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Are there any books that have done this?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by CloudIX, Feb 20, 2021.

  1. CloudIX

    CloudIX Dreamer

    I'm wondering if there are any plots where the protagonist and antagonist are the same person. Obviously, this would probably have to do with something like cloning, time travel, or something similar. Are there other plot devices that would help this make sense? Any recommended readings would be appreciated. I already know about The Flash and Savitar, but looking for something that doesn't have to do with superheroes.
  2. First trigger is Wizard of Earthsea. got to be more but that may be the first in fantasy and most influential.
  3. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    Sanderson has a short sci fi story where the enemy turns out to be the MC's clone (or visa versa? I can't remember).

    I'm reading a webtoon where the killer was revealed to be one of the two protagonists, as a split personality. The personality was of the boyfriend she had accidentally killed years ago, and who she thought was alive and spending time with her. He would kill to "protect" her.

    Living With Yourself, on Netflix, has a person whose clone is better in every way. It's very domestic, but might be good for inspiration.

    Kind of a more indirect take on the question, the anime Code Geass involves a character who conquers the world, setting himself up as the bad guy, only to arrange his own execution so the world could be united under a proper hero. The "hero" is a masked character that he's actually played throughout the story, only he passed the title and costume to a friend at the end.

    A really good one, though a kids' show, is the Phineas and Ferb movie, Across the Second Dimension. Dr. Doofenschmirtz has to face a version of himself from another dimension. I promise it's much better than it sounds.

    Last but not least, there's Dark, a German show on Netflix, where characters keep jumping between three points in time at a small town on a nuclear plant. There's are some pro/antagonist reveals there (I don't want to spoil it too much).

    Flash/Savitar is kind of on the weaker end of this trope, as Savitar didn't act like Flash at all... in fact there were lists of characters Savitar could have turned out to be under the mask, because his character was so impersonal.
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2021
    DracoNako likes this.
  4. A Pineapple

    A Pineapple Scribe

    Last Hope is an anime series on netflix. It isnt directly on point, but the antagonist comes from a split timeline and i think would give you some good material to work with
  5. Ned Marcus

    Ned Marcus Sage

    Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a famous example.
    A Pineapple likes this.
  6. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Sage

    The Bad Guy for a decent chunk of Two Kinds was the protagonist, but something happened to him to make him lose his memory, so he has no memory of all the horrible things he did. He set up events to do terrible things and there are other characters who are continuing that work, but everything is ultimately his fault. In the current arc there's an evil magic device that's trying to kill everyone that he made in the past for selfish reasons (and using his evil magic).

    There's more possible things that could fit what you're looking for if you have a broader definition of protagonist and antagonist. Generally, the antagonist does things that keeps the hero from accomplishing their goals. I'm sure you know someone who self-sabotages (probably unintentionally) for whatever reason, like they're afraid of success or they refuse to grow/change, so a story about them would have the protagonist and antagonist be the same person. You could also do a story about someone who has disassociative identity disorder, where one of the alters is "bad," so the single body/legal person is the same "character" but there are two separate actors who can be doing conflicting things. It would be the same logic as clones or alternate universe self...though personally, I would consider them two separate people/characters and that wouldn't fit your definition of the protag/antag being the same person.
  7. CloudIX

    CloudIX Dreamer

    These are awesome examples, thank you. I'll look into them for inspiration.

    The novel idea I've had (in as little detail as possible) has the protagonist and the antagonist as the same person but the protagonist and reader don't know that for most of the story. The antagonist and the rest of the world are granted the ability to manipulate the elements when he's near middle age. He masters these elements and discovers the power of void when he's much older. He can manipulate space and time. He's power hungry and decides to go back in time when his mother is pregnant with him and forces her a hundred years into the future so that he's born with these powers and the elements are well researched and practiced by many people at this point, except void. No one has mastered all the elements to learn void except him. His mother dies at birth and he, the protagonist now, is born in a remote place. The antagonist stays hidden but keeps a close watch on him. When the protagonist becomes an adult, the antagonist reveals himself, kills some people close to the protagonist, and this catapults the protagonist to master the elements he's already practiced with.

    The issue is plot holes. At first, I tried to figure out how the protagonist would eventually beat the antagonist, as presumably, either the antagonist would always know what the protagonist is thinking and going to do, or at the very least would notice some type of change within himself every time the protagonist strays from becoming the antagonist. I thought maybe I could say that because they were born and grew up in two different timelines, that they were no longer the exact same person. But this would entail that the antagonist will not get more powerful just because the protagonist does. I could say that the antagonist doesn't know this since being able to know everything about the protagonist wouldn't be something he's used to if it was never possible in the first place. But it kind of seems like a cop out, or makes the whole reason for the story fall flat. Maybe I could come up with a different reason as to why he sends himself into the future or goes back in time to get himself, but that would be a lot of rethinking and rewriting around what I already have.

    Edit: Also, the future is not set in stone. It has infinite possibilities, so the antagonist doesn't know the future.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021
  8. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    Two examples I can think of are the movie Looper and Fight Club. The first is a time travel story. The second has to do with split personality.

    I know you didn't necessarily want any super-hero examples, but I think this is very relevant to what you're doing. Look up Kang the Conqueror from Marvel Comics and Iron Lad. The former is a super-villain. The latter is a young version of the villain who learns of what he's going to become and decides to become a hero to prevent himself from ever becoming a villain.

    I think maybe part of your problem may be that you haven't established what the rules are for time travelling. Figure out the rules and then work within those limitations and make it clear to the reader what those rules are. If you do that, then the story should work.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021
  9. chrispenycate

    chrispenycate Sage

  10. In movies you have go to: Angel Heart.

    Since this is the topic of the thread I suspect I am not spoiling anything: But the MC is set to track down a serial killer and guess who it is all along? full of fantasy elements with the devil (Robert Di Nero) doing some awful things to an egg. a defining movie for the times.
  11. Vaporo

    Vaporo Inkling

    Spoilers I guess, but Fight Club.
  12. I am confused by this description but perhaps that is just your version of "time travel" - so you are saying that what the protagonist does in the future changes the antagonists life from the past and at some point they will 'loop back on themselves" to be the same person? Like the antongist now, has the memories of his younger self from the future timeline but not the his own timeline? Is the antagonist somehow stopping his own time so eventually his younger more powerful self catches up with him and they somehow merge?

    I guess it could all work out somehow but you will still be plagued with plot holes for miles unless you can work out your version, very clearly, on how time travel works. see like every movie ever made with time travel and all the gaping holes they have.
  13. TWErvin2

    TWErvin2 Auror

    Take a look at Prime Suspects: A Clone Detective Mystery, by Jim Bernheimer.

    It should provide some ideas and inspiration for the same person being the antagonist and protagonist.
  14. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

    Jekyll and Hyde
  15. CloudIX

    CloudIX Dreamer

    Ah and this is why I posted here so thank you! I guess I hadn't really thought about it as memories, but in my head it made sense that the older self would know what the younger self is thinking when he thinks it and what he does when he does it since the the older self is presumably going through changes every moment of younger self's life no matter the timeline. So I was separating their progression from the timeline I guess. So when older self thrusts younger self into the future to be born there, that is now younger self's present. Older self still has memories from his timeline but they change as younger self goes through his present. I had figured that because the older self changed the younger self's setting/environment so much that the younger self could use this along with finding love, something the older self never had, to prevent himself from becoming older self. But.. maybe this doesn't make sense if older self can sense himself changing.. so I should make the timeline prevent him from doing that? It does now sound a little too broad of a plot device. Wouldn't I still have to show somehow that older self is changing though? I hadn't thought of making them merge, but it sounds like something to think about. I had thought that once younger self makes a final breakthrough to prevent himself from becoming older self, that older self would just cease to exist.

    Edit: I think the issue is that I've been thinking of time as nonlinear, or a fluid overlapping thing. So by separating the characters from the timeline, what happens to older self in the future can be brought back to his present. Is that too big a stretch or just doesn't make sense? I kind of figured it could be explained away by him being able to manipulate time and space.
    Last edited: Feb 21, 2021
  16. TJPoldervaart

    TJPoldervaart Minstrel

    In The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, the antagonist turns out to be the protagonist from the future.
  17. CloudIX

    CloudIX Dreamer

    Everything I've watched or read that has to do with time travel has the plot and character turn out to be something that couldn't change in the end and I'm over here trying to change my character's destiny. *sigh Admittedly, I still haven't watched the lego movie or the Phineas and Ferb movie, but Looper and Angel Heart were great. I also watched Predestination and that might be one of my favorite movies now. I still haven't finished Code Geass or read Wizard of Earthsea.
  18. CloudIX

    CloudIX Dreamer

    I think what I may do is have older self go through his original plot so that I keep what was my prologue or backstory, but instead of him bringing younger self into the future, I'll have him travel further back into the past to set off events sooner than they originally happened in order for younger self to still be born with his elemental abilities, and then find his younger self without ever bringing him into the future. This would make the changes they go through make more sense in the timeline while at the same time still changing his life so that I can work around why older self can't predict everything younger self will think and do.

    I don't think time travel, specifically, is what I'm having trouble with. It's more to do with my characters, whom are the same person, and how they affect each other because of time travel. I know it's a lot to think about, but any advice/opinions on my own plot would be appreciated.
  19. Don Coyote

    Don Coyote Scribe

    I think the series Heroes had a character that traveled back and forth through time in conflict with his other selves.

    Angel Heart pulled it off the best.

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