Genealogy Adventures

Writing and Publishing Your Family History – Part 3 of 4: Choose Hero / Protagonist Type & Supporting Cast

Every story is led by either a hero, protagonist or anti-hero. What’s the difference between these three? A hero, male or female, saves the day. A hero can be the main character – just like a protagonist. Heros combat adversity through feats of courage, strength, or ingenuity. Modern heroes, who perform great deeds or selfless acts for the common good, have moved on from the classical hero model whose focus was the goal of wealth, fame, or pride.

A protagonist is always the main character in a drama. However, unlike a hero, a protagonist does not always do the right thing. Right or wrong, a protagonist’s actions are based on what they believe is the greater good.

To sum this up: all story heroes can be protagonists. Not all protagonists are heroes.

Below you will see descriptions for some of the main types of story heroes and anti-heroes.

Choose Your Hero or Protagonist Type

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Choose Your Supporting Cast

Every story has a supporting cast of characters. When it comes to writing a genealogy-based or family history book, the supporting cast would include family members, neighbors, friends, business associates, and opponents.

How do you know who to add to your hero’s story and who to leave out? There are a couple of easy questions you need to ask yourself:

  • Do the people you plan to add to your story support the hero’s journey?
  • Do they distract the hero from their journey?
  • Do they add to the drama of the story?
  • Do they provide any motivation for your story’s protagonist to take a course of action or avoid a course of action?
  • Do they reveal something about the protagonist’s character, beliefs, understanding of a situation, flaws, etc.?
  • Do they provide action points that add to the drama or move the story forward or provide a vital missing piece of information?
  • Are they one of the barriers that must be overcome?

If the answer to any of the seven questions above is yes, then these are people to add to your story and should be included. If they don’t? You need to cut them from your writing project. Every person in your story serves a purpose. If they don’t, then they need to be shown the proverbial door.

If a person doesn’t add to the excitement, drama, or move the story forward, they should be omitted. Keeping track of numerous names in a book can be confusing for the reader. Only add individuals to your story if they bring the drama, or enhance the drama, or provide support or relief to the protagonist of your story.

The notable exception to this is if you plan to write and publish a pedigree or lineage book. This specialized type of genealogical book is a compendium of “X begat Y who begat Z,” and so forth. Lineage and pedigree books include every member of an ancestral family.

A Location as a Supporting Character

One of the most overlooked supporting characters is the location where the action of the story – or the story itself – plays out. For example, Edgefield County, South Carolin has a distinctive character. As a region, it is differentiated from any other in South Carolina with its historic combination of medieval British aristocratic practices, mores, and chivalry with brutal violence. Families who moved to Edgefield from Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, and Virginia brought one set of values with them when they arrived, only to see them change within a generation to accommodate the more dominant Edgefield culture. No story that takes place within Edgefield would be complete without adding Edgefield as a background character. Its culture answers all of the seven bullet point questions above.

Last Stage

In the last article (Part 4), we will explore choosing your publishing platform.

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