Playing with Perspective (in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Stories)
“Everyone is the hero of their own story,” said John Barth. Most people are intrinsically aware of this, but many writers are averse to writing the story of someone who would typically be considered a “side character.” However, this contributes to a fantasy that someone has to be the person saving the world in order to be at the center of a good story.
This fantasy needs to be broken. Admittedly, there are many authors who have broken from the mob and written about anti-heros or the people watching war unfold from a distance. Try to be open to joining this cohort of authors.
While Voldemort, whose only goal seemed to be to immortality and world dominance, may not be the most relatable character to lead a book, most villains are actually more realistic representations of humanity than heroes in books.
Most people are inherently selfish and care primarily for themselves and their loved ones. How many people do you know who would be willing to sacrifice their family or friends for the “greater good”? Self-sacrifice is a rare attribute among commonfolk, but fantasy and science fiction novels would have you believing otherwise.
Centering a novel around an anti-hero allows readers to see a main character featuring aspects of themselves that are typically kept out of the limelight. Highlighting negative attributes may seem like a bad idea, but it actually helps readers see why a particular trait is problematic. Having the anti-hero learn from their mistakes shows readers how to grow out of their flaws. And readers will be more intrigued by a story that doesn’t feature a predictable hero as the central character because there are more ways for the storyline to vary.
The Innocent Bystander
Importantly, not everyone gets involved in the conflict—as a hero or villain. History is full of the stories of the average person during the world’s greatest conflicts, but most literature only talks about the common person’s experiences for a small section of the story.
It may feel anticlimactic to focus on the life of an average person, but think about the struggles the actions of more powerful characters would bring to your innocent character. What changes would they have to make to their lifestyle? What will they do when they find themselves caught in the crossfire? What sacrifices can they make back home for “the greater good.”
Writing about the perspective of the average person can help readers accept that one does not need to be exceptionally powerful or influential to have a meaningful life.
So, to summarize, try playing with perspective in your works. All it takes is a little bit of courage, and it can open doors to a variety of beautiful stories that need to be told.