So, yesterday, although I didn’t get far I did begin on Chapter 6 of my Universe of the Nine Roads novel, which I think I am going to working-title “The Dawn Prism.” That is a good thing. However, I have also been thinking about a thing relating to that story about which I am not quite sure how I feel. The story has three “main characters”: Zerieth, the White Hierophant and highly respected member of The Order of the Open Hand, Ethenae, a White Knight who is also a member of the Order and views herself as Zerieth’s bodyguard (not that a master White mage is really in need of protection) and Sephias, a young mercenary and hedge-wizard who’s spent his adult life trying to find his way onto the Yellow Road as a way of honoring his murdered parents.
In theory, Sephias is the “protagonist.” He is the first character introduced: Chapter 1 is entirely from his POV. He gets tangled up in the villain’s plot to assassinate the Nine Hierophants and winds up feeling indebted to Zerieth and Ethenae who save his life. However as things proceed, I find myself feeling a couple of things. One, that Sephias is likely to get somewhat overshadowed by other characters, especially Zerieth who is a character I feel very comfortable and natural writing. And two, related to that, that Sephias lacks the same level of integration into the story. Zerieth has prior associations with both the main villain and with Meteos, one of the order of assassins that’s been hired to knock off the Hierophants: Sephias has no such ties to anyone else in the story.
Now of course, that could be remedied easy enough. Indeed, since I already know that Meteos is eventually going to leave the Onphar Nine and that they will need a replacement, I could with a little fudging have that replacement be the Grey wizard who killed Sephias’s mother. Or I could create connections in any number of other ways. However, all of these ideas feel a little contrived to me. No such bonds are actually calling out to be made. And, honestly, I’m not sure in the end that I deem it necessary.
Would it really be a problem for Sephias to lack those kinds of preexisting connections? Would Zerieth becoming in some ways more the central figure necessarily be a bad thing? Does a story definitely need a single key protagonist? As many of you know, I’m not a big one for “rules” or common wisdom and tend to follow my own intuition on things. However on the other hand, I do intend to try and sell this novel and while I am not willing to make major artistic compromises to do so, this issue is something on which my own feelings are still unclear. So, I’m interested to hear any thoughts that anyone might like to share on these subjects.