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» Hatrack River Writers Workshop » Forums » Open Discussions About Writing » Has this ever been done...

   
Author Topic: Has this ever been done...
Strychnine
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I was just wondering if any knows of any stories where the main character is not the primary protagonist, a story written from the side kicks point of view. This was just something I was wondering about while writing today.

For example, say you were reading a story about Ponce de Leon and his search for the fountain of youth, or Cortez and his search for the lost cities of gold and the mc was one of their soldiers, maybe an officer. Perhaps from the perspective of someone who was there for some of the more exciting parts of the journey, but perhaps not all of them. Basically the same story we have all heard, with a twist on perspective.

Has this ever been done? Can it be done successfully? And if so, can anyone point me to a story where this has been done? Iíve been thinking about it all day, and canít come up with any examples that I know of to see how it might be done.


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Merlion-Emrys
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I think we just recently had a discussion about this. Somebody brought up the movie Ladyhawk, which is more or less from the "point of view" of Phillipe the Mouse who gets essentially pulled into someone else's story.


quote:
Has this ever been done?


Everything has been done.


quote:
Can it be done successfully?


Anything can be done. "Success" in the realm of art is entirely subjective and a matter of opinion.


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JSchuler
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Sherlock Holmes is all from Watson's POV.
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TrishaH24
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Heeey! I was going to say Sherlock Holmes! lol

I read a book a looong time ago about a mage who followed this warrior chick around, and if I remember correctly, his main job was to assist her, and chronicle her adventures. But it was absolutely her story. That said, this particular story sucked. I did finish it, but only because I was young and we were driving across the country and I needed something to break up the monotony of Navada and Kansas. But that doesn't mean it can't be made to work. My favorite story I wrote was an experament. So try it out and see what you come up with.


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J
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Great example, Schuler.

As to whether it can be done "successfully," the answer is yes, no matter how you define success. If you define it like Merlion and are writing only to please yourself, then just write something you're happy with. If you define it commercially, Sherlock Holmes is a good example of how a story like that can sell, if done well. If you define it as writing a story with enduring objective meaning, I think the "sidekick" PoV is idea ripe with possibility and potential. The real trick is doing it without making the sidekick a protagonist, his struggle being in part that he is a "sidekick" (although that, too, is ripe with potential).

So, the answer is categorically "yes". It's not an overused device. Execute your version of it as well as you can, and don't sweat the rest.


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JenniferHicks
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I can think of a few reasons to do this:

1. The protagonist is too intelligent or well-versed in events, and you need an "outsider" to guide the reader into the story. Watson is a good example of this. Wolverine in the first X-Men movie. I haven't seen Inception, but my understanding is that Ellen Page's character fills that role, too.

2. The protagonist dies before the story is resolved.

3. The protagonist has little to no development as a character, which means you need some other prominent character to provide an emotional arc.


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Merlion-Emrys
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For the record, that isn't necessarily how I define it. I rarely have single definitions for anything.
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Brendan
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Another example is To Kill A Mockingbird. While the character Scout definitely had a character arc, and the story of her also had an arc, the key story that everyone remembers within the book was not really about her - it was about her dad and his client.

I have read a couple of classic sf greats which start in a tavern with someone telling the story, and ends with the twist of the story teller being the antagonist of the story they told. Would that count? It is sort of cheating, because you do not really get to know the teller's character.

Another story that seems to have fuzzy boundary is Forest Gump. Yes, the story is definitely his story, but so much seems to happen to him or around the boundaries of his control, rather than through the decisions he makes. I wonder if the real protagonist in that story is history itself.


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Ken S
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I just finished Polaris by Jack McDevitt. It was done there. I ran across it in "The Price of Murder" by Bruce Alexander. Looking at the other posts, with the exception of Ladyhawke, this appears to be a technique for telling mystery stories. Anyone else see this?
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J
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Kind of makes sense that it would be a device for mysteries. The sidekick PoV limits the access to information so that the mystery is maintained, without cheating by denying the reader information in the front of the PoV characters' brain (as would be the case if, for example, Sherlock Holmes were told from Holmes's perspective)
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Strychnine
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I didnít think about mystery novels, but now that theyíre mentioned I see it so clearly. Iíll have to check out Polaris and The Prince of Murder. This is defiantly something Iím going to have to explore further. Thanks for all the great replies.
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DerekBalsam
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Archie Goodwin is the sidekick and POV character in Rex Stout's Nero Wolfe stories.

Similar to the Holmes situation, the detective is nearly superhuman in his genius and to be nearly omniscient in his knowledge. This gives the mystery author some problems: the character is too superhuman for readers to identify with, and omniscience makes it difficult to maintain the mystery. So instead, a sidekick characters provides the POV; the sidekick is a regular person more easily identified with, and decidedly non-omniscient.

Sidekick POV is uncommon (except in mystery) but has a long history. Although modern strict POV had not been developed as a technique at the time, Cervantes' Don Quijote was really the first sidekick POV. Sancho Panza was an everyman who provided an anchor for readers to identify with, in lieu of the crazed Quijote. See also The Great Gatsby.


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MAP
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I was thinking of The Great Gatsby as well and Moby Dick. Although I hated Moby dick, but I loved the Great Gatsby.
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satate
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I would just like to repeat Merlion.

Everything has been done.


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Crystal Stevens
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I'm in the process of doing this with my latest WotF story. Both of my protagonists are in on what happens at the end. So I needed an observer who doesn't know what's going on. My problem is I've been told my observer-type POV character has all the substance of a soap bubble. Buuuut he's not supposed to have much substance but still be interesting. I'm still working on it, and think it's a good story... just lots of bumps in the road, darn it!

One of the best examples of a story redone from a different POV would be ENDER'S SHADOW. It's the same story as ENDER'S GAME only told by Bean instead of Ender. Both books are excellent, and it wasn't like reading the same story at all. Of course, Orson Scott Card is a master storyteller too .


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Robert Nowall
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I've seen several stories, biography and fiction, that were, more or less, "This is the story of my father," and goes on to tell Father's Story. The only one I can think of offhand is Jack Williamson's "Crucible of Power" (if I'm getting the title right.)
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bemused
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The movie Appaloosa and the book series it is based on are all narrated by the sidekick (played by Viggo Mortensen in the movie). Its a nice tactic, because you can have a first person narration but still build tension on the idea of the primary protagonist dying (at least more easily than otherwise).
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philocinemas
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A 1993 WOTF winning story called "Cinders of the Great War", by someone named Kathleen Dalton-Woodbury, used another character as narrator secondary to the story's protagonist.
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Kathleen Dalton Woodbury
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Actually it was a finalist story that was selected to fill out the anthology, not a winning story.
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