I am working on my second book in the Egypt series, and I have to confess this book is causing me some bother, not so much with the plot, or the setting or even the characterization, but with the protagonist. There seems to be some kind of competition going on between my protagonist and her sister, who is also a main character in the book.

Just to give you an idea of my dilemma, here is the plot in a nutshell. My protag Marva is a twenty-one year young woman who suffers major guilt feelings over having killed her father years ago on account of incest. She was never brought to trial, although the detective on the case suspected she was guilty. And she knew he suspected her. This happened in Book 1. In Book 2 she desperately wants to get the burden off her conscience by confessing to someone, but has no one to confess to.  June is now 17, and Marva feels she is no longer needed in her sister’s life. Marva thinks her only solution lies in killing herself – something she attempted in Book 1.

Now this is where the competition arises. As the protag slips deeper into depression, June seems to take over, warning Marva not to confess to anyone as this would disrupt the comfortable new life they have made for themselves. June is beautiful, bright, vivacious and always part of a group. She would be an ideal YA protag. Marva, though attractive, is a loner, introverted and uncomfortable around others because of her guilt feelings.

I chose Marva to be the protagonist because, to my mind, the story centers around her.  She has the most at stake. According to Characters, Emotion & Viewpoint by Nancy Kress, Marva seems to fit the profile of a villain protagonist, even though she is not a villain in this book. According to Nancy, the villain should  be:

  • tenacious
  • a loner
  • resourceful
  • not loquacious and
  • idealistic – this, Ms. Kress says is the most important. Whatever she does, lie, steal or even kill, must be done in the service of her country, her family (as in Marva’s case) or for the sake of right.

Some time ago I featured a blog post by Yvonne Anderson, my friend and critique partner, on the subject of protagonists. Yvonne is the author of the Gannah series. You can read her post here: http://angelasfreelancewriting.com/y-is-for-ys-words/, and after you have read it leave a comment and let me know who you think deserves the star role – June or Marva.

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