I’ve been an avid reader since grade school. I remember reading books like Bunnicula, Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter. As I grew older I read books like Swamplandia, Jellicoe Road, Lumatere Chronicles, The Snow Child. The books I’ve read could fill a lake and, unfortunately, I can’t remember them all in detail. The ones that resonate, my ultimate favorites, I’ve only just realized correlate around a single characteristic. How could I miss it? It is the nucleus of almost every story I write, and yet it still eluded me.
The Protagonist’s Ghost!
That haunting backstory that stalks the protagonist like his own shadow, never far from the storyline. The ghost shapes him, guides him, and reveals his future. I am a sucker for a horrific backstory! Give me orphans, give me exiles, give me amnesia, and a will to forget.
What major, cataclysmic, horrendous, abhorrent, resonating event happened to the protagonist to piece together their broken identity? And how will they pull through to the other end? What will they, and we, learn about themselves and their past along the way? What big reveal lurks within the pages of their story?
Star Wars anyone? “I am your father.” -Darth Vader. (I love movies with ghosts too.)
As this realization dawned on me, I started ticking off all my favorite books and movies and they collectively had one thing in common! I can’t believe it took me so long to figure it out. *palm to face*
Now that I know, and now that I’ve learned some great techniques to emphasize this story element, I’m using it in my own WIP. I’m excited to see where it goes and how it affects my protag.
What books/movies/TV shows can you think of that relate to the protagonist’s ghost?
I’d love to hear about them. Maybe I’ll find my next favorite.