Concept: YA fantasy/sci-fi setting with the obligatory child-sorting algorithm where one of the categories is clearly just House Awesome, except the big book three twist is that the people in charge are aware the setting runs on story logic, and the true purpose of House Awesome is to serve as a narrative quarantine for kids who’ve been identified as potential protagonists.
(At first you think it’s going to follow the standard trajectory where a single rugged individualist rises above the rest and Smashes The System, but in reality that’s precisely the problem: the system works because the various heroic destinies in play end up burning up all their energy trying to assert narrative dominance, leaving the outside world mostly unaffected. The actual moral message is some heavy-handed Aesop about the perils of unchecked individualism.)
I like the idea of putting all the potential protagonists together and watching them spend all their time trying to one-up each other to become the “ONE, TRUE PROTAGONIST!” Killing them off is just asking for someone to get away and over through you, keeping them at war among themselves may cost more but is better in the long term, just make sure to stop co-operation through unfair advantages.
Precisely. If the baddies tried to murder all the potential protagonists, they’d be providing them with a Common Enemy For Former Rivals To Set Aside Their Differences And Unite Against – they’re genre-savvy enough to know how that ends. Better to indulge them and channel their heroics into harmless one-upmanship until their endlessly serialised adventures wander off into narrative irrelevance.
Ironically, the only way to overcome the baddies’ evil scheme is to stop acting like you’re the hero of the story!
(Would it be too on-the-nose for the fellow-student-antagonist the genre requires to be a thinly disguised Harry Potter expy that takes a good, hard look at exactly what sort of person would become a magic cop straight out of high school? Yes, very likely it would. We’re gonna do it anyway.)
So do we have a viewpoint character in this theoretical story?
Given the premise, I think the most appropriate framing would be to present it as an anthology-style short story collection, with each story focusing on a different potential protagonist. Imagine if Wayside School was somehow even more meta than it already is and you’ll have roughly the right idea.
(Heck, maybe even get multiple authors in on it to really drive the point home. It’s almost a shame it’s too late to make a NaNoWriMo prompt out of it. Oh, well – there’s always next year!)
#story ideas I will never write