Can You Have More Than One Protagonist In Your Story?

Its easy to believe we comprehend the function the lead character plays in a story.

Yes, you can. Should you?

Weve seen motion pictures and check out books. When we see her, we understand the protagonist. As I coach and edit authors, Ive had more and more authors ask me the huge question: “Can you have numerous primary characters in a story?”

Have You Ever Read a Book With Multiple Protagonists?

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is prepared– from the design of the winding roads, to the colors of your houses, to the successful lives its citizens will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.
Go Into Mia Warren– an enigmatic artist and single mom– who gets here in this picturesque bubble with her teenaged child, Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl end up being more than occupants: all four Richardson kids are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia brings with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this thoroughly bought neighborhood.
When old family buddies of the Richardsons effort to embrace a Chinese-American infant, a custody fight appears that considerably divides the town– and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her intentions, Elena is identified to uncover the secrets in Mias past. Her fascination will come at unanticipated and terrible expenses.
Little Fires Everywhere checks out the weight of tricks, the nature of art and identity, and the relentless pull of motherhood– and the risk of thinking that following the guidelines can prevent disaster.

And while my students and I tackled some huge (and brilliant) ideas unraveled in the different stories, my class as an entire remained divided on who they viewed as the storys main character.

One year when I was teaching imaginative writing, my students and I check out Celeste Ngs Little Fires Everywhere. If you have not read this book before (or seen the TELEVISION series on Hulu), heres a short look at the storys back cover (as seen on Amazon):.

Seems like a big canvas sort of story, does not it? It is.

Was it Elena or Mia?

( An additional interesting question I bet script writers thought about when screenwriting the TV script.).

Some even believed it was Pearl.

And while I personally wouldnt propose Pearl as a primary character (despite she and the Richardson kids playing wildly important roles in the literary thriller), I do think both Elena and Mia play main functions within the ensemble cast.

Not coincidentally (which additional eager readers of this post may have currently seen), those three choices are likewise the different characters mentioned by name in the books excerpt.

Elena, Mia, and Pearl (particularly Elena and Mia) each experience essential character arcs that substantially affect the main plot (or A Story).

Theres a reason for this.

Does that mean this book is an example of when you can have more than one protagonist?

The protagonist is the character whose fate matters most to the story.

The lead character centers the story. She specifies the plot and moves it forward. Her fate determines whether the story is a disaster or comedy.

Meaning of Protagonist.

In a standard story, the lead character has numerous very specific requirements, and if your protagonist doesnt meet those requirements, your story will break down.

I think so.

Prior to going deep into methods (and when) to utilize numerous lead characters, its essential to comprehend what determines a lead character from a secondary character.

To become a much better writer, you do not require to know who your lead character is prior to you begin writing– however as you take a look at your work in development, its important to ask:.

The lead character can likewise be called the hero or main character, however these terms are imprecise, and for some stories, plainly false. The protagonist of Macbeth, for example, is plainly not a hero. Nick Carraway is the main character of The Great Gatsby but he is not the protagonist.

My preferred meaning of the lead character is from Stephen Kochs Writers Workshop:.

And other stories have multiple protagonists, too.

You might not know who your protagonist is until you are midway through writing your novel. You may think your protagonist is one character, just to learn your villain is really your protagonist.

Whose future is crucial to this story, to the other characters in this story? Whose future is essential to me?

Youve found your protagonist if you can address these questions.

How can you inform the distinction in between crucial characters that work as protagonists and secondary characters that support (however do not drive) your primary story?

Youve likewise found the character( s) readers will (likely) root for in the total story.

When to Use Multiple Characters in a Story vs. A Single Protagonist.

Whether or not youre composing a narrative like Hemingways White Elephants, legendary sci-fi like Star Wars, recounting a reality memoir like The Glass Castle, or polishing a complicated historic fiction book like Ragtime, you need to confidently designate a lead character– or multiple– to your primary plot if you want to become a much better author.

I d advise looking at 2 huge story elements: perspective and how your primary characters experience different character arcs while being linked by an external setting.

1. How POV impacts your protagonist choices.

Take Alexander Hamilton in the Broadway phenomenon Hamilton. He is the single protagonist in the story, however because this is a drama, we, as the audience, are privy to multiple stories, which are all tied to Hamiltons character arc and fate.

For much of the first act, the audience relates most to Hamilton and his impression of Burr: Burr constantly waits on things to take place, and then feels significantly more disappointed when he doesnt “rise” on the social ladder.

Choosing various POVs for your character does not instantly solve plot holes in your very first draft. Considering whether or not your story would be much better told by various characters might alter the way a reader takes in and comprehend the plot.

Hamiltons main villain is Aaron Burr, and we become much more sympathetic to Burr since we get to see his side of the story.

Whether written in 3rd person restricted (most popular option), first person, or omniscient, how the POV is utilized to tell the story will also share specific perspectives that undoubtedly impact a readers bias and/or sympathy for perspective characters.

What characters alter by the end of your story? How do you tell the distinction in between a supporting character that changes (like Hans Solo) or main characters that work as multiple protagonists?

Turn to your viewpoint.

Why will not Burr do something about it?

For much of the beginning of the story, Hamilton (and the audience) share this disappointment, but then the audience is offered the within scoop on Burrs factor for waiting in “Wait For It.” This is something Hamilton himself never finds out, and for that reason why he never totally comprehends Burr and his indecisiveness.

What does knowing Burrs side of the story provide for the audience?

The very same kind of stress constructs when we see Jefferson, Madison, Angelica, Eliza, and Washingtons viewpoint. The storys intricacy naturally picks up, but whatever is connected back to Hamilton, the single lead character.

It also weaves tension into the plot because we witness Burrs growing bitterness for his good friend, the protagonist.

It makes his character considerate, for one.

2. When multiple protagonists are linked by the plot and setting.

In this story, 2 sisters, Vianne and Isabelle, are drastically altered by their circumstances. Informed in first individual with 2 perspectives, the reader is taken on very various journeys that reveal significantly opposite character choices and actions.

The two (or more) main characters and their private character arcs need to come together by the finale of the story, or else the reader will question why the different characters dont have separate books.

You can not have multiple lead characters without having numerous POVs since, as readers, we need to experience every storyline and character arc for a main character.

Regardless of stories that have single lead characters or several primary characters, thinking about the perspective, setting, and the climax of your plot is a major decision, be it your first unique or twenty-seventh.

This is the second secret to having multiple lead characters.

When you have more than one lead character, we require to see multiple POVs.

And while secondary subplots thicken, the plot for each sis, like Isabelles love interest in addition to her resistance efforts, and Viannes determination to secure her child, would be robbed of the landscapes broad scope (and high) death stakes and each sisters different internal experiences that make the general story a successful success.

What you require to seriously consider is the type of POV that will finest suite your plot, and after that whether or not several perspectives taken in by plot and setting will remove or engage the surprising but inevitable twist in your storys climax.

We likewise require those perspective to be woven together by the plot– and the setting.

No matter this, both siblings are intricately connected by their external setting: France during World War II.

Just since a story has several POVs does not always indicate there are multiple lead characters (although theres a higher possibility there are).

In some cases this is used to foil multiple protagonists, like in Kristin Hannahs The Nightingale.

The sisters reunite in the finale of the story due to the fact that of this.

Does the Genre of the Story Impact How Many Protagonists There Should Be?

Donald Miller says story is, “A character who desires something and wants to go through dispute to get it.” If your character does not want something enough to choose to go through conflict to get it, your reader will walk away disappointed.

One Of The Most Important Requirement for the Protagonist.

Other kinds of genres that frequently have several lead characters are clever book club fiction (think The Husbands Secret or Lone Wolf), or any stories that require an ensemble cast.

Joe Bunting.

Your lead character should pick.

For fifteen minutes, compose your storys back cover with several or a single lead character. See what works best.

Lead characters should make choices. A character who does not choose her own fate, and hence suffer the consequences of her option, is not a lead character. She is, at best, a background character.

When your time is completed, publish your practice in the remarks section. And if you publish, please be sure to give feedback to a couple of other authors.


Utilize back cover like Little Fires Everywhere, The Nightingale, and The Way of Kings for examples when several characters are named. Research study stories like The Five People You Meet in Heaven and Life of Pi for single protagonist stories. You can read all of these rapidly on Amazon, or take a pleased check out to your library.

Your lead character might reject the option at. Choice is hard!

Very Same with Lethal Weapon and The Odd Couple.

Readers will bear lead characters who arent really pleasant. They will withstand selfishness, pride, and even cowardice in a character. But readers will not endure a lead character who does not choose.

How many protagonists do you have in your story? Why did you select several primary characters or a single protagonist? Let us understand in the comments..

Its option that makes all the difference.

I like stories with multiple perspective characters, stories like The Yacoubian Building or The Joy Luck Club or 44 Scottland Street. * These stories have numerous characters who might be lead characters, however while the stories start with numerous possible protagonists, by the end, the author has led you to simply one or 2.

This is the single essential element of your protagonist, and hence among the most important of your book as a whole. Your story will fail if your protagonist stops working to do this. Seriously.

Single or several lead characters, she or they need to make options till the very end.

Attempt writing the back cover for your book. Ask yourself: is it crucial to call several primary characters, or is your plot better pitched when only calling one point of view?

Delighted writing!

In romantic comedies and “friend stories” (a screenwriting category Blake Snyder utilizes in Save the Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting Youll Ever Need), there are two lead characters. (And these protagonists in some cases work as secondary or primary villains of one another!).

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice neighborhood. He is also the author of the brand-new book.
Crowdsourcing Paris, a reality experience story set in France. It was a # 1 New Release on Amazon. You can follow him on.
Instagram (@jhbunting).

The protagonist can likewise be called the hero or primary character, but these terms are imprecise, and for some stories, plainly false. The lead character centers the story. If your lead character fails to do this, your story will fail. How many protagonists do you have in your story? Research study stories like The Five People You Meet in Heaven and Life of Pi for single protagonist stories.

Both of these alternatives need a main character– or one character in the ensemble cast who works as a spin-off of the other main and supporting characters. Or perspective characters.

While there is normally only one lead character in a story, this isnt always true.

In Romeo and Juliet it is the fate of both characters, not just one of them, that matters to the story.

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