RARA-AVIS: Protags Can Count Too (was: Survey)

From: Anthony Dauer ( anthony.dauer@verizon.net)
Date: 19 Jan 2002

On my trip back from Utah the other day I read George P. Pelecanos's
"Shoedog" on the plane which has a single protagonist and several supporting/influencing characters with switching perspectives that add depth to the story without detracting from the protagonist's tale.
"Shoedog" provides a textbook example of how to do it right. Being able to pull this off is a sign of a good writer in my book, it's a skill that should be honed even if one's preferences are for other forms.

That's not to put all of the weight on the author's shoulders though, not all readers are skilled enough to keep up with things or their time to read is limited with too much down time for the book in between. No author, no matter how good they are, can make up for poor memory skills in their reader or any other failings their reader may have.

A lot of "buddy" books tend to have two protagonists who in reality are just the alternate sides of a coin (when the characters lack depth beyond their roles, that's when the author has failed). The internal conflict of the single protagonist is carried out externally through the personalities of the two. Robert Andrews's "A Murder of Honor" tales a good buddy tale.

Do any of y'all think this is the goal of a "buddy" book or a definitive? "The Sweet Forever" is a buddy book, but I see it more as a two roads diverge in the woods than alternating personalities.

Anthony Dauer
Alexandria, Virginia

Sweet Revenge Short Crime Fiction Contest
-----Original Message----- From: owner-rara-avis@icomm.ca Sent: Saturday, January 19, 2002 9:36 AM
I agree with Neil Smith. I have trouble keeping track of too many secondary characters, and two protagonists too often leads to the partner/sidekick formula. I do like S.J. Rozan's spin on things: partner PIs who alternate as main protag with each book.

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