And, while I was browsing, I found a post named "Two's Company - An Ode to the Faithful Sidekick". I remembered writing the post, though it didn't stick in my memory as being anything spectacularly entertaining. However, looking at the title "Two's Company" it got me thinking about the narrative style of my abandoned work, Warrior, the oh-so-originally-titled first book of the Aeserion trilogy. In the first draft, I only had one narrator - the infamous Rin, whom you've met in many a Beautiful People post this year. This time around, however, I remembered that I was going to have to pay attention to someone else as well - a second narrator who really hadn't seen that much screentime as anything other than the "sidekick" until very late on in Warrior's original draft.
His name is Florien. Well, it is now - his name in the original draft was too similar to that of another rather central character, and the similarity was beginning to annoy me. And that's not the only thing about him that makes the writing part of my brain twitch.
Having two narrators to a tale isn't all that uncommon, especially in tales where the stories of the two characters run parallel or interweave. I wasn't planning to use Florien at all, until I realised that, while watching me slowly destroy Rin's belief in his own sanity was very entertaining, there was no way he could be aware of half the important events in the plot. And so a new page was saved in the Central Characters folder, under the name of my reluctant new narrator. He was hard work to pin down - he was nothing like as developed as Rin, and personality-wise he had more mood-swings than his pregnant landlady on a bad day.
And, even when I did pin him down, things got even more interesting.
The difference in Rin and Florien's narrative voices is like comparing a greyhound and a poodle. Rin is fierce, opinionated, confident, and more than happy to liberate a few teeth from the mouths of anyone who invokes his wrath. Florien, meanwhile, is usually found hiding under the nearest table, hoping no one lands on him. True he's intelligent, friendly and talented in his own way, but ... he's no fighter, and he knows it. His sword has been affectionately nicknamed "Hearthwarmer" to indicate how much use it gets.
Not only that, but Florien doesn't want to be a hero. Rin may not like the lemons he's handed, but he'll bite his own fingers off before he lets some sick celestial joke get the better of him, and - like the mercenary he is - he'll take what advantages he can get. Florien would sooner run away. Run away, hide, and hope it'll just go away and leave him alone. Give him the option of taking a daring risk to win personal glory and gratification or staying home playing his pipes to amuse the locals, and he'd be reaching for the pipes before you even finished your sentence. Pacifist, people-pleaser and, to some, a bit of a pansy.
We've all heard of unlikely heroes, but very rarely will we meet one who actively avoids scary tasks for that long. Even if they're not gifted or set up in some advantagous manner beforehand, even the wimpiest of them will know when something has to be done. And, most importantly of all, they'll push their limits, their beliefs, their all to succeed - eventually.
Well then ... why on earth do I tolerate the presence of a character who refuses to even be called "unlikely" in my story?
Well, no story is ever all about the battles. Fair enough, Rin is the more dominant narrator of the two, and its his story that drives the plot for the most part, but, without Florien, he'd have a slim chance, if any at all, of succeeding. Though he's little use in a bar brawl, having a man who could make even the grumpiest goat grin from ear to ear certainly brightens up miserable nights spent sleeping in haunted forests and wet, dingy borderland forts. Those pointless books he likes to read? They'll come in useful later too.
And hey, you know what they say about invoking the anger of a gentle man.
So, I suppose, the lesson really is thus. Even if your narrator is even less likely a hero than Bilbo Baggins doesn't mean they're useless. It might look like it, they might act like it, heck, we might even believe it ... until we remember that it sometimes takes more than one central character to screw in a lightbulb. No matter how unorthodox their method.
- Charley R