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Thread: Switching main characters

  1. #1
    Administrator Black Dragon's Avatar
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    Switching main characters

    Have you ever tried writing a novel in which the main character changes halfway through?

    An example of this in film would be The Village, in which Joaquin Phoenix's character gets sidelined and the blind girl becomes the central character.

    Have you seen an author do this successfully?

  2. #2
    In Sanderson's newest novel, The Way of Kings, the author hops characters quite a bit. This is done all the time in 3rd Person, but not so much in 4th.

    Even in my own novel, I leave main characters to return to them after focusing on someone else far way for many chapters.

    If you mean specifically in 1st Person POV, that would indeed be more rare and I would like to hear other ideas as well. In 3rd, one might argue that there is or isn't more than one protagonist, thus yeilding POV switches, but when this happens in 1st, I am sure this could be more challenging for bot the author and reader.

    Some have falsely called this technique the 1st Person POV Plural, but that actually refers to the use of "we", "us", and so on.

    The only example I can remember from my studies would be the peice "Beloved" by Morrison. I'll have to give this some thought or research to come up with more.

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    Administrator Black Dragon's Avatar
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    Hey Map,

    Actually, I'm thinking of something different than switching POV. It's hard to explain, but it comes down to the main character essentially dropping out of the story to be replaced by someone else, who becomes the new main player.

    In The Village, for example, Joaquin Phoenix's character becomes injured midway through the film. Up to this point he was the "hero" of the story, so to speak. Once he is unable to continue, Brice Howard takes his place as the film's central character.

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    Moderator Telcontar's Avatar
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    *shudder*

    The Village blew.

    Anyway, I haven't written one of these yet, but I've always wanted to try it. My current idea is that the main character will actually be killed very suddenly about mid-way through the book. For the sake of experiment, his replacement won't be anyone obvious to the reader from the first half, but rather a sort of admirer who we've met only a couple times.

    Plenty of problems with this (why would we want to trade a character who we liked for one we barely know?), but I think I could work them out.
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  5. #5
    Quote Originally Posted by Telcontar View Post
    *shudder*

    The Village blew.
    Haha! That's an understatement. Worst movie I've ever seen.

    Getting back to the main point, however, I don't think I've ever seen an author really do that in the way you mean, Black Dragon. The closest thing in literature I've seen is the 1st chapter of The Sword of Shannara where you're led to believe Flick is the main character, when it is actually his brother Shea. Other than that... I can only think of POV changes.

    Another movie that does this though (and is actually a good film), No Country for Old Men.

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    Administrator Black Dragon's Avatar
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    Yeah, The Village was a bomb. Unfortunately it's the best example of this that comes to mind.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dante Sawyer
    Another movie that does this though (and is actually a good film), No Country for Old Men.
    No Country for Old Men is terrific. Although if my memory serves me right the central character isn't replaced until near the end.

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    Senior Member Donny Bruso's Avatar
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    I actually am in the process of doing this in one of my many, many, incomplete projects. I posted a couple months back about the fact that I was killing one of my main characters and replacing him with another, formerly supporting character. Whether or not it will be successful depends on me actually finishing it and begging someone to publish it.
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    Senior Member JCFarnham's Avatar
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    As long as the supporting character is equally if not easier to sympathise (in the sense of the relationship between character and reader) by the time you switch then I don't see any reason why a switch like this should be a problem. Sure people may get a bit pissed off/sad at there favourite character being killed off but maybe thats the kind of feeling you need to get across to your readership.

    I say it could definitely work, as long as you put in some hard work in all the right places.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by Black Dragon View Post
    No Country for Old Men is terrific. Although if my memory serves me right the central character isn't replaced until near the end.
    It's a long movie, but I could've sworn Tommy Lee Jones becomes the main character with a little over an hour in the film.

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    Senior Member CicadaGrrl's Avatar
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    Bookwise--not fantasy but totally Secret Garden, and even as a kid it pissed me off. Collin was so less interesting. In general, when you are writing and you have a supporting character take over your book halfway through if you are on your first draft just roll with it, like everything else. But when you go back, take a hard look at your story. Your hijacker quite possibly was your main character all along, and you just didn't know it. In general, for my books at least, I have two protagonists and occassionally the pov of a few other characters, but I always know who the book BELONGS to. This one character owns the heart of the book. When people do a bait and switch on me (more in books than movies) I tend to get pissed, and often feel the author has taken the easy way out.

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