I’ve started listening to the “Writing Excuses” podcast, which stars Brandon Sanderson, Howard Taylor, and Dan Wells. I just listened to “Heroes and Protagonists” which is the fifth episode of the first season, and then I went and read the article they referenced in the podcast, “What’s the difference between Hero, Main Character, and Protagonist?” by John August.

The differences between Heroes, Main Characters, and Protagonists is a fascinating subject. In my own experience, I enjoy mixing things up with all of these constantly. In “To Catch A Goat,” the role of main character rotates through the cast each day, none of the characters are especially heroic (or they’re selectively heroic), and it’s difficult to tell who the protagonist is supposed to be at this point in time.

In some ways, it’s like how my Creative Writing teacher at Moorpark described a “literary novel” — it’s more about the characters themselves than anything in particular that they do. It’s more reactionary than that — but characters who do nothing but react to things are boring, so I have them work to figure out what’s going on and try to become more proactive (often with disastrous or ineffectual results).

What’s the lesson to be learned, there? Well, in this specific instance, it would seem like the characters have no control over the progress of the story, but simply reacting to things will get them killed (or worse), while being proactive gives them a sense of control while only possibly getting them killed. It’s a perspective thing — something about not going quietly in the night. It’s that kind of world.