As always, link to the list of questions here.
Week 6: An interview with your protagonist
Okay, so part of this whole rigmarole is actually identifying my main character. Writing Excuses did an interesting dive into a distinction between a main character, a hero, and a protagonist, trying to piece together if you can have different characters fulfil those roles. I think my book is one that does that as I tend to favour ensemble casts but there are naturally key characters. A hero, protagonist, and a main character can be distinct but they often overlap and are collapsed into one, maybe two characters. I have many POVs and the roles they fill in the story likewise overlap.
A protagonist is the character who undergoes the most change. They’re the one who take action to move the story forward.
A main character is one we spend time with. We see the story through their eyes.
A hero does heroic/cool things.
For more on this breakdown, listen to this episode of Writing Excuses, where I got the idea from.
Generally speaking I have a rough “main three” for the above distinctions: a hero in a character named Varim, a protagonist in Kai, and a main character in Rixa, although since they’re all POV characters they tend to fill multiple roles. Rixa fulfils the “maintagonist” role (listen to the podcast!), without the heroics, and is whom we will be interviewing today. Naturally to avoid spoilers I’m framing this as an exit interview at the Academy, which is a university in the western Kingdom of Onzaria.
Hello Rixa, how are you?
Hel—ahem—hello! Good. How are you?
Before we get into this: can I ask after your name? It’s not a common one in these parts.
No you’re absolutely right! It’s not even common for its origins. It’s actually the feminine form of an old master, Rix. That’s how you say it, too. Ricks-ah. I’m named after two flowers, the rieaus and xalfring, respectively, and they make up my full name: Rieaus Xal Syrill. I think they were my mother’s favourite but I’m not sure.
Beautiful. Okay, let’s jump in.
Just some perfunctory information first. You’ve confirmed your name but can you tell me your birthplace and age, please?
I was born in Tymbroia [country south of Onzaria] but have spent a good amount of my time in Onzaria, especially in Goddess County where my great-aunt Jane lives. Oh, and I’m twenty-three.
Lovely. Out of interest, which do you prefer?
Neither because they offer different things. I liked studying at the Academy in Onzaria but the city life in Tymbroia’s a little more laid back, if I’m honest.
And do you have any brothers and sisters?
Not that I know of.
Are these really your necessary questions? Hmm, I don’t know. There’s a nice three-cheese salad with tomatoes, olives, yerwin [a sweet vegetable, usually used in salads but common in soups as well] and just a hint of chillies.
A good burger never goes amiss, too.
And to drink?
Any Tymbroian wine and you can do no wrong—even the cheap stuff. Close second’s an ale the Onzarian’s affectionately call “fairy’s piss”. Oh wait. Sorry! Should I even be admitting this? Do you even want to hear this?
That’s alright. It’s an informal chat. Okay then, what was the best thing about your chosen subject?
I studied anthropology and history, with a minor in botany. Is that what you need for the record? [interviewer nods] Erm, I suppose I got to see the Kingdom’s rich history, of trade and technology, even in the dark periods with slavery … History’s not so clear cut because people aren’t so we shouldn’t think there are heroes and villains so much as nuanced individuals who did good and bad.
Do you think Laliena [heroine who galvanised anti-slave armies] was a hero?
Just like my great-aunt, she was a Liberator, but I imagine if we scrub away at the worship you might see a flaw or two. Except Aunt Jane. She’s perfect.
She isn’t going to see or know about this.
[Laughing] I don’t believe you.
Do you feel as though you’ve made any meaningful connections here? If not, how could we do more to help?
Lots! Though, I would say I just got really close to my old friends like Rox, Varim, and Kai—Max too. Sorry. I’m going to miss them. But that’s part of the Academy experience, I suppose.
Absolutely. Great to hear. Do you feel like the experience overall was worthwhile? Any improvements?
Oh of course! I had so much fun. And improvements … Not that I can think of. [Too nervous to express herself there, she would later draft a four-page letter with some suggestions, mainly relating to the teaching content.]
What’s the most meaningful thing that happened to you, do you think?
It’s a secret. Can it be a secret?
If you want. You don’t have to answer anything you don’t want to.
Thank the Goddess.
Have you read anything interesting recently?
I read in the paper that the actual official animal of Tymbroia is the nirik, not the nymph like the palace would have you believe! It makes a lot of sense but no-one wants to be tied to those strange twisted creatures, poor things.
Speaking of our neighbours, do the growing tensions worry you?
Mmm … not really. Leaders bicker all the time without anything scary happening. Another thing history misses is that leaders always bicker with nothing coming of it. They’re always so dynamic in the tales. [quieter] The conquering and sieges are actually quite rare.
Have you secured employment or know what you want to do next?
Soldier! No, I’m kidding. I was referred to a reclusive botanist named appropriately Mr. Evergreen. He lives on the island to the west. He seems weird but nice. There are a few others already there and when they visited they couldn’t recommend it enough—especially Aunt Jane! I’m going to apprentice with him for a year or so and then use the money I earn and look for an academic role, maybe teach in the Academy.
And that’s your dream job?
I’d love to write history books of my own, actually. Maybe some fiction. But being an academic is a little more practical, you know? The books won’t pay for themselves. I think I’d like to teach, anyway.
Well, we’d love to have you on if you choose to come aboard. And finally: what are you going to do now?
Sleep! Definitely sleep. See my friends. Maybe go to Alvefia [country to the east]. I heard it’s lovely this time of year. They have this tomato-based bread thing that apparently’s lovely.
Have some wine?
Yes! A month to catch up on sleep, read, then maybe go dancing! I haven’t done that in a while.
Is there anything you would like to ask me?
No but I love your hair! [It’s dyed green.]
Thank you! All the best in the future.
Thanks, you too. Bye now!
That was fun! Later, peeps.