seeking out the one ring) all come to fruition. But that is a story Tolkein didn't tell, we only get echoes of it (Gandalf talks of his encounter with the Necromancer, etc).

    Similarly, you'd go back even farther if you were going to tell the story where Sauron is the hero, back before the creation of the rings of power, which is probably the first-act break in his story. (Not having read the Simarillion in its entirety, I don't know all the details of Sauron's history, so that's a bit of a guess). In that story, the events of the books are, again, the third act: he discovers that his ring has been found, and declares himself openly in a final bid to destroy the hegemony of the Elves.

    But that should of storytelling jiu-jitsu shouldn't obscure the fact that the protagonist is the hero of the story by definition, the one who drives the action.

    Sometimes you have a story where the point-of-view character isn't the protagonist (eg, "Shane") - where we see the hero through the eyes of someone else. That might be the sort of thing the original poster is talking about here, I'm not sure.

    Leave a comment:

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