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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Creating a Protagonist

I have a very specific issue I'm dealing with right now in a short story I am working on.  Trezl is not the main character, but it is related to his story.  I started mapping it and writing it down as backstory to Trezl's.

The problem I face deals with the protagonist.  He is not human, nor is he a standard fantasy race (elf, dwarf, halfling) that the reader might quickly identify with.  He is from a group of wolf-like creatures that stand on two legs, are intelligent, and live a shamanistic society.  They are not werewolves, but they would look similar to werewolves.  They stand over 6 feet tall, are covered in fur, and have wolf shaped faces.  They have opposable thumbs and build homes, tools, and weapons.  They speak their own language (though they are capable of learning other languages).  They worship gods and use magic.  They are a fully developed society in Ryndaria, even if they are distrusted by the other peoples of the world.

I am struggling with the best way to introduce the fact that this character is not human.  How do I describe him?  When do I describe his characteristics?  How quickly do I need to let the reader know that this character is different than they might expect?

I tend to want to start off a story with action or drama of some kind.  I am a big fan of those big opening set pieces in movies (think James Bond or Nolan's Batman movies), and I like to start with something like that to draw the reader in.  This character's first set of experiences are important, and I hesitate to take time to describe him and his people before just jumping into the first scene, which takes place completely from his point of view.

I am leaning toward letting the first scene play out.  Then, once it is complete, take time to step back and let the reader in on who's eyes they have been looking through.  The scene should stay relatively short, and I feel like revealing the nature character AFTER the scene may even draw the reader in with more questions and curiosity.

I'm curious what opinions others might have.  Is the answer a big fat "it depends on the context"?  If so, what are some examples you might give that I could go read?

The first that comes to mind is The Hobbit.  If I remember correctly, Tolkein takes time to introduce readers to what a hobbit is and why this story is going to be peculiar (hobbits don't go on adventures, you know!) before he really lets the action get going.

Other examples?

As always, thanks for reading!