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The Ideal Protagonist -- by Girish Karthileyan

Is identifying and deciding on a protagonist still possible today? Go back to the meaning of the word. In artistic constructions the main character holds the title of protagonist. This disregards the morality aspects of that main character. Take for example The Picture of Dorian Gray, my experience with a dark protagonist.

Dorian Gray committed indecorous acts according to the everyday person of 1890. His ruinous acts disfigured the portrait of his soul. He pursued pleasure without regard for morality. He broke his engagement, leaving her heartbroken and suicidal. The rare nature of this dark protagonist stems from the fact that the reader must understand and relate with the protagonist.

Everything turns more complicated with the advent of deconstruction, specifically different points of view. Now our ability for choosing the main character grows feeble. Take for example Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. The majority of this novel splits the role of main character in two — a wife and a husband. The reader defines the two main characters as protagonist and antagonist without anything more from the author (something we should see more of).

In all reality, the ambiguity of identifying the protagonist rings truer to life. This also works well for writing compelling and relatable characters. The user-defined solution brings everything around to the idea of postmodernism — there is no cookie-cutter solution, what do you think? I think the protagonist role rests with the more virtuous character when the main character refuses the role (as in you just can’t decade!) Adding the further distinction that the reader’s opinion matters, makes some sense from the writing side.

Author and reader interaction Nearly all the tools and devices under the umbrella of postmodernism exploit this relationship between author and reader. Take lacunae, a pause somewhere through a story provides a gap for effect. That communication started at the very beginning of writing. The author has always tried get a message or information across. This seems obvious, but authors now exploit this connection. Authors vilify antagonists and elevate protagonist to steer the conversation or leave the conclusion open. Take The Dubliners by James Joyce. Each of the loosely connected vignettes shares a story and allows the reader to form the conclusion.   

The protagonist must earn a close connection with the reader. Earn, not establish because the reader ultimately has an equal input. Novel writing or any creative endeavor resolves to a dialogue between the author and reader, even if both end up one in the same (diary). Writing is but a show. The writer must identity an audience as anyone in book publishing knows. Get in the mind of the reader and figure out what they want out of reading your work. Start the conversation.


Silver700 A.K.A. Girish Karthikeyan

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Posted by Girish Karthileyan 24 May 2015 at 11:19
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