IWSG March 2019 — Perspective

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Thanks to Alex for hosting this each month. Here is the complete list of participants.

Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

I usually err on the side of the protagonist, because I think it actually depends more on which character I like the best, aka whichever one comes easiest to me most of the time. Which raises a question of my own…

If it’s from the antagonist’s POV isn’t that just a combination of anti-hero and unreliable narrator?

In real life, every person sees themselves as the hero of their own story. This is also true for any well-developed, well-written fictional character, so I feel it’s incredibly relevant when considering what a protagonist and an antagonist are.

I was haphazardly googling around for inspiration in writing this post and I found this thought:

“Protagonist and antagonist are not point of view characters but are character functions. The protagonist is the one who is the prime mover of the effort to achieve the goal. The antagonist is all about preventing the protagonist from achieving the goal. In our own minds, protagonist represents our initiative – the motivation to affect change. Antagonist is our reticence – the motivation to maintain the status quo, or at least to return to it.” ~ The Storymind Writer’s Library

But that still leaves it as a matter of how the story is written, and the reader’s perspective on what’s happening. Here are some dictionary definitions, also found via google:

Protagonist

  • the leading character or one of the major characters in a drama, movie, novel, or other fictional text
  • the main figure or one of the most prominent figures in a real situation
  • an advocate or champion of a particular cause or idea

Antagonist

  • a person who actively opposes or is hostile to someone or something; an adversary
  • (biochemistry) a substance that interferes with or inhibits the physiological action of another.
  • (anatomy) a muscle whose action counteracts that of another specified muscle.

So “protagonist versus antagonist” has been explained variously as “initiative versus reticence,” “motivation to affect change versus motivation to maintain status quo,” and/or “leading character versus someone opposing/counteracting leading character in some way.”

What if it’s a character who’s trying to save the world versus a character trying to return the world to its less complicated, pre-human state? Or, to put it another way, a character who’s trying to destroy the world versus a character trying to stop them and maintain the status quo?

Frodo trying to get the One Ring to Mount Doom and destroy it vs Sauron and minions trying to stop him? Or, Sauron trying to conquer Middle Earth vs the Fellowship setting out on a quest to keep it free?

Raise your hand if you had instinctive knee-jerk answers to the previous two paragraphs, because I know I do. Most of the stories that I can think of at the moment are that first way around.

Now consider, if you’ve seen it, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

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Wikipedia

On one hand you have the obvious good guy Captain Hammer, who’s as much of a tool as his name suggests and who gets the girl because, duh, he’s the good guy. On the other you have Dr. Horrible, aka Billy, an aspiring super-villain whose application to the Evil League of Evil keeps being rejected and who doesn’t get the girl because, duh, he’s the bad guy. Without giving any outright spoilers, let’s just say that in trying to get his crush to break up with Captain Hammer by proving that he’s actually a selfish, self-involved jerk, Dr. Horrible accidentally causes a death, is finally accepted by the League, and is so emotionally shut down by what he’s done that he accepts.

Who’s trying to accomplish something? Dr. Horrible. Who’s the main character and champion of a cause? Dr. Horrible. Who do we see the most of throughout the story and who does your heart break for by the end? Dr. Horrible, even though he could easily qualify as an antagonist under different circumstances — i.e. if you didn’t get primarily his side of the story.

… I haven’t really answered the IWSG question, have I?

Or maybe I have. I guess it’s all a matter of perspective.

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