Authorguy's Blog

Hero vs MC

Posted on: August 14, 2016


I was talking to a librarian just yesterday, and I gave myself the idea of a story with no hero. The more I considered the idea, the more I wondered if I was not already writing such stories, even the short ones, where you’d think there wasn’t enough room for tangled skeins of story lines.
I started out writing fantasy novels, with the premise of a man who was an incarnation of the Holy Will being called on by the Gods to do the work they needed to have done. That first story, Unbinding the Stone, was mostly about him, my Hero, but even in that book he had companions who played a significant role in how the story played out, although they tried not to do everything. I think that first book was the last book where I had a hero.
I traded that role for a host of MCs, all of whom were necessary to the resolution of the story, none of whom were sufficient to the resolution of the story. While Tarkas, hero of the first book, played a dominant role in the sequel, A Warrior Made, I can’t say that the story would have been resolved without the efforts of all the other MCs, each on their own arcs that all came together at the end. I think that book was the last where I had a villain.
Instead I have situations, often fantastical or supernatural in nature, as in St. Martin’s Moon, in which people act according to their natures. Some, with a bad nature, act badly, but the main characteristic of the villain is lacking. They are not plotting, nor are any of my other MCs planning their reactions to what he does. They aren’t necessarily reacting to him at all. It’s the situation that matters. Simply defeating the bad-natured MCs won’t resolve the situation, which is what needs resolving if the story is to have a satisfactory conclusion.
I don’t know if there is a technical term for this type of story. Do you? Most genre fiction I’ve read has a villain, with henchmen and a plan, and a hero who works to stop that plan with the assistance of any number of lesser characters. I’ve never heard of a genre novel without a hero. Have you?

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4 Responses to "Hero vs MC"

I think maybe you see books without heroes as ensemble casts. An obvious one to me would be A Song of Ice and Fire where no one is particularly the ‘good guy’ and no one is the ‘villian’. They’re all just characters reacting to their situation with their own motivations. I suppose you could say there is quite a lot of plotting. So maybe that falls into the realm of ‘villian’ to you?
I think most books with lots of main characters (at least the really good ones) don’t tend to have one outright hero.

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I’ve never read GRRM, I was put off the story in the first chapter and I haven’t heard anything about it that would induce me to give it another try. Is there an overarching situation that they are all responding to, with the sum of their actions effecting a resolution? Or does the story just keep going?

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Well the series isn’t over yet so at the moment it just keeps going but there is also a larger plot that they’re reacting to which they all affect and hopefully resolve.

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When we get to a resolution and we can say who did what to contribute to it, then we can look at it and say one way or the other.
Now that I think of it there is a book that’s very similar to what I described here, a Star Trek novel, in which Chekov, Scotty, and Sulu are sent to different time periods in the past, while Kirk and a Klingon commander have to deal with the god-like being who sent them there. The god changes his mind when all four make separate decisions to do the honorable thing. Each is the hero of their own piece of the story, though, and their stories don’t intersect or affect each other, so it’s not quite what I had in mind.

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