19 May 2012

The Pro-Hero-tag-viewpoint Dilemma

Wow. I see questioning faces as they try to understand my title this time out. Mayhaps this is a good thing. You’ll want to read further.
But today is not about titles. It’s about characters.
My title refers to the choices we as writers make when creating our stories. It comes from three important questions:
1) Who is our hero or protagonist?
2) Who is our story about?
3) Who is our viewpoint character?
Well, they’re all the same character. Are they? Should they be? Let’s think about that a minute.
I’m going to use Sherlock Holmes as my example for part of this discussion. For those who’ve not read any of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s writings, the viewpoint character is Doctor Watson, Holmes’ faithful assistant and chronicler. The stories follow Watson as he follows Holmes. This helps because it allows Doyle to stretch the story out. Holmes may know the culprit by the third page. Watson won’t know until he talks to Holmes more on page 10. As such, the reader will have guesses, but won’t have the answer until Watson has the answer.
Am I saying this is the best and only way to write a story? No, not in the least. I’m using it as an example of a different technique.
For many writers, the primary viewpoint comes from the hero, the main person of the story. Sometimes, this doesn’t offer the BEST story, however.
Some writers say follow the pain. Follow the character with the most to gain or lose.
I say follow the best story. Sometimes, the hero, the admiral, the politician, they just don’t offer that compelling story everyone wants to read. Look at some of the other stories out there. A popular science fiction work by Tanya Huff follows the First Sargent of the military, instead of the commander or general. Why? Because it offered a better story.
Look at your writing. What offers you the best story?

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