A little essay on pros and cons on having multiple main characters or only one with impact characters hovering around them like planets. As I’m mostly in love with the first person perspective, that’s what I’ll be talking about.
At first, when many of us start, we tend to take it so that there is one main couple and then everybody else. In romances I gather it works quite alike and you can often see FMC and MMC shining through most forums I’ve been to. That usually means there are still several main characters. But then I happened on the theory that explained how there could be only one main character and others are only having impact on them, but the story is still focused through one character’s eyes.
Simple, isn’t it?
On one hand it seems logical to have a group of characters around whom the story goes. I used to believe it too. It seemed the easiest way to know whom to focus on. If you start to analyze though, you soon realize that this wonderful group fixed story is actually one sided. There is lots of activity going on inside the group, which is great, but outside of this group there seem to be no life, no friends, no family. If you think on your own life – do you go through a week without having to concentrate on somebody else’s problem? Like even if you are having heated argument with your best friend, you still turn all your attention on your boss when she calls to remind you that the report hasn’t find its way to her desk yet. Which will lead your friend to act wholly differently when she finds out you didn’t consider their problem first and they can a) understand that you need to solve that first to give her the full attention and later calm down altogether or b) leaves in anger while you are finishing your report. People do odd things when put under stress.
Example: Biker Mice from Mars? Three brothers – equally MCs and ICs, but no real leader of the story comes out.
Using more than one MC will in most natural way also lead into head hopping and this is considered close to mortal sin amongst editors. I happen to like it and even write in it for personal fun, but it’s very hard to pull off and most readers will find it too confusing to deal with.
Them comes the impact character with main character. This works well if you have one that is the actual storyteller. The theory behind it is that there is only one ME in the game. No one else can think what I think or say what I say and the story is told only by my view of point, first person view. Even though no one else but the reader can walk around in my head, the others still touch me through their ideas, their way of dealing with things and through things I am forced to do for them. The one that has the most impact on my behavior and change of ideas is the impact character.
Example: Lev Dostoyevsky “Idiot”. Beautiful story with the most cunning show of how entangled we are with each other and how strongly those relations relate to us and how they make us react.
If you use this model in the story I think you can have broader horizon on with who you interact, because you look at it through only one set of eyes, but one person has around 100 people they meet regularly throughout their life. Which unfortunately will bring you to the problem on how many characters will you need to actually solve the crime. Usually two or three, but those will have immense impact on how you as the ME character will view the evidence given. They can change your entire being should they feel fit.
Then there is the third option, which looks challenging and rather lovely and makes my head spin on possibilities – the impact character is actually the main character and the whole story goes through their eyes and how the other person is changed through what you are. I think that’s the master class right here – to write IC into MC.
I can’t bring example on this one as I don’t remember the book’s name or the author. I’m bad at it. It was tangled story about a murderer, who knew what he did and explains it well, all the reasons, but the main story is built on the policeman investigating it and his actions and reactions on the murderer.
What else talks about the positive part of IC and MC relationship instead of 2 MC-s is that always makes you focus on the problems in hand. Even when you are sidetracked, the reasons of why something is done always come out to solve the problems the MC needs to solve. Plus it’s lot easier if you have only one MC and the rest play concubine roles.
Altogether I’d say if you have a chance, try MC and IC version – it will give you a base who to take deeper leverls in soul, yet it will not leave out the rest of the world and the influences brought in by others. Suddenly your character will have home, friends, cat in the corner and family members, who all worry, encourage or bring your MC back down should the need rise.