Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Writing Focus: Strengths of Protagonist (Primary) Narrators and Secondary Narrators

Welcome to a new series of posts on writing. I'll be getting into the mechanics of plot, character, metaphors, and more. I'll be posting these once a month, interspersed with my IWSG posts, my 5 Reasons to Write series (guests and me), and some guest posts from fellow writers (who comment here and visit fairly often). I may also work on some movies-and-books-for-writers posts that I'm not sure how I'll name. On my Wordpress blog (hardly used, was thinking of changing but didn't), I'll be posting posts on heroes and villains and/or re-posting content from this blog.

So, what do I mean by Protagonist Narrators and Secondary Narrators? What are their strengths? Here's a bit of what I think: 

Protagonists (Primary Narrators) are the center of the plot. 

The plot revolves around their action or inaction, their choices or their refusal to choose.
Protagonists are the heart of any plot.

Examples of Protagonist Narrators:

  • Would The Hunger Games still be The Hunger Games without Katniss? No. Katniss and her choices drive the plot forward. Even when she doesn’t want to play along, the other characters view her as an important figure and her action or inaction makes the story come alive. 
  • The Hobbit is obviously centered around Bilbo Baggins from title page to first paragraph to finish. the book is Bilbo’s book, his adventure, and all from his point of view. It’s why we don’t know what Gandalf is up to until he comes back to report things to Bilbo and the dwarves. While I do prefer the novel to the three movies, I enjoyed the three movies based on The Hobbit because we were able to see Gandalf’s adventures. 

Movies are almost always from a third person omniscient perspective, which is a bit different than a true protagonist narrator, or even a narrator who is not the protagonist.

Can a narrator not be the protagonist? 

Secondary Narrators can hold the plot within their point of view without being the protagonist. 

Their perspective colors the events, but the events are not centered around them.


  • Dr. Watson narrates most of the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels, but Sherlock is definitely the protagonist. Sherlock may rely on Dr. Watson, but the action and solution of the great detective stories center around Sherlock.
  • In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Mr. Utterson (a completely forgettable busybody) is the narrator of the events in the story. There is almost a sense of an omniscient narrator since the story is told in 3rd POV, but it is Mr. Utterson’s steps we doggedly follow through the strange rumors and events that lead to the revealing of Dr. Jekyll as Mr. Hyde.

So, how should we, as writers, create our novels and stories? Should we use protagonist narrators or (non-protagonist) secondary narrators?

I think it depends on our style as writers and what best viewpoint there is for the story at hand.

Strengths of Protagonist Narrators:

  • We get some of the thoughts and emotions along with the character’s actions. Why does Katniss struggle to “perform” for the audience even when her life depends on it? We find that answer in her point of view in the novel.

  • We have a front row seat for events in the novel. The protagonist narrator is the center of the plot and therefore, the plot is right there and in our faces when we read a protagonist narrator. Katniss takes us with her for a brutal game of combat and heart-ache. 

Strengths of Secondary Narrators:

  • We see the story with a full picture as the secondary narrator ferrets out information that the protagonist may not even be thinking about. In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Mr. Utterson gets eye-witness accounts and gossip in his quest to help his friend, Dr. Jekyll. Many of the other characters are able to voice their perspectives and since we see Mr. Utterson worry over his friend, we know that Dr. Jekyll is usually a decent person.
  • Secondary narrators may keep the grisly stuff off the main page. When Dr. Jekyll is Mr. Hyde, he relishes in his adventures, which include murder, child rape, and other things that we, as an audience, might not want to see from the front row seat of his mind. Although Mr. Utterson is horrified and shocked, we are just seeing the actual crimes from a perspective of hindsight and unspoken graphic details.

Can we mix these two types of narrators, protagonist narrators and secondary narrators, in the same story or novel? 


  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card revolves around the early life of Andrew (Ender) Wiggin, but every chapter starts with a short, disembodied conversation between two adults who are “training” him. 
  • In my trilogy (The Champion Trilogy), the point of view jumps between the protagonist, her mentor, the villain, another mentor, and some of her friends (one of whom is a secondary protagonist/love interest). Each of these characters takes control of the plot in certain points of the trilogy, but only one is truly the main protagonist. 

There are many styles of protagonists in novels and short stories.
I hope to do a more extensive set of blog posts and articles on them, eventually.

However, next week, I will be starting a lengthy series on plot.

For a related post on characterization, check out my May post at the Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Writing Realistic Antagonists.

What kinds of narrators do you like best? 
Protagonist (primary) Narrators or Secondary Narrators?

Summer Sales:

99 Cents for Champion in the Darkness and Champion in Flight for Kindle readers until July 31st.

Smashwords Sale Items until July 31st.
FREE - Flicker: A Collection of Short Stories and Poetry
FREE - Dynamic Writing 1: First Semester E-book
$1.50 Champion in Flight (I couldn't get it to 99 cents and put it in the sales catalog, probably author error).

Don't Forget #IWSGPit

Notable Post from Summer so far:
Ellen Jacobson's 5 Reasons to Write Cozy Mysteries (Guest Post)

Monday, May 14, 2018

5 Reason to Write with Villains

Today I have a post up at The Insecure Writers Support Group Site on Writing Realistic Antagonists.
It's a more serious post.

For here, for now, let's take a quick look at 5 Reasons to Write with Villains (the antagonists we love to hate):

1. Villains enjoy themselves. If they want to have cake and eat it and bathe in it, they'll find a way, even if if means taking all the cake in the world and enslaving all the cake bakers.

2. Villains see themselves as righteous and they worry a lot less than heroes. Villains don't ask, "Should I do this?" They just do whatever they want.

3. Villains rule absolutely. Hence, they have less paperwork to fill out.

4. Villains have henchmen, sometimes even cute ones like Minions.

5. Villains have cool toys, weapons, and transportation.

Seriously, though, these traits are just the beginning of villainous behavior. Realistic villains aren't that simple. If they were, they could never be redeemed, have henchmen issues, or feel anguish over the sacrifices they make or have made. If villains were truly simple, we wouldn't have Darth Vader, Loki, Bucky, Kylo Ren, Thanos (according to the latest Avengers movie), or Gru and his Minions.

Realistic villains and antagonists need a reason to be who they are and that's what my more serious post at IWSG is all about.

Click here to read Writing Realistic Antagonists.

BTW, I do plan to visit around the web and comment today, but as I write this ahead of time, I am experiencing dizziness with bouts of full vertigo, headaches, and ear ringing. The docs (plural) are working on a diagnosis (probably Miniere's Disease) as I am working on getting better. This has been ongoing for nearly three weeks as of the date of this post, so I am ready, really ready, to get all the way better or have a plan to solve it.

Monday, April 9, 2018

5 Reasons to #Write Nostalgically with guest Corinna Austin


Please welcome Corrina Austin, author of Corners!

Five Reasons to Write Nostalgically
by Corrina

People who are writers may be familiar with the oft-used phrase, “Write what you know.” Although I don’t always agree with that advice (because I think the imagination can take a writer well beyond the realms of what is known and familiar), I can certainly see the value in the suggestion. As writers and human beings, what we know is the result of a lifetime of experience, connection and accumulated wisdom. There is much to be harvested from the memory.

I discovered this truth while writing my novel, Corners. The story shot up from roots in my own memories of growing up in the 1960’s. The community swimming pool and the “deep end test,” the countless summertime pitchers of Freshie, the noisy old refrigerator, a favourite childhood movie called The Incredible Mr. Limpett, even a visit from the Avon lady—all of these long-forgotten (or so I thought) things resurfaced during writing and made a framework for my characters and the stories they had to tell. Connecting writing with my personal memories in Corners brought an element of joy to the work of writing that I never anticipated.

Aside from the happy vibes of fondly looking back, here are five more reasons to write nostalgically that I discovered when I let my memories lead the way in writing Corners:

1)    Nostalgic writing is as close as you can come to getting into a time machine.

I didn’t know that writing about the 1960’s would draw my memories out so vividly. As I wrote, I could hear that old fridge vibrating and humming through the night while I lay in bed as a child. I vividly recalled the metal pin I got to wear on my bathing suit with such pride after I passed the deep end test. I could visualize the diner my mom would take me to for a plate of shared fries and a Coke after a shopping excursion. There was something about the process of writing that took me back to the past in ways that verbally recollecting and reminiscing never could.

2)  Nostalgic writing empowers you to transport your readers back in time right along with you.

Finding connection with your audience is one of the most rewarding things that a writer can experience. Some readers of Corners who remember the 60’s have related to me that through my story, their day-to-day memories of that time have resurfaced. Writing about the past can be like giving someone back something special that was thought to be lost. And younger readers who may not have been around during the setting of your story are able to get little glimpses of what life was like in those days.

3)  Writing from your own experiences adds credibility to your writing.

No one could dispute my protagonist’s authority as he narrated Corners because I was there. I was a kid in the 60’s. This first-hand knowledge gave me a sense of confidence that I hadn’t experienced when I worked on other manuscripts where I was relying entirely upon research and my imagination.

4)  Writing nostalgically allows you to more fully appreciate your childhood relationships and connections.

Developing the characters in Corners brought back aspects of my parents, siblings, neighbours and childhood friends that had faded in my memory. It reminded me of where I came from and of all the events and experiences that shaped me. Not only does this allow for more depth and understanding in my present relationships, it also can’t help but to add more texture and richness in my writing.  I’ve realized there is nothing trivial or unimportant when it comes to the details of daily life as they translate into stories.

5)    Writing nostalgically allows you to critically inspect what has and has not improved over time.

The good old days seem like just that, in some ways. When we look back, it’s often through rose-coloured glasses. When I think of the 60’s, things like “flower power,” the Beatles, and the burgeoning sense of societal optimism come to mind. But, writing Corners also reminded me that the 60’s weren’t all sunshine and roses. My protagonist faced daily ostracizing at school because his mother had him out of wedlock (and she was disowned by her parents for this reason). This same mom was often sexually harassed by costumers at the diner where she worked as a waitress and this seemed to be just “part of the job.” Children were killed or disabled by Polio in the 60’s. The stigma of mental illness in those days kept people isolated or locked away. Sometimes, people defer to the past because they’ve romanticized it. It’s good to keep in mind that although it can seem like some things have been lost over time, we’ve also come a long way.

Everyone needs their own special corner...

It’s 1969 and ten-year-old Davy is in a predicament. With two weeks remaining of the summer holidays, he’s expelled from the public pool for sneaking into the deep end and almost drowning. How will he break the news to his hard-working single mother? She’s at the diner all day, Davy has no friends, and he’s too young to stay by himself.

The answer lies in his rescuer, mysterious thirteen-year-old Ellis Wynn. Visiting her Grammy for the summer, Ellis offers to babysit Davy. She teaches him about “corners”–forgotten or neglected areas fixed up special. Together, the kids tackle several “corners” and Davy learns what it means to bring joy to others.

Davy begins to wonder, though. Why does Ellis want to be his friend? Why doesn’t she ever smile? And is Davy just one of Ellis’ “corners?”

Release date - March 6, 2018
$10.95 USA, 6x9 Trade paperback, 136 pages, Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C.
Juvenile Fiction - Boys & Men / Fiction - Coming of Age
Print ISBN 9781939844392 eBook ISBN 9781939844408
$3.99 EBook available in all formats

“Austin’s message of true friendship and selflessness will resonate...strong addition to the realistic fiction genre.” - Library Journal

“This book was so engaging! Five out five stars.” - TDC Book Reviews

“This is a story about love and loss, wrapped in a blanket of friendship... reminds me of the storytelling method used in The Princess Bride.” - Gina @ Satisfaction for Insatiable Readers

“I hope you enjoy making a corner once you've read this sweet emotional read.” - Nayu’s Reading Corner

Corrina Austin grew up in the 1960’s. She became a mother of four and an elementary school teacher, but always found time between work and family for writing. From childhood to the present, if she wasn’t reading a book, she was writing one. While honing her craft as a writer, Corrina strives to infuse the ordinary with beauty, whimsy, and connection. She lives in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada.

Kobo -

A quick review from me (Tyrean): Corrina's beautifully written novel made me want to
start creating special corners in my life and in the lives of people around me. I think the
character arcs, plot development, and the beauty of the prose in Corners make it
a must-read for anyone of any age.
Highly Recommended Reading!