If you are interested in blogging or want to promote your book, please contact E. B. Davis at writerswhokill@gmail.com.


WWK--Better than ever--Look for the return of blogs by Linda Rodriguez! She's back--on 1/4. Watch for our new blogger Tammy Euliano--debuting on 1/17


January Interviews

1/06 Sherry Harris, Absence of Alice

1/13 Jane Willan, Abide with Me

1/20 Kelly Brakenhoff, Dead of Winter Break

1/27 Jackie Layton, Bag of Bones

Saturday WWK Bloggers

1/02 V. M. Burns

1/09 Jennifer J. Chow

1/23 Kait Carson

Guest Blogs

1/16 Shea E. Butler

1/30 Gray Basnight













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Congratulations to Jennifer J. Chow for garnering a 2021 Lefty Nomination for Best Humorous Mystery Novel. We're crossing our fingers for Jennifer!

Congratulations to two WWK writers. Paula Gail Benson's "Reputation or Soul" and Keenan Powell's "Miss Millie Munz" have been chosen for Malice Domestic 16: Mystery Most Diabolical anthology to be released this spring.

KM Rockwood's "Stay Safe--Very Safe" appears in this year's 2020 BOULD anthology. Congratulations, KM!

Margaret S. Hamilton's "Dealing at the Dump" will appear in Cozy Villages of Death Fall 2020.

Margaret S. Hamilton's "Black Market Baby" and Debra H. Goldstein's "Forensic Magic" will appear in Masthead: Best New England Crime Stories Fall 2020.

Two new books for WWK members: Jennifer J. Chow's Mimi Lee Reads Between the Lines (look for the interview on WWK on 11/11) and Judy Penz Sheluk's Where There's A Will. Both books will be released on November 10.

For The Love Of Lobster Tales by Shari Randall is now available to download free for a limited time. Go to Black Cat Mysteries at: https://bcmystery.com/ to get your free copy! Thanks for the freebie, Shari.

Annette Dashofy signed with agent Dawn Dowdle of the Blue Ridge Literary Agency. Congratulations, Annette!

Keenan Powell recently signed with agent Amy Collins of Talcott Notch. Congratulations, Keenan!

KM Rockwood's "Secrets To The Grave" has been published in the new SinC Chesapeake Chapter's new anthology Invitation To Murder, released by Wildside Press on 10/6.

Susan Van Kirk's Three May Keep A Secret has been republished by Harlequinn's Worldwide Mystery. The WWK interview about the book can be accessed here. We're so glad another publisher picked up this series.

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Monday, September 7, 2020

What If You Have Multiple Protagonists by Linda Rodriguez


(This blog was previously published on 9/07/15)



This blog post arises from work I’ve done lately with developmental editing clients and questions I’ve been asked by students of my writing classes. Sometimes when a writer is in the heart of the story, she may find herself with several leading characters and not know which one is her protagonist. She may ask if she can have multiple protagonists because they’re all equally important characters.
 
This doesn’t happen often with writers of cozy, traditional, police-procedural, or private-eye mysteries because the amateur or professional detective is always the protagonist, but when you move into thriller and suspense territory or, especially, further afield into literary novels, women’s fiction, historical novels, family sagas, and science fiction and fantasy novels, you may find yourself looking at several major characters who could all be your protagonists. (Some police procedurals may also wind up in this territory, if they are ensemble books, though usually even those will focus more on one character of the team.)
  
I don’t tell writers that they can never have multiple protagonists, in part because I’m not a fan of telling people there’s only one way to write. I do, however, point out that, unless they are writing a multi-volume historical, family saga, or fantasy series, they probably need to zero in on which character’s story provides the narrative line for their book. In multi-volume historical, family saga, and fantasy series, the full story of the series often spans generations, and the protagonist may change as time passes, and a new generation comes to the fore. These books are a special case, however, and often change protagonist from book to book.
  
I do tell writers that, most often, they need one major protagonist, but they can have several other very important characters who may have character arcs that become major subplots. Think of a Dickens novel, sprawling across hundreds and hundreds of pages, with its teeming multitudes of characters where extensive time may be spent with first this character and his machinations, then this character and her problems, before coming back to this character from the beginning. Dickens, however important some of his secondary characters were in his books—and many were quite important—never forgot who his protagonist was. We learn the stories of many characters in Great Expectations, but the protagonist of that book is always Pip. In Bleak House, we have a long, suspenseful story around Lady Dedlock, but eventually it ties into Esther Summerson’s story, and Dickens never allows us to lose sight of the fact that, among the many other stories within this novel, this book is Esther’s story.
  
I usually ask clients or students a few questions to help them decide among as many as four major characters. Whose story is this book? Which character changes the most by the end of the book?  Which character has to struggle the most against the toughest obstacles and sacrifice the most to reach the ending? Which character will grow the most internally by the end of the book? Whose story would damage the book the most if it wasn’t told?
  
Usually, these questions help the writer to narrow his focus down to the character who is the true protagonist of the book. The protagonist provides the narrative spine of the book. Many important stories may radiate out from it like an animal’s skeleton, but without that spine, the animal can’t move. It’s the same with a novel. Without that narrative spine, it’s dead in the water, flailing around aimlessly.  Of course, in nature, as in writing, there are always exceptions. The jellyfish gets along perfectly well without a traditional spine. There will be books that can shine with multiple protagonists, books that are not multi-volume sagas that span generations, but they are the unusual outliers. If you want to make writing your novel easier and more assured of success, you’ll be wise to settle on one major protagonist, no matter how many very important secondary characters you also have.
  
Have you ever had problems figuring out who’s the protagonist of a book you were writing or reading?

3 comments:

Margaret S. Hamilton said...

I was recently asked to identify the protagonist in my book, because the POV character isn't the protagonist. What? There's Gatsby, of course, but no, this is a straight-forward mystery with an amateur sleuth telling it.

Kait said...

Excellent advice, Linda.

KM Rockwood said...

The protagonist is usually in the front of my mind, demanding to tell his/her story.