A reader sits alone. They usually read alone. The simplest way to enter a story, particularly a work of fiction, is alongside a protagonist: a heroic guide character.
Stories with more than one lead protagonist are less common. The reader might not be sure which to align with and the writer will struggle to favor one over the other.
I welcomed this challenge for Suns Go Dark. Science fiction is about perspective and two leads means twice as much perspective. Most of Ghost Little's free books to read online have multiple protagonists, but that's a matter of narrative structure zig-zagging later in the story for a look into how the other half lives. Suns Go Dark favors two protagonists from the very beginning.
How do we write that into the sci-fi world? Check this out...
Not all heroes must reflect the antagonist.
I gave a great deal of thought to what the antagonist looks like in the story's environment: a totalitarian emperor. Self-absorbed. Believing the environment is crafted to serve them. In this book's case, the environment, the sun-farm, literally is built to serve them, if that's the route I end up taking.
What's this mean for our two good guys? What sort of heroes go against a delusional totalitarian oblivious to other people living in what they assume is THEIR WORLD?
Well, uh, pretty much any hero, right? Shoot. That's annoying. That's too general. Well, I didn't start writing free books to read online because it'd be easy.
This is when determined the protagonist can't be just a rebel. If a hero isn't a rebel, there's a good chance they're just propaganda (meaning the propagate the status quo). This means the heroes must literally embody traits that comfortable residents in the world RESENT. To the establishment, the protagonist has to be somebody that is ruining everything simply by existing.
Aha, now we're onto something. Let's establish a ground rule: what is blasphemy in this world?
Answer: destroying the process that regenerates the Emperor is blasphemy.
This means our heroes are not the opposite of the antagonist, rather, they're what the antagonist's followers resent. The world's established ideology resents them, which, if we examine history, is not always what the cruel ruler truly believes in their heart.
Now the whole world hates our protagonists.
Writing two protagonists with separate motivations and individual character agency is hard and that's why most wouldn't bother with it.
It's tricky writing two leads and making them complete people. When you watch a heist movie or read a book about war, you usually have one or two planning guys, and the rest are just really good with driving or demolitions.
Just look at the character roster for the Fast & Furious movies and you'll see what I mean.
To have two lead protagonists working together up against a single world that RESENTS THEM while still making them operate with personality and individuality is difficult.
In the case of Suns Go Dark, our protagonists would ideally clash with the world's ideology on their own terms. Ideaology is at the core of Ghost Little's free books to read online.
Our slightly-older protagonist, Virgil, hates the idea of sun-farm's society supporting the Emperor's mission of perpetuating the status quo. He shuns the status quo and his very existence is an affront to the retirees that labored for ages to retire into leisure.
I can make a heck of a character out of a brick of clay like that.
Our slightly-younger protagonist, Einie, wants to be special within the status quo. The world in Suns Go Dark appears, at first, to be equal: work hard on the farm and you can get everything promised to you. Of course, as we've already explored in the flashbacks and outlines, it's clear this isn't the case and Einie is in for a shock.
But what if she was invincible. What if she was one in a trillion, exactly like she wanted? She wants to be special because she wants to do good, not because she wants to emulate a role model. She has the benefit of other at heart and recognizes, even at a young age, that the world ain't right.
These are two protagonists with personal bones to pick but have different ways of going about it.
Now the two protagonists team up and crash against the world that hates them.
You look around at even the most recent American history, and you see mantras of, "this is just the way things have worked." When you go against that, you get trouble.
You get Jesus, and Romans, and crosses, and Christians, and lions.
It's two-against-the-world for our protagonists. This is the dynamic.
I wasn't certain about their genders at first. Do we finally give the world the gender-bending Han / Leia relationship we've always wanted and make the guy an unwitting messiah and the lady a swashbuckling rebel?
In this case, I elected to make Einie a purpose-driven girl motivated by no external role model. Not even Virgil's flippancy ruffles her.
Instead of Virgil's indifference to the science-fiction world-building manifesting in running and hiding, he attacks the things that irk him. He hits back at the world in unexpected ways.
How does he attack a status quo built simply to endure and perpetuate? I'll explore that in the next segment on writing free books to read online.