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04:30 pm: How to let your protagonist make mistakes


Date:February 23rd, 2008 02:26 am (UTC)
I'd like your constructive criticism on something I'm doing related to #1, please.

I'm working on a short story, and I'm trying to figure out if a series of mistaken assumptions the protagonists make is believable.

The protagonists (two brothers, royal brats way down on the metaphorical totem pole -- 5th and 7th, so no hope in hell of the succession) are stuck with the job of trying to figure out just what exactly is killing the serfs in one particular village. (Bodies turn up missing their heads and mostly devoured.)

The villagers' theory (the surviving ones, anyway) is that it's a werewolf, because the deaths didn't start until after they caught an old man who'd been rustling livestock. They impaled him for it on the night of a full moon, and his body disappeared from the stake during the night. Which is why the brothers are handling this in the first place, because they've killed werewolves in the past.

So they go with that theory until they find the old man's skeleton laid out in a cave, surrounded by the severed heads of the villagers. At which point their assumption shifts to "the thing killing people is an evil spirit trying to resurrect its dead master somehow." Still mistaken, but slightly closer to the truth.

Said truth is that the old man's psyche/spirit jumped ship and is currently controlling a pet of his, which is extremely large and carnivorous. (I rather like a minor sub-idea of this: that residing in the mind of a huge predator alters his perspective on eating people without him even noticing.)

Are their mistakes reasonably believable? Is the progression from mistakes to discovering the truth too fast or too slow? Any thoughts?
Date:May 20th, 2009 04:56 pm (UTC)
Just from the summary, I'd say it sounds believable, but I'd have to see it written out to know for sure - it would certainly be possible with that plot to either beat the characters over the head with ignored hints, or have them suddenly realize something with no apparent lead-up. Especially since you haven't said yet how they'll go from 'spirit trying to ressurect master' to what it actually is.
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