#IWSG POV: Protagonist or Antagonist? @TheIWSG #amwriting #WWWBlogs

This post was written in response to the Insecure Writer’s Support Group monthly (first Wednesday of every month) blog hop to where writers express thoughts, doubts and concerns about our profession.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world! Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG

The co-hosts for the March 6 posting of the IWSG are Fundy Blue, Beverly Stowe McClure, Erika Beebe, and Lisa Buie-Collard!

  • March 6 question Whose perspective do you like to write from best, the hero (protagonist) or the villain (antagonist)? And why?

insecure-writers-support-group-badge

I definitely prefer first person point of view of the protagonist, as a reader and as a writer. My favourite novels, when I started reading adult fiction, in my teens, such as, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, David Copperfield, and Rebecca, to name a few, were written in this fashion.

The first person narrator, whether he or she is protagonist or antagonist, has the powerful advantage of speaking directly to the reader, but on the other hand, he or she also has the enormous disadvantage of limited knowledge and bias.

The first person narrator cannot be everywhere or be aware of everything the reader would like to know. Moreover, he or she is necessarily biased due to gullibility, innocence, ignorance, physical, or psychological problems, or he or she can be downright evil and purposefully lead everyone along the wrong path, which is usually the case of the antagonist as first person narrator.

The question posed, implies that only one narrator is possible, and that he or she is either protagonist or antagonist, but there are many more options available to the writer. There could be more than one point of view, and more than one protagonist and or antagonist, or the protagonist and antagonist could even be the same person at the same or different stages of his/her life.

The first time I read a novel with various first person narrators was Laura, by Vera Caspary, also in my teenage years. I remember being pleasantly surprised, as a reader, by two aspects, the multiple first person narrators and the presence of unreliable narrators, including the antagonist.

In one of my ‘A’ level texts, The Fall, Camus’ manipulative first person narrator, Jean-Baptiste Clamence, whose long series of monologues is a confession and reflection of his life, to a stranger he calls, ‘cher ami’, thus, mostly using the second person ‘you’. He is also both protagonist and antagonist, as he finally turns the mirror on his patient and unsuspecting listener/reader.

The options are endless. In my case, I’ve published three books and written five (two will hopefully be published this year), and all of them have multiple, first person narrators, including protagonist and antagonist.

Although I don’t mind reading novels written in third person, I can’t see myself doing so. I would especially avoid third person omniscient narrators, mainly because I think it’s all too easy to fall into the trap of manipulating characters, events and readers. I prefer to allow my characters and readers more space to grow and reconstruct their own novel.

I overcome the hurdles inherent to first person narration, at least partly, by having more than one first person narrator, which I believe gives the novel wider scope and perspective.

The Eyre Hall Trilogy has several, rotating first person narrators, and although some readers have complained, most readers have positive opinions. The use of various first person voices is innovative and enriching, but it’s by no means easy to juggle so many characters at once, and it’s not something I’m planning on doing again, at the moment.

My two latest, unpublished novels, both have only two points of view. In one case it is the protagonist and the antagonist, and in the second case a mother and daughter, who are both protagonists. So far, beta readers have responded favourably, and I’m satisfied with the end product, although, one still has to go through the final draft and editing stage.

I think two narrators give enough scope for multiple perspectives to allow readers more space to interact with the narrative.

I will probably experiment with other viewpoints in the future. As I said, I enjoy many  different points of view as a reader, but for the moment, I plan to continue writing novels with, at least, two first person points of view.

Thanks for stopping by and don’t forget to like and/or leave a comment 🙂

What about you, how many and whose point(s) of view do you prefer as a reader and as a writer?

Follow Luccia Gray on Social Media:

Twitter

Facebook

Goodreads

Check out Luccia Gray’s Books on Amazon 

 

Writing 101, Day Twenty: The Things We Treasure

Today’s Prompt: For our final assignment, tell the tale of your most-prized possession. Today’s twist: If you’re up for a twist, go long — experiment with longform and push yourself to write more than usual.

 

Prized Possessions and Gifts received

I have a problem with the word ‘things’ in our last assignment, you see, I’ve never been very fond of ‘things’, so I don’t have a favourite thing that’s been with me long enough to value.

I don’t like jewellery, and I have no heirlooms. I don’t keep clothes, or objects, once I’ve used them, either. Of course, there are things which are very useful, and that I’d miss, like my smartphone, or my laptop, but I wouldn’t say I’m emotionally attached to these objects.

The only ‘things’ I value are my books, but I hasten to add, I don’t care much for the books themselves, especially now that of many of them are ebooks. It’s what the book has given me that I carry around with me all the time, as a gift.

I’m not sure I’d be the same person if I hadn’t read the books I’ve read. In fact, I have no doubts that they conditioned the way I think and, of course, the way I write, and live.

I’ve read too many books to even try to mention, so I’ll write about the three books I read as a teenager, and continue to reread to this very day. I reread them so often, that I’m sure they are my most-prized possessions.

large-bookshelf.jpgSmall Bookshelf

The first book is Rebecca, the second is Persuasion, and the third is Jane Eyre. The three are ‘Happy Ever After’ novels, in which the lovers have to overcome serious obstacles in order to finally achieve happiness, but what is the lesson I have carried with me as a precious gift since I first read them as a teenager?

The nameless protagonist in Rebecca, Jane Eyre, and Anne Elliot, fall in love with an ‘ideal’ hero, but they must overcome significant obstacles, including first wives, and parental opposition, in order to achieve their goals. They all improve their station in life, by marrying men (Max de Winter, Edward Rochester, and Frederick Wentworth, respectively) who are able to offer emotional and financial stability, as well as unreserved love and devotion.

I was born several generations after these women, so naturally, my goals are not theirs. I didn’t have to find an ideal husband to live the life I wanted, so what did they teach me? You may suppose these novels are about marrying the ‘right’ man and living happily ever after. Well, that’s not the gift I received.

I learnt two things from these wonderful women. Firstly, perseverance. Never give up on our dreams, and pursue them with honestly and determination. Secondly, second chances will come our way. There is always an opportunity to start again, or to do what we always wanted to do. It’s never too late, and our dreams can come true if you continue to believe in them, and in ourselves.

These novels are not about finding an ideal husband. They are about not being resigned to follow the ‘easy’ or ‘predesigned’ route we can all drift into, and later complain of what could have been, but never happened, because we gave up. They are about believing in ourselves and working towards our goals.

I’m determined and persevering, and a bit of a dreamer, too, and I’m sure that’s due to this wonderful gift I received forty years ago, as I turned the pages of these inspiring books, and I still carry it with me today.

book-gifts

Would you like to read some of the other entries?

Rereading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

Rebecca is the second novel which turned me into an avid reader, and contributed to build the writer I am. Three protagonists; a plain nameless heroine, always in enigmatic, deceased Rebecca’s shadow, and an ambiguous hero, Max, who is both an ideal lover and a short-tempered, disturbed husband, make up the novel. However, there is a fourth character: Manderlay, the house where the three weave an intense and unforgettable story, which inevitably reminds us of Jane Eyre, the first book which made me the reader and writer I am.

Manderley-burning-down-2-512x384

Manderlay burning down

Last night I dreamt I went to Manderlay again…‘ are the unforgettable first lines to this spellbinding, classic novel, which draws us into the narrative right from the first word. The narrator is revisiting her home after its complete devastation, yet ‘Time could not wreck the perfect symmetry of those walls, nor the site itself, a jewel in the hollow of a hand.‘ It reminds me of Jane Eyre’s desperate return to Thornfield Hall, searching for her beloved Rochester, after hearing him call her in her across the moors. Jane was shocked to find ‘a blackened ruin.’ Later she saw the empty shell, ‘wandering round the shattered walls and through the devastated interior’. Manderlay and Thornfield both burnt down so that the second Mrs. Rochester and the second Mrs. de Winter could start again with their beloved, Edward and Max, respectively. Both fires burnt down the memories and physical representations of their husbands’ first wives: Bertha and Rebecca… But that will be the subject of another, literary entry. The rest of this post must be devoted to Rebecca.

The novel is told as a flashback. The nameless heroine and her husband, Max, are living in Europe, traveling from hotel to hotel, harboring memories of a beautiful home called Manderley. They are recovering from a great trauma which occurred as a result of the burning of Manderlay. Max’s wife, then tells the story of how they met in Monte Carlo, where she was working as a travel companion to a rich and snobbish lady. She describes herself in this way, ‘I can see myself now, memory spanning the years like a bridge, with straight, bobbed hair and youthful, unpowdered face, dressed in an ill-fitting coat and skirt and a jumper of my own creation, trailing in the wake of Mrs. Van Hopper like a shy, uneasy colt.’ Max unexpectedly proposed and her life changed completely.

When she arrived to Manderlay after their European honeymoon, she met the sinister Mrs. Danvers, housekeeper and Rebecca’s standard-bearer, ‘Someone advanced from the sea of faces, someone tall and gaunt, dressed in deep black, whose prominent cheek-bones and great, hollow eyes gave her a skull’s face, parchment-white, set on a skeleton’s frame.‘ She was there to remind her that she would never feel at home in Manderlay, because she would never be good enough. Or perhaps Mrs. Danvers is there to claim vengeance for Rebecca’s cold-blooded murder…?

The story takes another unexpected turn when the wreckage of Rebecca’s sailboat is found with Rebecca’s dead body in the hold. As a result, Max tells his wife that he didn’t love Rebecca, whom he describes as a malevolent person who had secret lovers, including her cousin, Jack Favell, ‘Our marriage was a farce from the very first. She was vicious, damnable, rotten through and through. We never loved each other, never had one moment of happiness together.’ On the night of her death, Maxim had demanded a divorce, and she had refused telling him she was pregnant with Favell’s child. As a result he tells his present wife, ‘I shot Rebecca in the cottage in the cove. I carried her body to the cabin, and took the boat out that night and sunk it there, where they found it today.’ This shocking confession is well-received by his wife, who is relieved that it means that there is still hope for their marriage.

Luckily, and due to his influence in local society, the coroner delivers a report of suicide, rather than murder, and his friend, the local magistrate, Colonel Julyan, rules her death as suicide because he discovers that Rebecca was dying of cancer. Max and his young bride conveniently convince themselves that Rebecca had provoked Max into killing her, because she wanted to die, and was unable to commit suicide herself.

We have a flawed hero and a collaborating heroine, who both destroy the first wife whom they consider an obstacle to their happiness and peace of mind. But Rebecca has a bittersweet ending. I believe Du Maurier is convinced that they have both behaved illicitly, and although they will not pay for their crime legally, they will pay for it morally by never finding happiness together.

As so often happens with great works of art, a rereading between the lines reveals another, unwritten story. Rebecca’s real story: the story of the ailing woman who was killed by her murderous husband, whose ghost will not allow him to be happy. The reader senses Max and the narrator will never find peace or enjoy a happy marriage after what has happened. They are both too flawed. Similarly, Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester will not find peace after their treatment of Bertha Mason, whose presence will haunt them right into the 21st century and my novel All Hallows at Eyre Hall.

The power of this novel is the narrator’s ability to purposefully manipulate readers and convince them that Rebecca’s murder was justified, and that the murderers where innocent. In the same way that readers are convinced that Edward Rochester was a ‘good’ husband to the ‘wicked’ and ‘insane’ Bertha Mason. Readers see Max and Rochester in the eyes of women in love with them, but I am convinced both writers knew they were manipulating readers, while telling another story: Rebecca and Bertha’s implicit story.
Finally, it is not always that a film pays a just tribute to a novel, fortunately. this is the case with Rebecca. Hitchcock’s film is magnificent and brings accross faithfully, the tormented characters, and the surprising climax. Brilliantly directed and superbly interpreted. I never tire of watching it.