How to Create Great Characters
A 100 Lesson Course
Creator of StoryWeaver
& Co-Creator of Dramatica
How to Create Great Characters!
Strangely enough, what makes a character “Great” has little to do with what makes a character dramatically sound. This is easy enough to see if you consider the differences between the characters Austin Powers and James Bond. Both could be seen as Protagonists, and both could even be seen as heroes, and yet their personalities, mannerisms, interests, and attitudes are quite dissimilar. What makes them the same is their dramatic function; what makes them different are their personalities.
Dramatic function is part of a story’s logistic structure. Without a function, a character is little more than window dressing. Yet, even the most strongly drawn structural character is quite forgettable without a charismatic personality. Stucturalist writers tend to start with the function (Antagonist, Protagonist, etc.) then build a personality on that foundation. Intuitive writers usually want to get to know their characters first as individuals, then determine what function they should play in the structure.
No matter which kind of writer you are, you will eventually need to develop your characters’ personalities. So, here’s a great trick to brainstorm your characters and perhaps even learn something about your plot along the way.
I call this method, “Mix and Match.”
More than likely, you remember a childhood toy that was a book with pictures of faces, each cut into three pieces: top, middle, and bottom. The top section of each face had the hair, the middle section covered the eyes and nose, and the bottom section displayed the mouth. By flipping parts of each page, you could create all kinds of different people, swapping the hair of one with the eyes of another and the mouth of a third.
We can apply a similar concept to character attributes and physical traits to create dynamic personalities.
As an example, lets start with two ordinary, forgettable characters with only three traits each (Gender, Age, and Role) and mix and match to create more memorable characters
Character #1: Male, 38, Mercenary
Character #2: Female, 9, Shoplifter
Pretty forgettable, right? Okay, let’s mix and match:
Character #1: Female, 38, Mercenary
Charcter #2: Male, 9, Shoplifter
Now think about how these characters changed their personalities, just by swapping a single attribute from one to the other. A Male Mercenary, age 38 simply has a different “feel” than a Female Mercenary, age 38. Why? Due to our cultural indoctrination., we expect certain things of men and certain things of women. We therefore expect a Male Mercenary to have a different personality than a Female Mercenary. In other words, it would require a different personality of woman than a man to become a Mercenary in our society. So, we (as creative authors) tend to subconsciously assign those personality traits to the character, even though we have really only spelled out the character’s role and gender.
Let’s try another swap:
Character #1: Female, 9, Mercenary
Character #2: Male, 38, Shoplifter
Again, we impose our own subconscious expectations of each character’s personality upon him or her so that we have a completely different feel for each than we did before.
Let’s try one more:
Character #1: Male, 9, Mercenary
Character #2: Female, 38, Shoplifter
Once again, the personalities change.
We might find that one of these characters strikes our fancy as being interesting to develop and put into play. But more than likely, we haven’t found the “Great” character we are looking for. What we need are more traits and attributes, and more characters to swap them among.
What I usually do is list various traits and attributes on 3x5 cards, cut them up into individual items and then assemble them like the Face Book to create potential characters for my story.
For example, I might have a group off different traits/attributes in each of the following categories:
Name Age Sex Height Weight I.Q. Hair Color Hair Style Mannerisms (graceful, clumsy, abrupt, etc.) Physical Impairments Physical Enhancements (keen eyesight, etc.) Physical Quirks (i.e. twitch) Religious Affiliations Religious Beliefs (not necessarily the same as affiliations) Hobbies Skills Talents Accent Speed of Speech Place of Birth Marital Status Previous Marriages Special powers Job or Role Pets Siblings (alive and dead) Personality Traits (sourpuss, practical joker, deadpan serious, etc.) Sound of Voice (deep, high, breathy)
Well, I could go on an on with this list, but you get the idea. The best way to compile a list of categories like this is to read the newspaper, watch television, or sit in a coffee shop and look out the window.
Now, in each category, you need to come up with as many different items as you can.
For example, in the first category, Name, we might have the usual Joe, and Sally, but also Zippo, Teaser, Tweezer, and Mulch. The weirder, the better.
Let’s take our Female, 9 year old Mercenary and name her Sally. Now how does her personality change if we name her Tweezer, or Mulch instead?
In tangible reality, there is no indicated difference between Sally, the 9 year old Female Mercenary and Tweezer, the 9 year old Female Mercenary. And yet, we cannot help but feel they are different because of our cultural indoctrination.
As a brainstorming technique for creating “Great” characters, the mix and match method is the best way I’ve found to break away from the same old forgettable stereotypes.
Now most of this you’ll need to do this manually, but in fact there is a place in the Dramatica Pro software that can help take some of the drudgery out of it. From the main Dramatica Desktop, click on the Brainstorming tile. Then, select the Character Generator Tile. Here you can automatically generate characters by arbitrarily assigning them names, genders, and structural functions as archetypes or complex characters.
And speaking of structural functions, have you noticed that none of the attributes we assigned to our characters above gave any indication as to their status as a Protagonist, Antagonist, other archetype or complex functional character?
If you are a structuralist writer, you’ll first start with your Protagonist (or whatever structural function you wish to begin with) and THEN play the mix and match game on that foundation. If you are an intuitive writer, you’ll start with mix and match and then pick one character and determine what function he, she, or it should play.
Take Tweezer, our nine-year-old Mercenary. Would she be a better Protagonist or Antagonist? When you pick a structural function, it ties the character to the plot and further defines the foundation of its personality. And, because you have likely chosen a role for your character, such as Mercenary, the combination of roles among your characters can actually start to suggest the outlines of a plot!
Of course, some things will likely have to be changed to make the characters and plot more consistent. But, this refining process is just part of the ongoing development of your story. The real trick is to break free of the stodgy, ordinary character we create by falling into our well-worn mental patterns, and mixing and matching to create arbitrarily intriguing characters.
Heroes & Villains
If you are writing with only Heroes and Villains, you are limiting yourself. A Hero is a Main Character who is also a Protagonist. A Villain is an Obstacle Character who is also an Antagonist.
What’s the difference between a Main Character and a Protagonist? The Main Character represents the audience position in the story. It is the character the audience most cares about, most empathizes with. The Protagonist is the character who drives the plot forward.
These two functions don’t have to be placed in the same character as they are in a Hero. In real life, we are not always running the show. Similarly in stories, the Main Character doesn’t have to always be the guy leading the charge. Separating the two functions opens up a wide variety of new audience experiences and creates characters that are less archetypal and formulaic.
Similarly, when we split a Villain into an Obstacle Character and an Antagonist, we open up opportunities, some of which bear directly on the nature and function of a Love Interest and the structure of a "Buddy Picture."
First, what is the difference between the Obtstacle Character and the Antagonist? The Obstacle Character represents a point of view opposite that of the Main Character. Every Main Character will be driven by some central belief system around which the story’s philosophic argument revolves. This belief system might be an attitude, a way of doing things, or something as extensive as a specific “world view.” The Obstacle Character represents the view that is diametrically opposed.
Over the course of the story, the Obstacle Character’s impact will bring the Main Character to a point of decision at which he or she must choose to stick with the old “tried and true” philosophy/approach or to adopt the alternative put forth by the Obstacle Character. In many stories, this moment results in a “Leap of Faith” in which the Main Character is forced to make a conscious decision to go with one view or the other at the critical moment. In other stories, the Main Character may gradually warm to the Obstacle Character’s view, but the audience is not sure if that warmth will hold when the chips are down. Only at the critical moment will the story demonstrate on which side of the fence the Main Character drops, not by conscious choice but by responding from the heart.
When a Hero battles a Villain, both the functional relationship of the Protagonist/Antagonist battle for supremacy in the plot and the personal relationship of the Main Character/Obstacle Character occur between the same two characters at the same time. In a sense, working with Heroes and Villains flattens these two relationships into a single relationship. This often confuses an audience, as they are often not sure which of the two relationships is being described by a particular moment between the two characters.
What’s more, it is easy for an author to leave holes in each kind of relationship because if something happens in one of the two, its dramatic momentum can carry the attention past a gap in the other. In fact, it is the foundation of a Melodrama for the audience to accept as a style that gaps in both relationships are acceptable, as long as the combined momentum of them both carries the attention on to the next point in either.
To avoid audience confusion and prevent your drama from disintegrating into a Melodrama, you may wish to split up either the Hero, the Villain, or both. When both are split, it allows for a complete separation of the functional relationship and the personal relationship, allowing for each to be fully developed by the author and experienced by the audience.
When only one character is split, the two relationships converge on the remaining character. So, we might have a story with a Hero (Main Character/Protagonist) who has a functional relationship with the Antagonist and a personal relationship with the Obstacle Character. This forms a “V” shaped pattern which is referred to as a Dramatic Triangle.
Conflict Can Limit Your Characters
Many books on writing will tell you that a good story requires character conflict. In fact, this is far too limiting. Just as with real people, character can relate in ways other than by coming into conflict which are just as strong dramatically.
Dramatica defines four different kinds of relationships, each of which can be positive or negative in nature:
1. Dynamic 2. Companion 3. Dependent 4. Associative
1. Dynamic relationships are conflictual. Positive Dynamic relationships are like the "loyal opposition" where two sides butt heads, but synthesize a better solution because of the conflict. Negative Dynamic relationships occur when two sides butt heads until each is beaten into the ground.
2. Companion relationships involve the indirect impact one character has on another. Positive Companion relationships occur when there is beneficial "fall-out" or "spill-over" between the two sides. For example, a father might work at a factory where he can bring home scrap balsa wood that his son uses for making models. Negative companion relationships involve negative spill-over such as a room-mate who snores.
3. Dependent relationships describe the joint impact of the two sides. For example, positive Dependent relationships might bring Brain and Braun together so that they are stronger than the sum of their parts. A negative Dependent relationship might have a character saying, "I'm nothing without my other half."
4. Associative deals with the relationship of the individual to the group. Rather than being consistently positive or negative, the two varieties of this kind of relationship may be either - but in any given relationship one variety will be positive and the other negative. The Component variety sees characters as individuals. The Collective variety sees them as a group.
For example, two brothers might fight between themselves (Component), yet come to each others' aid when threatened by a bully because they now see themselves as family (Collective).
If you limit yourself to exploring only the conflicting relationships, 3/4 of the ways in which people actually relate will not appear in your characters. What's worse, if you limit yourself to using only negative conflict, 7/8 of real relationships will be missing in your story.
By exploring all four kinds of relationships in both positive and negative modes, your characters will interact in a full, rich, and realistic manner.
Keep in mind: believable character are not only built by developing each independently, but also by how they relate one to another!
To Change, or NOT to Change...
Does your Main Character Change or Remain Steadfast? A lot of writers think a character must Change in order to grow. This is simply not true. Characters can also grow in their Resolve. In that case, they Remain Steadfast as they must grow stronger in stronger in their beliefs in order to hold out against increasingly powerful obstacles.
Regardless of whether your Main Character changes or not, how does he or she get there? Does your charctger simply flip a switch at the end of the story? Or does he or she grapple with and grieve over the issue right up to the moment of truth?
In fact, there are a quite a number of different dramatic pathways by which a Main Character can arrive at the moment of truth. The more you have in your writer’s bag of tricks, the more dramatic variety you can bring to your characters’ journeys. Let’s look at a few of your options….
1. The Steady Freddy
This kind of Main Character starts out with a fixed belief about the central personal issue of the story. Act by Act, Scene by Scene, he gathers more information that leads him to question those pre-held beliefs. His hold on the old attitude gradually weakens until, at the Moment of Truth, he simply steps over to the other side – or not. This kind of character slowly changes until he is not committed to either his original belief or the alternative. It all comes down to which way the wind is blowing when he ultimately must choose one or the other.
2. The Griever
A Griever Main Character is also confronted with building evidence that his original belief was in error. But unlike Steady Freddy, this character suffers a growing internal conflict that starts to tear him apart. The Griever feels honor-bound or morally obligated to stick with his old loyalties, yet becomes more and more compelled to jump ship and adopt the new. At the end of the story, he must make a Leap of Faith, choosing either the old or the new, with such a balance created that there is not even a hint as to which way would ultimately be better.
3. The Weaver
The Weaver Main Character starts out with one belief system, then shifts to adopt the alternative, then shifts back again, and again, and again…. Like a sine wave, he weaves back and forth every time he gathers new information that indicates he is currently in error in his point of view. The intensity of these swings depends upon the magnitude of each bit of new information and the resoluteness of the character.
4. The Waffler
Unlike the Weaver, the Waffler jumps quickly from one point of view to the other, depending on the situation of the moment. He may be sincere but overly pragmatic, or he may be oportunisitic and not hold either view with any real conviction.
There are also two kinds of characters who change, but not really.
5. The Exception Maker
This character reaches the critical point of the story and decides that although he will retain his original beliefs, he will make an exception “in this case.” This character would be a Change character if the story is about whether or not he will budge on the particular issue, especially since he has never made an exception before. But, if the story is about whether he has permanently altered his nature, then he would be seen as steadfast, because we know he will never make an exception again. With the Exception Maker, you must be very careful to let the audience know against what standard it should evaluate Change.
6. The Backslider
Similar to the Exception Maker, the Backslider changes at the critical moment, but then reverses himself and goes right back to his old belief system. In such a story, the character must be said to change, because it is the belief system itself that is being judged by the audience, once the moment of truth is past and the results of picking that system are seen in the denoument. In effect, the Backslider changes within the confines of the story structure, but then reverts to his old nature AFTER the structure in the closing storyTELLING.
An example of this occurs in the James Bond film, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.” This is the only Bond film in which 007 actually changes. Here, he has finally found love which has filled the hole in his heart that previously drove him. He resigns the force and gets married. End of structure. Then, in additional storytelling, his wife is killed by the villain, and his angst is restored so good ol’ James Bond can return just as he was in the next sequel.
Each of these kinds of characters may be aware that he or she is flirting with change or may not. They may simply grieve over their situations, or just breeze through them, not considering how they might be changing in either case. Each of these character may arrive at a Leap of Faith where they must make a conscious decision to do things the same way or a different way, or each may arrive at a Non-Leap of Faith story conclusion, where they never even realize they have been changed, they just are. The important thing is that the AUDIENCE know if the Main Character has changed or not. Otherwise, they cannot evaluate the results of the dramatic argument.
There are many ways to Change or Not to Change. If you avoid getting stuck in a simply linear progression with a binary choice, your characters will come across as much more human and much more interesting.
Psychoanalyze Your Story
Does your story suffer from “Multiple Personality Disorder”?
In psychology, Multiple Personality Disorder describes a person who has more than one complete personality. Typically, only one of those personalities will be active at any given time. This is because they usually share attributes, and so only one can have that attribute at any particular moment.
Stories can also suffer from Multiple Personality Disorder if more than one character represents a single attribute. In such a case, both should not be able to appear in the story at the same time. If they do, the audience feels that the story is fragmented, or more simply put, the story has developed a split-personality.
Dramatica sees a story as representing a single mind. Most writers have been taught that characters, plot, theme, and genre are people, doing things, illustrating value standards, in an overall setting and mood. In contrast, Dramatica sees characters, plot, theme, and genre as representing different “families of thought” which go on in the story mind as it grapples with a central problem.
Characters are the “drives” of the Story Mind, which often conflict as they do in real people. Plot describes the methods used by the Story Mind in an attempt to find a solution to its central problem. Theme represents the Story Mind’s conflicting value standards, which must be played out one against another to determine the best way of evaluating the problem. Genre describes the Story Mind’s overall personality.
Traditional story theory states that each character must be a complete person to be believable to an audience. But because the characters represent the independent drives of a single Story Mind, each is not really a complete person but is rather a facet of a complete mind. In fact, if you make each character complete, they will all be overlapping, and will give your story a split-personality.
It is in the story TELLING stage where characters take on the trappings of a complete person, not in the story STRUCTURE. Each character needs to be given traits and interests which round out the character’s “presence,” making it feel like a real human being. But these trappings and traits are not part of the dramatic structure. They are just window dressing – clothes for the facets to wear so the audience can better relate to them on a personal level.
Think about the characters you have seen in successful stories. They might represent Reason, Emotion, Skepticism, or function as the Protagonist or Antagonist, for example. Each of these kinds of characters is an “archetype” because it contains a whole family of drives in one character. For example, a Protagonist may contain the drive to “pursue,” and also the drive to be a self-starter , “pro-action.” Because these drives work together in harmony, the character becomes archetypal.
The individual drives don’t have to be bundled in an archetype, however. In fact, each single drive might be assigned to a different character, creating a multitude of simple characters. Or, characters might get several drives but conflicting ones. These characters are more “complex” because their internal make-up is not completely consistent.
Regardless of how the drives (also called character “elements”) are assigned, each drive should appear in one and only one character. If not, your story may develop Multiple Personality Disorder and leave your audience unable to relate to the story as a whole.
Love Interests & the Dramatic Triangle
A lot of books about writing describe the importance of a “Love Interest.” Other books see a Love Interest as unnecessary and cliché. What does Dramatica Say? As with most dramatic concepts, Dramatica pulls away the storytelling to take a clear look at the underlying structure.
A Love Interest has both storytelling and structural components. The storytelling side is what most people think of – A Love Interest is the character with whom the “hero” or “heroine” is in love. Simple! But what does that tell us about the kind of person the Love Interest is, or even what kind of relationship the two have between them? Not a whole lot!
For example, the Love Interest might be the leader of the enemy camp, in which case he or she is the Antagonist! Or, the Love Interest might be the supportive, stay-in-the-background type, in which case he or she is the Sidekick. In both cases, the hero is in love with this person, but structurally each positions the relationship on different sides of the effort to achieve the story goal. Also, the Love Interest might be a person of noble heart, a mis-guided do-gooder, or even a crook! And, any of these types of people might fit into either of the two example scenarios we’ve just outlined.
As we can see, the structural and storytelling elements have little to do with one another, other than the fact that there will be some of each. So, what can Dramatica do to help provide some guidelines for developing a Love Interest that works?
Lets start with some basics. Dramatica sees there being two types of characters in every story (and a prize in every box!). The first type contains the Objective Characters such as the Protagonist, Antagonist, Sidekick, or Guardian, who are defined by their dramatic functions.
The Protagonist strives to achieve the goal, the Antagonist tries to prevent that, for example. In and of itself, this aspect of character outlines how the participants line up in regard to the logistic issues of the story. But there is a second side of the dynamics of every story that center on the second type of characters – the Subjective Characters.
There are two Subjective Characters, and unlike their Objective relatives who represent functions, the Subjective Characters represent points of view. These characters are the Main Character and the Obstacle Character. The Main Character represents the audience position in the story. The Obstacle Character represents the point of view, ideology, or belief system opposite that of the Main Character.
The Objective Characters represent the “headline” in the story and the Subjective Characters represent the “heartline.” Often, the character who is the Protagonist is also given the Main Character job as well. This creates the archetypal “hero” who drives the story forward, but who also represents the audience position in the story. Of course, the Main Character (audience position) might be with ANY of the Objective Characters, not just the Protagonist. For example, in most of the James Bond films, Bond is actually the Antagonist and Main Character because although he represents the audience position, he is also called into play AFTER the real Protagonist (the villain) has made his first move to achieve a goal (of world conquest.) It is Bond’s functional role as Antagonist to try and stop it!
Not quite as often, the Antagonist is given the extra job of also being the Obstacle Character. In such a case, not only does the Antagonist try to stop the Protagonist, but he (or she) also tries to change the belief system of the Main Character, whether the Main Character is the Protagonist or another of the Objective Characters by function.
The worst thing you can do is to make the Protagonist the Main Character and the Antagonist the Obstacle Character. Why? Because then the two “players” in the story are not only diametrically opposed in function regarding the story goal, but are also diametrically opposed in belief system. As a result, it is difficult for the audience to figure out which of the two throughlines them is being developed by any given event between them.
What’s worse, as an author it is easy to get caught up in the momentum of the drama between them so that one skips steps in the development of one throughline because the other “carries” it. Well it may carry the vigor, but it doesn’t hold water. Both throughlines must each be fully developed or you end up with a melodrama or worse, plot holes you could drive a truck through.
The solution is either to assign the Main Character and Protagonist functions to one character and split the Antagonist/Obstacle Character functions into two separate characters, or vice versa.
And this brings us to the Dramatic Triangle and how it is used to create a sound Love Interest relationship.
First, let’s assume we assign the Main Character and Protagonist jobs to the same player to create an archetypal hero. Now, this hero (we’ll call him Joe) is a race car driver who is vying with the Antagonist for the title of best overall driver of the year. Each race is a new contest between them with their balance so close that it all comes down to the last race of the season.
But there is something troubling Joe’s heart – his relationship with Sally. Sally is very supportive of Joe (a Sidekick, in fact) but Joe feels that if he really loves Sally, he should quit racing to avoid the potential of an accident that would leave him dead or crippled and ruin her life. Why does he feel like this? Because his own dad was a racer, whose untimely death on the track left his mother devastated, and ultimately committed to an asylum. (Hey, I never said this example would be creative!)
In any event, Sally doesn’t feel that way at all. She would rather see Joe go out in a blaze of glory having done his best than to spend her life with a limp shell. She tries to tell him, but he just won’t be convinced. He starts to play it safer and safer as his worries grow (because the closer he gets to the final race, the more it resembles the chain of events that happened to his dad.) Finally, he has lost his edge and his lead and it all comes down to that final event.
Now, realizing that she would never be able to live with Joe if she felt that he lost the title because of her, Sally tells him at the final pit stop that if he doesn’t win the race, she is leaving him. Joe must now decide whether he should stick with his approach born from fear of hurting another, or let Sally be her own judge of what is right for her and put the pedal to the metal.
What does he do? Up to you the author. He wins the race and Sally’s heart. He hasn’t got the courage and loses both race and girl. He loses the race, but Sally realizes how deep his love must be and decides to stay with him. He wins the race, but there is such a dangerous near-fatal crash that Sally realizes Joe was right and leaves him anyway because she discovers she really can’t take it after all.
Or, you could have Sally want him to quit and Joe refuse, resulting in four other endings with a more cliché flavor.
Why this long example, to show how the conflict of the logistics of the plot occur between Joe and the Antagonist, but the emotions of the personal relationship occur between Joe and the Sidekick, Sally.
If you charted it out, there are two throughlines. Both hinge on Joe, and then they split farther and farther apart to connect to the Antagonist on one and to the Obstacle Character, Sally on the other. In this way, the events that happen in the growth of each relationship are much easier to see for the audience and much easier to complete for the author, yet they both converge on the “hero” to give him the greatest possible dramatic strength.
Now, you could hinge them both on the Antagonist, as in a James Bond film, and slip the Protagonist from the Obstacle Character. Look at “Tomorrow Never Dies.” The Protagonist is the mad newspaper mogul. The Obstacle Character is the beautiful Chinese agent (whose function is muddled dramatically by Bond’s relationship with the mogul’s wife). Bond is Antagonist AND Main Character, but the dramatic triangle is still functional.
Silence of the Lambs: Starling is the Main Character/Antagonist, Jamie Gumm (Buffalo Bill) is the Protagonist (after all, she didn’t go looking for a crime and THEN he committed one!) Hannibal is the Obstacle Character and perhaps a Love Interest of a sort (as described by the director on the Criterion Edition DVD.)
For a different approach, consider Witness: John Book is the Obstacle Character/Antagonist, the crooked Chief of Police is the Protagonist. Rachel, the Amish Girl is the Love Interest and Main Character. Or is John Book (Harrison Ford) the Love Interest to Rachel? It’s hard to tell because John is such an active Objective Character that he carries more momentum than Rachel, even though we are positioned in her shoes. The important point is that even if the Protagonist is made to be the Obstacle Character and the Antagonist and Main Character are split into two different people, the dramatic triangle still exists!
The dramatic triangle is one of the best structural ways to focus attention on one character even while splitting the headline and heartline to make a more pleasing and complete story. It can be used for “buddy” pictures and even used when the heartline isn’t between lovers or even likers but between two people who would like to see each other’s emotions destroyed by slyly manipulating the other to change his or her beliefs. Think of all those “cheat the devil” stories in which the Main Character/Protagonist is after something and the devil tries to convince the Main Character to sell his soul to get it. Yep, the dramatic triangle at work again!
So, in considering whether or not to have a Love Interest in your story, simply consider whether that would make your storytelling cliché or not. Either way, consider the dramatic triangle as a means of putting heart into an otherwise logistically mechanical plot.
The Chemistry of Characters
The Chemistry of Characters
To make an argument that a particular element is or is not a solution to a particular problem, Character make-up must remain consistent throughout the story.
In order for the argument of a story to be complete, all approaches to solving a problem must be represented. This is the purpose of Characters. Each Character illustrates one or more ways in which one might address a problem. These different approaches are commonly referred to as Character Traits. We call them Character Elements.
If we think of the traits as elements, we can imagine that the chemical compounds created by various combinations can lead to an extraordinary number of different "substances", or personalities from a relatively small number of building blocks.
Picture the Author as Chemist, filling several jars with samples from a rack of elements. She might put a single element in one jar but a number of them in another. Depending upon the selections she makes, a given jar might grow cold or boil, turn red or blue, crystallize or form polymers.
Now suppose this Author/Chemist was operating under laboratory guidelines that she must use each chemical element off the shelf, but only once - in only one jar. It is conceivable she might put them all into a single jar, but what a mess it would be, trying to determine which element was responsible for which effect. The interactions would become muddled beyond understanding.
Certainly, in a story, such a hodgepodge would fail to fulfill the mandate of making a full and meaningful argument. No, if we are to cover the field, but not at the expense of clarity, we must examine the interactions of smaller groups of elements, which calls for several more jars.
Obviously, if we used a separate jar for each element, nothing would react at all, which means to an author that virtually all of the conflict within Characters would be lost with only the potential of conflict between Characters remaining. Certainly each element could be fully understood, and indeed, from time to time, an author may find good reason to keep a few Character elements solo, so that they might be absolutely defined. More often, however, it serves the story better to combine more than one element in more than one jar.
In this way, very specific combinations can be fully explored, and not at the expense of clarity.
Each of the Character Elements must be employed in one character or another. None must be left out. Otherwise the argument of the story will have a hole in it None must be represented in more than one Character, otherwise the argument will be redundant, confusing, and become less interesting.
Even within these guidelines, a huge number of different types of Characters can be created. Yet, in many stories, we see the same Characters appearing over and over again. Characters like the Hero and the Villain and the Sidekick recur in a plethora of stories in a multitude of genres. This is not necessarily due to a lack of creativity by these authors. Rather, of all the elements, there is one central arrangement that is something like an alignment of the planets. It is a point of balance where each Character looks exactly like the others, only seen through a filter - or with a different shading.
Characters made in this special alignment are called Archetypal. Out of all the myriad of ways in which Elements could be arranged, there is only one arrangement that is Archetypal. Is this good or is this bad? For the author who wants to explore Character nuances, Archetypal Characters are probably a poor choice. But for the author who wants to concentrate on Action, it may be a very prudent choice.
It should be noted that just because a Character is Archetypal, does not mean she is a stick figure. Archetypal Characters contain the full complement of elements that any other Character might have. It is the arrangement of these so that all Elements of a like kind make up a single Character that simplifies the complexity of the interactions between Characters. This unclutters the field and allows for more attention to be paid to other areas such as action, if that is the Author's intent.
In our example of the Author/Chemist, the jars she uses fulfill an essential purpose: they keep the Chemical compounds separate from one another. That is the function and definition of Character:
A Character is a unique arrangement of solely possessed elements that does not vary over the course of the story.
The last few words above are italicized because the stability of the arrangement of elements is essential to identifying a Character. If elements could swap around from Character to Character, the story would lose its strength of argument, since an approach begun by one Character might only be shown to succeed or fail in another.
When we, as audience, watch a story, we hope to learn that we should or should not use a particular approach, so that we may grow from that experience in our own lives. But how can that point be made if a Character does not finish what she starts. We may see the element as failing, but the argument is left open that perhaps if only the Character who started with that element had stuck with it she would have succeeded.
What about Jekyl and Hyde? Is that not an inconsistent Character? Yes, it is not. This is because Jekyl and Hyde are two different Characters. Two Characters in a single body? Exactly.
There is a great difference between a Character and the body it inhabits. We have all seen stories about spiritual possession, split personalities, or Sci-Fi personality transfers. In each of these instances, different Characters successively occupy the same body or physical host. We call these hosts Players.
A Player is a host in which a Character Resides
A Player does not have to be a person. It can be an animal, spiritual force, a car, a toy - anything that can be shown to possess a personality. Character is the personality, Player is where it resides. So, Jekyl and Hyde are two separate Characters who vie for the same Player's body.
Conclusion to Objective Characters
We have now defined all of the elements or traits that can be combined to create Characters. We have also arranged these traits in meaningful groupings. We have described methods and rules governing the combining process. And, we have related each aspect of the Character Structure concept to the other aspects.
But something is missing. So far we have created a Structure, but it is a static Structure. We have not at all discussed the manner in which Characters interrelate and conflict. In effect, we have not created a set of Dynamics to drive the Structure.
As you may have noted, the Section headings of this book are divided into Structure and Dynamics, indicating that all Structural considerations will be explored before they are put into motion. There is a reason for this. When we had first completed discovering the sixty-four elements of Character, and had arranged them in the Author's perspective, we thought that Character conflict would be the next door that opened to us. It was not. Try as we might, we could not perceive any kind of definable pattern that governed the interactions among Characters or even Character traits.
Instead, we found something most unexpected: that there was a definitive relationship among the structures of Character, Theme, Genre, and Plot. In fact, Plot did not just describe the Dynamics of Character, but Theme and Genre as well. So to see the Plot operation of Character conflict, Theme progression, and Genre perspectives, we first needed to finish our Structural model of Story, by building a Structure for Theme and Genre as well. Once this was accomplished we would then be able to discern and quantify the functioning of story Dynamics.
Therefore, we move on to the next set of bricks in our DRAMATICA Structure, edging ever closer to that elusive overview.
Writing from a Character's Point of View
Perhaps the best way to instill real feelings in a character is to stand in his or her shoes and write from the character's point of view. Unfortunately, this method also holds the greatest danger of undermining the meaning of a story.
As an example, suppose we have two characters, Joe and Tom, who are business competitors. Joe hates Tom and Tom hates Joe. We sit down to write an argument between them. First, we stand in Joe's shoes and speak vehemently of Tom's transgressions. Then, we stand in Tom's shoes and pontificate on Joe's aggressions. By adopting the character point of view, we have constructed an exchange of honest and powerful emotions. We have also undermined the meaning of our story because Joe and Tom have come across as being virtually the same.
A story might have a Protagonist and an Antagonist, but between Joe and Tom, who is who? Each sees himself as the Protagonist and the other as the Antagonist. If we simply write the argument from each point of view, the audience has no idea which is REALLY which.
The opposite problem occurs if you stand back from your characters and assign roles as Protagonist and Antagonist without considering the characters' points of view. In such a case, the character clearly establish the story's meaning, but they seem to be "walking through" the story, hitting the marks, and never really expressing themselves as actual human beings.
The solution, of course, is to explore both approaches. You need to know what role each character is to play in the story's overall meaning - the big picture. But, you also must stand in their shoes and write with passion to make them human.
The Dramatica software focuses on Story Design, so it provides all kinds of support in the creation of character roles. Standing in the characters' shoes is up to you when you actually get down to writing.
Writing Characters of the Opposite Sex
Writing Characters of the Opposite Sex
Perhaps the most fundamental error made by authors, whether novice or experienced, is that all their characters, male and female, tend to reflect the gender of the author. This is hardly surprising, since recent research finally proves that men and women use their brains in different ways. So how can an author overcome this gap to write character of the opposite sex that are both accurate and believable to their own gender?
At first, it might seem that being male or female is an easily definable thing, and therefore easy to convey in one’s writing. But as we all know, the differences between the sexes have historically been a mysterious quality, easily felt, but in fact quite hard to define. This is because what makes a mind male or female is not just one thing, but several.
First, let’s consider that gender has four principal components:
Anatomical sex describes the physicality of a character – male or female. Now, we all know that people actually fall in a range – more or less hairy, wider or narrower hips, deeper or higher voice, and so on. So although there is a fairly clear dividing line between male and female anatomically, secondary sexual characteristics actually create a range of physicality between the two. Intentionally choosing these attributes for your characters can make them far less stereotypical as men and women.
Sexual Preferences may be for the same sex, the opposite sex, both, or neither (or self). Although people usually define themselves as being straight, gay, bi, or celibate, this is also not a fixed quality. Statistics show, for example, that 1/3 of all men have a homosexual encounter at least once in their lives. Although it often stirs up controversy to say so, in truth most people have passing attractions to the same sex, be it a very pretty boy or a “butch” woman. Consider the sexual preference of your characters not as a fixed choice of one thing or another, but as a fluid quality that may shift over time or in a particular exceptional context.
Gender Identity describes where one falls on the scale between masculine and feminine. This, of course, is also context dependent. For example, when one is in the woods, at home with one’s family, or being chewed out by the boss. Gender Identity is not just how one feels or things of oneself, but also how one acts, how one uses one’s voice, and how one wishes to be treated. Often, a male character may have gentle feelings but cover them up by overly masculine mannerisms. Or, a female character may be “all-business” in the workplace out of necessity, but wish someone would treat her with softness and kindness. Actuaally, Gender Identity is made up of how one acts or wishes to act, and how one is treated or wishes to be treated. How many times have we seen a character who is forced by others to play a role that is in conflict with his or her internal gender self-image? Gender Identity is where one can explore the greatest nuance in creating non-stereotypical characters.
Finally, Mental Sex describes where one falls on the scale from practical, binary, linear, logistic, goal-oriented thinking to passionate, flexible, emotional, process-oriented thinking. In fact, every human being engages in ALL of these approaches to life, just at different times and in different ways.
Now, in creating characters, consider that each of the four categories we just explored is not a simple choice between one thing or another, but a sliding scale (like Anatomical Sex) or a conglomerate of individual traits (like Gender Identity). Then, visualize that wherever a character falls in any one of those four categories places absolutely no limits on where he or she may fall in the other categories.
For example, you might have a character extremely toward male anatomical sex, bi-sexual (but leaning toward a straight relationship at the moment), whose gender identity is rough and tumble ( but yearns to be accepted for his secret sensitivity toward impressionistic paintings) who is practical all the time (except when it comes to sports cars).
Any combination goes.
But when it comes to Mental Sex itself, there are four sub-categories within that area alone which tend to define the different personality types we encounter:
In brief, each of these “levels” or “attributes” of the mind can lean toward seeing the world in definable or experiential terms. Pre-conscious is a tendency to perceive the world in components or as processes that is determined before birth. It is the foundation of leaning toward the tradition “male” or “female” personality traits. Subconscious determines the tendencies we have to be attracted or repelled from component or process rewards. Memory relies on our training to organize our considerations in a give situation toward components or processes. And every character always has a Conscious choice to focus on the components or processes at any given moment. In other words, in a given situation, at each level of Mental Sex does a character center on the way things are or the way things are going? At each level is the character more interested in getting his or her ducks in a row or in a pond?
Finally, beyond all of these considerations is the cultural indoctrination we all receive that leads us to respond within social expectations appropriately to the role associated with our anatomical sex. These roles are fairly rigid and include what is proper to wear, who speaks first, who opens the door or order the wine, who has to pretend to be inept where and skilled where else (regardless of real ability or lack there of in that area), the form of grammar one uses in constructing sentences, the words one is expected to use (“I’ll take a hamburger,” vs. “I’d like a salad”), and the demeanor allowable in social interaction with the same and the opposite sex, among many other qualities.
In the end, writing characters of the opposite sex requires a commitment to understand the difference between those qualities which are inherent and those which are learned, and to accept that we are all made of the same clay, but just sculpt it in different ways.
What's Your Character's Purpose?
A writer recently asked me the following question about feedback he received from the Dramatica software which suggested his character's Purposes should be Knowledge and Actuality:
I don't understand what Dramatica means by a character's Purpose. Purpose in life?--Nobody knows what that is although some think they do. I understand Knowledge and Actuality as stated in Dramatica Dictionary. But I cannot put Purpose, knowledge, and actuality together in a meaningful, parallel context without Purpose meaning the same thing as Methodology, i.e., he uses "knowledge" and "reality". I feel there is a SIMPLE explanation and I'm making it complex.
In regard to "simplicity", Dramatica theory is like Zen. There are simple explanations if all you want it a specific solution to a specific problem. But, the deeper you go, the more the simple explanations begin to form larger patterns until an overview of the whole durn mechanism of story begins to clarify. With that view comes a mastery of structure that guides creativity, channels it, but never inhibits it.
In regard to your particular problem...
First of all, Dramatica divides character into two aspects - the Subjective qualities, which represent character points of view (what the characters see) and Objective qualities, which represents how the characters function in the big picture.
From the Subjective view, one cannot see what can be seen from the "God's Eye View" of the big picture - the view we can't get in real life, the Objective view.
When answering questions about character Motivations, Methodologies, Evaluations, and Purposes, Dramatica is focusing on the Objective View. So, from that perspective of standing outside the story and looking in, we not only can, but MUST know our character's Purposes. If we do not, how can we frame a cogent argument about the relative value of human qualitites to our audience?
Of course, the Character will never see ANY of these aspects: not Motivations, Methods, Evaluations, nor Purposes. You see, the qualities that make us up are like the carrier waves of our self-awareness, the operating system of our personality, the foundation of our outlook. They describe where we stand, not what we are looking at. So, when choosing elements for your characters' qualities, make sure to describe what each character really is, as seen from an Objective outside view. Describe how it functions, now how it feels. Describe how it is to be seen, not how it sees.
This phase of story creation is where you, as author, determine what the ACTUAL meaning of the story is, when all the smoke clears, when the audience can look back on the finished story and say, "This is what this character was really like - this is what kind of attributes he had, these are the human qualities it represents."
Next, there is a common misunderstanding of what "Purpose" is. This actually occurs because writers often look at Purpose as if it were a Motivation. For example, if you ask an author what a character's motivation is, he might say, "to be president." But in fact, achieving the office of the presidency is his Purpose - simply defined as, what he hopes to accomplish, arrive at, or posess. His Motivation, on the other hand, is WHY he wants to be president. And, this might be any one of a number of things, such as that he never had any power as a child, or that he feels inadequate and needs the accolades. For any given Purpose, there can be any number of Motivations, and vice versa.
So, when choosing your characters' Purposes, you need to ask yourself, what kinds of things (what categories of things) do I want this character, driven by his Motivations, to be trying to achieve? There are no limitations as to which Purposes can be the particular "goals" for any given motivations. In fact, it is the combination you choose that gives a unique identity to your character, either as an archetype where the Motivations are topically connected to similar associated Purposes or as more complex characters in which the Purposes are of completely different kinds of thing than the Motivations.
Now it might seem that a character will, in fact, see what his Purpose is. After all, if he wants to be president, he's gotta be aware of that fact! True, but what he doesn't see is that his UNDERLYING Purpose is "Actuality." In such a story, there might be a character who is a power-broker behind the scenes. He is the President de facto, because the actual president merely rubber-stamps our character's decisions, and reads the speeches our character writes. But, our character's Purpose is Actuality, so he feels as if he has achieved nothing. Only if he ACTUALLY becomes president will he ever feel he has accomplished his Purpose.
It is important to note that ANY of the Purpose Elements could show up in the story as "wanting to be president." For example, "Knowledge" as a purpose could be written so that our character wants to KNOW what it is like to be president. He has stood next to the president, he can imagine what it is like, but unless he sits behind the desk in the Oval Office himself, he'll never really KNOW.
So, using Knowledge and Actuality together, our character has Purpose of becoming president because he must Know what it is Actually like. ANY subject matter can be fit to ANY elements. This might seem as if nothing definitive is really being determined about your structure. In fact, it is the choice as to which elements are to be represented in the subject matter that give the subject matter a specific flavor, or spin, and thereby makes it more than simple storytelling. Only when the subject matter is presented as representing particular outlooks does it take on the mantle of dramatic significance. The matching of functional elements to the subject matter creates perspective, and it is perspective in which all dramatic meaning is held.
Again, like Zen, the exploration of story structure has many levels of depth and meaning. The more one learns about Dramatica and the Objective Character Elements, the more sophistication one develops in sculpting interesting characters of unusual identity yet valid composition. And it is upon such characters that a cogent and complete argument regarding the relative value of human qualities must be built.
In the introduction to this book, we assert that stories work because audiences are provided TWO views of the Story mind. One is the view OF the Story Mind dealing with the problem. This is the Objective view, much like a general watching a battle from atop a hill. From this perspective, characters are external to us. We appreciate them logically, and may have feelings for them, but they are not us. These are the Objective Characters that we have just described in Section I.
But stories provide TWO views of the Story Mind, and the other one is the view FROM the Story Mind. This is more like the perspective of the soldier in the trenches: she actually LIVES the battle, and perhaps DIES in it. The view FROM the Story Mind is the Subjective view, as if we actually WERE that mind, and were dealing with the problem ourselves. This is a much more personal experience, and is represented by much more personal characters: The Subjective Characters.
Unlike the extended family of their Objective kin, the Subjective Characters number only two. Remember, the Objective Characters exist to show ALL the ways in which the Story Mind might go about solving a problem - the Subjective Characters exist to show the ONE SPECIFIC way that CAN solve the particular story's SPECIFIC problem.
So why TWO Subjective Characters? Why not just ONE? Since all characters represent problem solving approaches, different approaches conflict. Even when one approach turns out to be the correct one until that is proven it is still pondered by the Story Mind as one of many potential solutions. It is weighed and balanced against its antithesis, like any Dynamic Pair. Only when one of these two elements of the Subjective Character Dynamic Pair is shown to be the only actual solution is it accepted without resistance.
This creates a wonderful and complex relationship between the two Subjective Characters, that brings the problem solving process home, and makes us, the audience, feel part of the story. The Subjective Character who carries within them the actual solution is the Main Character: the one we empathize with. The Subjective Character that resists them is called the Obstacle Character.
Obviously, a question of Resolve must be answered. Sometimes the Main Character must remain Steadfast in order to achieve her goal. Other times, they must change by learning what their real strength is. When a Main Character must remain Steadfast, we call them a Pivotal Character, since they remain "fixed" as a Character, and the story must revolve or pivot around them. However, for the Main Character that must learn and change, we call them the Primary Character, since they are central to the deliberations of the Story Mind.
This whole conflict between Main and Obstacle Characters is based on their natures as Pivotal and Primary. In essence, the deliberations of any problem solving process is most effected by the decision to stick with the same approach, or try something different. In real life, sometimes one works, and sometimes the other. We cannot tell until we have tried.
Sometimes the message of a story is to explore whether or not it is correct to remain Steadfast in trying to solve a particular kind of problem. In this case, the Main Character would be Pivotal, and the resisting Obstacle Character would be Primary.
Now think about this for a moment: the Primary Character in a story does not have to be the Main Character. But if she is not, she must be the Obstacle Character.
Then, there is the other case: the story that has a message about whether or not it is correct to change your approach, based on experience gained in the problem solving process. In this arrangement, the Main Character is the Primary Character and the Obstacle Character is the Pivotal.
Simply put, in every story, there will be a Main and an Obstacle Character. One of them will be Primary, and the other one Pivotal. This results in two possible combinations: Main Character remaining Steadfast, Main Character Changing.
A number of interesting ramifications spin off of this simple concept. Perhaps foremost is the notion that a Main Character does not have to change. A popular concept of story insists that a Main Character must change. Yet, one is hard pressed to see how James Bond grows as a character. The point of the Bond stories is that he must remain Steadfast. That is to say that he is already using the proper approach, and therefore there is no need (and actually much to lose) by failing in his resolve.
Nevertheless, there IS one Bond film that accommodates Bond as a Primary Main Character: On Her Majesty's Secret Service. In this picture, Bond changes and determines to resign as 007 in order to make a new life with his bride. This IS the proper choice from his Subjective Character's view.
Of course, if James Bond actually left the service, there would be no more in the series with the successful formula that had been established by all the earlier stories. So, at the end of the picture, after he has married, Bond's wife is gunned down by the villains, thereby not only removing his motivation to leave the service, but actually rekindling his motivation to remain.
This prevents the necessity of setting the next Bond thriller in a Scottish suburb with the wife, the kids, the boss, and the bills. Certainly, the death of his wife could've been accommodated at the beginning of the next in the series, driving him back to the service, but the producers did not want to leave a mamby pamby taste in the mouths of avid Bondite's, and also the author could make a powerful statement that once in, you cannot get out.
But we said that if a Main Character Changed (was Primary) then the Obstacle Character would be Pivotal (remain Steadfast). So, who remains steadfast throughout that entire story? Bond's future bride. She is an unbridled woman who maintains her course and never caves in, even in marriage.
Okay, so this is the exception to the Pivotal nature of the Bond Characters. But what about the other Bond stories? If Bond remains steadfast, who changes? Let's look at one: Goldfinger. In Goldfinger, who is it that changes their course, in this case alters their allegiances? Pussy Galore. She is the one who is "forced" by Bond's steadfast nature to change her attitude and fink on Goldfinger to the authorities. Then, consistent with her new approach, she exchanges the gas canisters on her planes with harmless substitutes.
What is clear is that there is one Pivotal Character (Bond) and one primary (Pussy), but since Bond is the Main Character, Pussy provides the Obstacle to his success. Therefore, when she changes, that obstacle is removed and he can succeed by remaining Steadfast.
These, again, are simple examples, but the principle is true of every story.
So far, we have spoken of Main Character, Obstacle Character, Pivotal Character, and Primary Character as concepts. If we were able to define the Objective Characters down to their elements, what can we say about the content of the Subjective Characters?
As we recall, sixty four elements make up all the Objective Characters, each one getting at least one, and up to 16 of them. Each Subjective Characters gets all sixty four. If we simply duplicate two additional groups of sixty four elements from the original Objective group, one would go to the Primary Character and one to the Pivotal. Then, one of these two groups would be named Main and the other Obstacle.
The Subjective Characters each get a complete group because they have more duties than the Objective Characters. Rather than representing the functioning of a one part of the problem solving process, the Subjective Characters represent a view of the entire process working together. This is the view FROM the Story Mind, that requires a new angle on all of the Objective Characters and what they do.
We can easily see that the discrepancy between how the audience sees the function of the Objective Characters and how the Subjective Characters see it is what creates the dramatic potential that drives the story forward. When Objective "reality" sees things one way, and the Subjective sees them another, that is truly a definition of a problem. In fact, this is much like saying that the Universe is arranged in a certain manner, and the Mind is at odds with it.
It becomes crucial to understanding story and the functioning of the Story Mind to define how a Mind can fall into a discrepancy with reality so deeply that is requires either the Universe to change to accommodate the view of the Steadfast Pivotal Character or requires the Mind to change (Primary Character) in order to accommodate the Universe. The latent force that supplies the Pivotal Character her resolve and the Primary Character her adaptability is called Justification.
The 12 Essential Questions – "Resolve"
Dramatica asks 12 Essential Questions every author should be able to answer about his or her story. Four deal with the Main Character, four with Plot, and the remaining four with Theme.
The first of these questions is Main Character Resolve, and asks:
By the end of your story, has the Main Character “Changed” or remained “Steadfast?”
Traditionally, it has been taught that a character must change in order to grow. This is not actually the case. A character may grow in his resolve. For example, Dr. Richard Kimble in The Fugitive never changes the nature of his character. Rather, he redoubles his resolve in order to cope with the increasing obstacles placed in his path.
There is a character in The Fugitive who DOES change, however, and that is Sam Girrard, the Tommy Lee Jones character. At the beginning of the story, he tells Kimble, “I don’t care,” when Kimble says that he didn’t kill his wife. At the end of the story, Girrard comes to believe in Kimble’s innocence, removes Kimble’s handcuffs and offers him a compress to ease the soreness they caused. Kimble says, “I thought you didn’t care…” Girrard replies with gentle sarcasm, “I don’t,” then adds, “Don’t tell anybody…”
Girrard is the Obstacle Character to Kimble’s Main. For every Main and Obstacle character, one will change as a result of the others steadfastness. In essence, because Kimble cares so much (as evidenced by the many people he helps even when on the run) Girrard changes his nature and begins to care himself.
Another example of this can be found in the James Bond film, “Goldfinger.” In this story, Bond remains steadfast but someone does change. Again, it is the Obstacle Character, Pussy Galore (the Honor Blackman part) who runs the Flying Circus. She changes her mind about helping Goldfinger, spills the beans to the CIA and changes the gas canisters from poison to harmless oxygen. It was Bond’s resoluteness which eventually leveraged her to change.
Examples of Change Main Characters are Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, Luke Skywalker in Star Wars, and Chief Brody in Jaws. In the case of Scrooge, he ultimately makes a conscious decision to change the very foundations of his nature. In contrast, Luke only changes a small aspect of his nature – at the crucial moment he decides to trust the Force (in effect to trust his own abilities, himself) and is therefore able to win the day. Other than that, Luke remains pretty much the same personality he was before. Finally, Chief Brody is afraid of the water and won’t even wade into it. But, after defeating the shark, he has a conversation with Hooper as they swim back to shore. He says, “You know, I used to be afraid of the water.” Hooper replies, “I can’t imagine why.” Brody has also changed, but not by conscious decision, more by attrition. In a sense, Brody has BEEN changed by his story experiences. So, we can see that Change may be universal (Scrooge), specific (Skywalker), or unintentional (Brody).
When a character must make a conscious (active) decision to change, regardless of whether it is his whole personality or just an aspect, it is called a Leap of Faith story. When a character IS changed by the story experience without an active decision, it is called a Non Leap of Faith Story. Both kinds of Change are equally sound dramatic structures, but each creates a different feel over the entire course of the story.
It is important to recognize that Change may lead to success if it is the right choice, or it may lead to failure if the character should have remained Steadfast. Similarly, remaining Steadfast may lead to a positive or negative conclusion.
Also, characters may flip-flop over the course of the story, changing for a while and then changing back. Or, they may grow closer and farther from changing as their experiences proceed. But in the end, the character will be the same person, albeit older and wiser, or they will have some fundamental trait of their character altered, large or small, for better or worse. Regardless of the propriety of the outcome, if the character is different in nature he has Changed. If he is the same, he has remained Steadfast.
What is it about The X-Files that has attracted such a
following? Is it the blend of New Age philosophy and hard science fiction? Could
it be the taboo subjects or government conspiracies? How about the flashy
production values and high-tech special effects?
Naturally, all of these contribute to the phenomenal success of the show, but they don't fully explain the unusual "feel" of the program. Anyone who has seen the series knows what we mean. There is a strange emotional aura experienced by the viewing audience that is almost metaphysical itself. In fact, tracking down the source of this strange atmosphere could be a case right out of The X-Files themselves. Fortunately, as the opening credits assert: "The truth is out there." In this case, Dramatica can help illuminate it.
To begin our investigation, let's look to our intrepid agents, Mulder and Scully. Who are they? FBI agents, of course. But we asked who they were, notwhat. For our inquiry, we are more interested in their natures than their functions. It is not that they unravel the tangled, clarify the obscure, and defeat the random. Oh, they do all of that all right, but that's just plot. We are more interested in how they accomplish these ultra-human feats, not their methodology but their mentality.
Who are theyinside? What makes them tick? What do Mulder and Scully have in common that makes them uncommon? The answer lies in the Dramatica concept called Mental Sex .
Mental Sex has two options: male or female. It has nothing to do with anatomical sex, gender identity, or sexual preference. Mental Sex refers to the mind of a character as being either spatially (space) or temporally (time) biased. Space is where our sense of logistics comes from. Time is where our intuition comes from. Male Mental Sex sees logistics clearly, but is a little fuzzy on the intuition. Female Mental Sex is intuitive, but not as clear on the logistics.
Of course, males can be intuitive and females logical, but it requires a little extra work. Also, intuition is not inexact. It seems so to men, because it is a fuzzy logic to them. But to women, intuition is perfectly clear: a form of holistic logic of its own that deals with problems by the "inter-influences" of the many parts, rather than trying to find a direct path from problem to solution.
For the most part, authors create characters who have the same Mental Sex as their anatomical sex. Occasionally, through intent or feel, these two get mixed up. For example, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) in the original Alien was a male mental sex character. The part was actually written for a man; all they changed were the gender references. Her manner of approaching a problem was male right down the line. In contrast, Tom Wingo (Nick Nolte) in The Prince of Tides is a female mental sex character who tries to bring his life into balance: a holistic technique.
Just because a physically male character has a female mental sex does not mean they will be feminine. An example is Jack Ryan (Alec Baldwin) in The Hunt For Red October. Notice how his problem solving technique is quite different than that of all the generals and soldiers he is competing against, yet he is unquestionably masculine.
The difference in Jack Ryan's manner is easily recognized in his meeting with the chiefs of staff near the beginning of the story. While they are concentrating on how to respond to the threat, Ryan is feeling the influence of many bits of information. Though this data seems unrelated, its overall impact on his mind allows him to surmise that the wayward Russian captain is not attacking but defecting. Only a female mental sex character would arrive at that kind of solution from that kind of data.
So...what is the strange attraction of Mulder and Scully in The X-Files? Mulder is a man with a female mental sex; Scully is a woman with a male mental sex. While Mulder is getting a feeling or being intuitive, Scully demands facts, measurements, and a linear theory without gaps. In most episodes, both methods are required to uncover the mystery. Though this is not uncommon in real life, switching mental sexes is atypical of most television fare.
The charm of the show is partly because the kinds of problems that occur could not be solved by either one of them alone, but truly needs both views to triangulate. Mulder gets a sense of what's going on; Scully describes it. Scully projects where things are leading, Mulder determines what it means. Since we are talking about a series rather than one specific story, things do change.
In some episodes, Scully is also made female mental sex. In these programs, Scully becomes a simple skeptic instead of an alternate problem solving perspective. This weakens Scully and Mulder's relationship. Mulder is still female mental sex, but he cannot explore that perspective since he has to spend all his time trying to overcome Scully's skepticism. Scully keeps demanding proof instead of working out a theory. Under these conditions the show still has its conspiracies, new-age sci-fi, and special effects, but the heart stops beating. That special something is clearly missing, but in episodes where Scully returns to male mental sex, the charm is back.
It is unlikely that the creators of the series were aware of this phenomenon. Still, they engendered it by feel and were inspired to do so. Each of us, male and female, sees the world from a mental sex direction. This gives us a clear perspective on some things and a fuzzy perspective on others. By working together, we can solve problems neither of us could handle alone. That is the real attraction of The X-Files, made all the more apparent (yet obscured) by clothing each mental sex in the unexpected body.
The creation of Justification is the purpose of and reason for Backstory. The dismantling of Justification is the purpose and function of the Acts. The gathering of information necessary to dismantle Justification is the purpose and function of the Scenes. And the nature of the specific Justifications used in a particular story determines all the thematics.
With such a wide range of effects, one would expect the subject of Justification to be extensive and complex. It is. Fortunately, the concepts themselves are actually very simple. We shall explore those now.
First of all, what is Justification? Justification is a state of mind wherein the Subjective view differs from the Objective view. Okay, fine. But how about in plain English!!!! Very well, when someone sees things differently than they are, they are Justifying. This can happen either because the mind draws a wrong conclusion or assumes, or because things actually change in a way that is no longer consistent with a held view.
All of this comes down to cause and effect. For example, suppose you have a family with a husband, wife and young son. This is backstory of how the little boy might develop a justification that could plague him in later life. The husband works at a produce stand. Every Friday he gets paid. Also every Friday a new shipment of fresh beets comes in. So, every Friday night, he comes home with the beets and the paycheck. The paycheck is never quite enough to cover the bills and the wife is being eaten alive by this. Still, she knows her husband works hard, so she tries to keep her feelings to herself and devotes her attention to cooking the beets.
Nevertheless, she cannot hold out for long, and every Friday evening at some point while they eat, she and her husband get in an argument. Of course, like most people who are trying to hold back the REAL cause of her feelings, she picks on other issues, so the arguments are all different. End of backstory.
Beginning of story: The young boy, now a grown adult with a wife and child of his own, sits down to dinner with his family. He begins to get belligerent and antagonistic. His wife does not know what she has done wrong. In fact, later, he himself cannot say why he was so upset. WE know it is because his wife served beets.
It is easy to see that from the young boy's knowledge of the situation when he was a child, the only visible common element between his parents arguments and his environment was the serving of beets. They never argued about the money directly, and that would probably have been beyond his ken anyway.
Obviously, it is not stupidity that leads to misconceptions, but lack of information. The problem is, we have no way of knowing if we have enough information or not, for we cannot determine how much we do not know. It is a human trait, and one of the Subjective Characters as well, to see repetitive proximities between two items or between an item and a process and assume a causal relationship.
But why is this so important to story? Because that is why stories exist in the first place! Stories exist to show us a greater Objective truth that is beyond our limited Subjective view. They exist to show us that if we feel something is a certain way, even based on extensive experience, it is possible that it really is not that way at all.
For the Pivotal Character, it will be shown that the way she believed things to be really IS the way they are in spite of evidence to the contrary. The message here is that our understanding is sometimes not limited by past misconceptions, but by lack of information in the present. "Keeping the faith" describes the feeling very well. Even in the face of major contradiction, holding on to one's views and dismissing the apparent reality as an illusion or falsehood.
For the Primary Character, it will be shown that things are really different than believed and the only solution is to alter one's beliefs. This message is that we must update our understanding in the light of new evidence or information. "Changing one's faith" is the issue here.
In fact, that is what stories are all about: Faith. Not just having it, but learning if it is valid or not. That is why either Character, Pivotal or Primary, must make a Leap of faith in order to succeed. At the climax of a story, the need to make a decision between remaining steadfast in one's faith or altering it is presented to both Pivotal and Primary Characters. EACH must make the choice. And each will succeed or fail.
The reason it is a Leap of Faith is because we are always stuck with our limited Subjective view. We cannot know for sure if the fact that evidence is mounting that change would be a better course represents the pangs of Conscience or the tuggings of Temptation. We must simply decide based on our own internal beliefs.
If we decide with the best available evidence and trust our feelings we will succeed, right? Not necessarily. Success or failure is just the author's way of saying she agrees or disagrees with the choice made. Just like real life stories we hear every day of good an noble people undeservedly dying or losing it all, a Character can make the good and noble choice and fail. This is the nature of a true Dilemma: that no matter what you do, you lose. Of course, most of us read stories not to show us that there is no fairness in the impartial Universe (which we see all too much of in real life) but to convince ourselves that if we are true to the quest and hold the "proper" faith, we will be rewarded. It really all depends on what you want to do to your audience.
A story in which the Main Character is Pivotal will have dynamics that lead the audience to expect that remaining Steadfast will solve the problem and bring success. Conversely, a story in which the Main Character is Primary will have differently dynamics that lead the audience to expect that Changing will solve the problem and bring success. However, in order to make a statement about real life outside of the story, the Author may violate this expectation for propaganda or shock purposes.
For example, if, in Star Wars, Luke had made the same choice and turned off his targeting computer (trusting in the force), dropped his bombs, and missed the target, Darth blows him up and the Death Star obliterates the rebels... how would we feel? Sure you could write it that way, but would you want to? Perhaps! Suppose you made Star Wars as a government sponsored entertainment in a fascist regime. That might very WELL be the way you would want to end it!
The point being, that to create a feeling of "completion" in an audience, if the Main Character is Pivotal, she MUST succeed by remaining Steadfast, and a Primary Main Character MUST change.
Now, let's take this sprawling embryonic understanding of Justification and apply it specifically to story structure.
The Dramatica Model is built on the process of noting that an inequity exists, then comparing all possible elements of Mind to Universe until the actual nature of the inequity is located, then making a Leap of Faith to change approach or remain steadfast.
At the most basic level, we have Mind and we have Universe, as indicated in the introduction to this book. An inequity is not caused solely by one or the other but by the difference between the two. So, an inequity is neither in Mind nor Universe, but between them.
However, based on their past experiences (assumed causal relationships in backstory) a given Subjective Character will choose either Mind or Universe as the place to attempt to resolve the inequity. In other words, she decides that she likes one area the way it is, and would rather change the other. As soon as this decision is made, the inequity becomes a problem because it is seen in one world or the other. i.e.: "There is a problem with my situation I have to work out." or "I have to work out a personal problem".
Doesn't a Character simply see that the problem is really just an inequity between Mind and Universe? Sure, but what good does that do them? It is simply not efficient to try to change both at the same time and meet halfway. Harking back to our introductory example of Jane who wanted a $300 jacket: Suppose Jane decided to try and change her mind about wanting the jacket even while going out and getting a job to earn the money to buy it. Obviously, this would be a poor plan, almost as if she were working against herself, and in effect she would be. This is because it is a binary situation: either she has a jacket or she does not, and, either she wants a jacket or she does not. If she worked both ends at the same time, she might put in all kinds of effort and end up having the jacket not wanting it. THAT would hardly do! No, to be efficient, a Character will consciously or responsively pick one area or the other in which to attempt to solve the problem, using the other area as the measuring stick of progress.
So, if a Main Character picks the Universe in which to attempt a solution, she is a "Do-er" and it is an Action oriented story. If a Main Character picks the Mind in which to attempt a solution, she is a "Be-er" and it is a Decision oriented story. Each story has both Action and Decision, for they are how we compare Mind against Universe in looking for the inequity. But an Action story has a focus on exploring the physical side and measuring progress by the mental, where as a Decision story focuses on the mental side and measures progress by the physical.
Whether a story is Action or Decision has nothing to do with the Main Character being Pivotal or primary. As we have seen, James Bond has been both. And in the original "Raiders of the Lost Ark", Indy must change from his disbelief of the power of the ark and its supernatural aspects in order to succeed by avoiding the fate that befalls the Nazis - "Close your eyes, Marian; don't look at it!"
Action or Decision simply describes the nature of the problem solving process, not whether a character should remained steadfast or change. And regardless of which focus the story has, a Pivotal Character story has dynamics indicating that remaining steadfast is the proper course. That mean that in an Action story, a Pivotal Character will have chosen to solve the problem in the Universe and must maintain that approach in the face of all obstacles in order to succeed. In a Decision story, a Pivotal Character will have chosen to solve the problem in the Mind, and must maintain that approach to succeed. On the other hand, a Primary Character, regardless of which world she selects to solve the problem, will discover she chose the wrong one, and must change to the other to find the solution.
A simple way of looking at this is to see that a Pivotal Character must work at finding the solution, and if diligent will find it where she is looking. She simply has to work at it. In Dramatica, when a Pivotal Character is the Main Character, we call it a Work Story (which can be either Action or Decision)
A Primary Character works just as hard as the Pivotal to find the solution, but in the end discovers that the problem simply cannot be solved in the world she chose. She must now change and give up her steadfast refusal to change her "fixed" world in order to overcome the log jam and solve the problem. Dramatica calls this a Dilemma story, since it is literally impossible to solve the problem in the manner originally decided upon.
From the Subjective view, both Pivotal and Primary work at solving the problem. Also, each is confronted with evidence suggesting that they must change. This evidence is manifested in increasingly growing obstacles they both must overcome. So what makes the audience want one character to remain steadfast and the other to change? The Objective view.
Remember, we have two views of the Story Mind. The Subjective is the limited view in which the audience, in empathy with the Main Character, simply does not have enough information to decide whether or not to change. But then, unlike the Main Character, the audience is privy to the Objective view which clearly shows (by the climax) which would be the proper choice. To create a sense of equity in the audience, if the Main Character's Subjective Choice is in line with the Objective View, they must succeed. But if a propaganda or shock value is intended, an author may choose to have either the proper choice fail or the improper choice succeed.
This then provides a short explanation of the driving force behind the unfolding of a story, and the function of the Subjective Characters. Taken with the earlier chapters on the Objective Characters, we now have a solid basic understanding of the essential structures and dynamics that create and govern Characters.
A Writer Asks...
Which of the objective archetypes would be most likely associated with the Main and Obstacle Characters?
Actually, which of the Objective Archetypes would be associated with the Main and Obstacle Characters is more of a cultural stereotype, rather than being another kind of archetype. Where we position ourselves in the story, and where we look to the opposing point of view is equally balanced in our personal lives. But in stories, each society tends toward conventions that allow for short-hand communication and agreed upon perspectives.
In Western culture, the Protagonist is most often cast as the Main Character, followed closely by the Antagonist, though all other combinations are used here and there from time to time. The Obstacle Character is hardly ever the Antagonist. This is because if it were, both the objective dynamics and subjective dynamics would lay right on top of each other, and would be very hard to differentiate, both in storytelling and in reception by the audience.
Instead, Western culture prefers a "triangle" by casting the Protagonist as Main Character, which hinges both objective and subjective dynamics on one player, then selecting an Objective Character other than the Antagonist to separate the two sets of dynamics at the other end.
Most often, the Obstacle Character is found associated with the Guardian or Contagonist, depending upon whether the alternative point of view is deemed by the author to be proper or improper. Of course, any Objective Character would do, but this arrangement is most common.
As for Complex Characters, even an Objective Character having only one element would be considered "complex" as they do not conform to the archetypal pattern. In addition, any story with two Antagonists would actually be two stories appearing in the same work. They might share the same Protagonist or have two completely different Progatonist, but must be considered separate stories in either case.
"Crimes and Misdemeanors" by Woody Allen shows two unconnected stories, with different Protagonists, Antagonists, Main and Obstacle Characters. Episodes of "Murder One" or any of the Steven Bochco series hinge multiple stories in a variety of ways around the players, including using a single character who acts as Protagonist in two different stories.
Thanks for the positive feelings about Dramatica that came with your note, and I hope you find this little exploration useful.
A Writer Asks...
Is the Emotion Archetype most often the Love Interest and also the Obstacle Character in a story?
That is perhaps the current convention in action pictures, but has not been the case in the past. In 40s films, for example, the Obstacle/Love interest is often the Guardian, or even the Reason archetype.
Perhaps the one thing that IS rather consistent is that the Love Interest (if there is one) is often the Obstacle, regardless of the objective role, archetypal or complex. Still, in Star Wars, Obi is the obstacle, but Leia is something of the Love Interest.
That is one reason that thinking about Heroes, Villains, and Love Interests is much too indelicate to describe what is really happening in stories. Though certain combinations may come in and out of Vogue (such as the anti-heros of the late sixties and early seventies) thinking in conventional terms is contrary to coming up with unique combinations of one's own that elevate a story as being not quite like anything else.
One final note: In "Aliens" the Archetypal role of Guardian is split between the Michael Biehn part and the Paul Burke part, each getting half of the Guardian characteristics and half of the Contagonist characteristics.. Biehn is Help from the Guardian, but Temptation ("Nuke them from orbit" - which will never make Ripley face her fear) from the Contagonist, whereas Burke is Hinder from the Contagonist but Conscience ("You gotta get back on the horse!" - which is just what she really needs to do) from the Guardian.
In short, there are no right or wrong combinations, just commonly used conventions which on the positive side are immediately recognizable by the audience, yet on the negative side are predictable and pedestrian.
A Writer Asks...
I have a handle on most Dramatica terms but I'm having troubles conceptualizing Objective Character. Is Objective Character the same as Obstacle character?
No, they are quite different.
1. Objective Characters have structural roles and are identified by their functions.
2. The Obstacle character is a SUBJECTIVE character, which are identified by their points of view.
Here's a bit more background on how it all fits together...
A central concept of the Dramatica theory is that every complete story represents a model of a single human mind trying to deal with an inequity.
This occurs because in order to communicate an author must make a copy of what they have in mind and show it to the audience. This model of the author's perspective on his or her subject is called the Story Mind.
The audience examines this Story Mind from four different points of view. They are the Objective view (where we find the Objective Characters), The Main Character view (which is the subjective character who represents the audience position in the story), the Obstacle Character view (which is the subjective character who is trying to change the Main Character's point of view on the issues), and the Subjective view (which describes the growth of the relationship between the Main and Obstacle Characters).
The first view we will examine is from the outside looking in. This is the Objective View. From here, the audience sees characters like soldiers on a fiel viewed by a general on a hill overlooking the dramatica battle. There are foot soldiers, grenadiers, etc., all identified by their functions in the battle. In stories, we see these as the Protagonist, Antagonist, Sidekick, etc.
The second point of view with which an audience becomes involved with a story is for them to step into the story as if the audience were one of the players. When the audience leaves the general's hill and zooms down to stand in the shoes of one of the soldiers on the field, that soldier becomes the Main Character. The Main Character is simply the name of the player who represents the audience's position in the story.
Because Main Character is a point of view, it can be attached to any of the Objective Characters. So, in one story, the Main Character might be the Protagonist, creating the typical "hero". In another story, however, the Main Character might be the Sidekick, so that the audience observes what the Protagonist is doing without feeling like they are driving the story forward themselves. This is how things are set up in "To Kill A Mockingbird", in which Atticus (the Gregory Peck part in the movie) is the Protagonist (driving the action forward) while his young daughter Scout provides the audience position in the story (which is told through her child's eyes) making her the Main Character.
Now, as the Main Character makes his or her way through the dramatic battle, he or she encounters another "soldier" blocking the path. The other soldier says, "change course!" But is it a friend trying to prevent the Main Character from walking into a mine field or an enemy trying to lure the Main Character into an ambush. This other solder is the Obstacle Character.
The Obstacle Character represents the alternative paradigm to the Main Character's existing opinions about the central issue of the story. It is their dramatic purpose in the story to force the Main Character to reconsider changing his or her long-held views. This provides the other side of the story's argument, making it a full exploration of the topic, not just a one-sided statement.
Sometimes the Obstacle Character is right, and sometimes wrong. And sometimes the Main Character chooses the good path and sometimes the bad one. Also, the Obstacle Character may not even know they have such an influence on the Main Character as to make him or her consider changing attitudes or approaches. The Obstacle Character can be a role model, even one on TV or from the past, whose presence or recorded works argue the alternative paradigm and influence the Main Character.
The fourth perspective is the Subjective view. This is simply a tale of the growth of the relationship between the Main and Obstacle Characters, as the Main Character is progressively influenced to change even while seeking to hold on to the tried and true. It is this view that gives a story its passionate flavor for an audience, as they watch the two "boxers" circling each other in the "ring".
When all four points of view are provided, all the principal ways of looking at a story's issues are built into the Story Mind. The Main Character is the "I" perspective for the audience - first person singular. Obstacle Character is "you" (for we never see things from the Obstacle's point of view, but rather look AT the Obstacle from the Main Character's point of view). The Subjective view is "we" as it describes the relationship between Main and Obstacle. The Objective view provides the "they" perspective, as the audience watches the Objective Characters from the outside looking in.
So, one must develop a complete set of Objective Characters. Then, one of those characters needs to be selected as the audience position in the story (which will affect the whole feel of how the battle unfolds). This will become the Main Character. Next, another Objective Character must be selected as the Obstacle Character. Which one will determine the complex nature of the relationship between Main and Obstacle, as part of their interchange will occur between their Objective Character aspects in the Objective story, and part will occur between the Subjective Character points of view int eh Subjective story.
Keep in mind that looking at a character as a doctor, mother, bum, or husband does NOT say anyting about whether they are a Protagonist, Antagonist or any other Objective Character. Objective Characters determine who is for something, who is against it, who acts primarily according to Reason and who with Emotion, and so on. The Mother may be the Protagonist, the Reason character, or even the Sidekick. And choosing her as the Main or Obstacle would add another level of complexity.
So, it is important for consistency and completeness of the argument made through the Story Mind to assign all the Objective Characters a role in your story and to make one a Main Character and one an Obstacle Character. But, the "feel" of your story won't truly develop until you assign the social roles these characters fulfill in your story world as well.
Often an author will wish to start with a Mother character or some other social role. Only then does the process begin of determining who is Main and Obstacle, and then determining what Objective Characters each represents.
How you approach the creation of the full complement of Characters and their roles is up to you. That is must be done is a result of the necessity of creating a Story Mind for the audience to both inspect and possess as the conduit of communication between author and audience.
Problems & Dilemmas
Without a problem, the Dramatica Model, like the mind it represents, is at rest or Neutral. All of the pieces within the model are balanced and no dramatic potential exists. But when a problem is introduced, that equilibrium becomes unbalanced. We call that imbalance an Inequity. An inequity provides the impetus to drive the story forward and causes the Story Mind to start the problem solving process.
Work Stories and Dilemma Stories
In Dramatica, we differentiate between solvable and unsolvable problems. The solvable problem is, simply, a problem, whereas an unsolvable problem is called a Dilemma. In stories, as in life, we cannot tell at the beginning whether a problem is solvable or not because we cannot know the future. Only by going through the process of problem solving can we discover if the problem can be solved at all.
If the Problem CAN be solved, though the effort may be difficult or dangerous, and in the end we DO succeed by working at it, we have a Work Story. But if the Problem CAN’T be solved, in the case of a Dilemma, once everything possible has been tried and the Problem still remains, we have a Dilemma Story.
Mind and Universe
At the most basic level, all problems are the result of inequities between Mind (ourselves) and Universe (the environment). When Mind and Universe are in balance, they are in Equity and there is neither a problem nor a story. When the Mind and Universe are out of balance, and Inequity exists between them, there is a problem and a story to be told about solving that problem.
Example: Jane wants a new leather jacket that costs $300.00. She does not have $300.00 to buy the jacket. We can see the Inequity by comparing the state of Jane's Mind (her desire for the new jacket) to the state of the Universe (not having the jacket).
Note that the problem is not caused solely by Jane's desire for a jacket, nor by the physical situation of not having one, but only because Mind and Universe are unbalanced. In truth, the problem is not with one or the other, but between the two.
There are two ways to remove the Inequity and resolve the problem. If we change Jane's Mind and remove her desire for the new jacket -- no more problem. If we change the Universe and supply Jane with the new jacket by either giving her the jacket or the money to buy it -- no more problem. Both solutions balance the Inequity.
Subjective and Objective Views
From an outside or objective point of view, one solution is as good as another. Objectively, it doesn't matter if Jane changes her Mind or the Universe changes its configuration so long as the inequity is removed.
However, from an inside or subjective point of view, it may matter a great deal to Jane if she has to change her Mind or the Universe around her to remove the Inequity. Therefore, the subjective point of view differs from the objective point of view in that personal biases affect the evaluation of the problem and the solution. Though objectively the solutions have equal weight, subjectively one solution may appear to be better than another.
Stories are useful to us as an audience because they provide both the Subjective view of the problem and the Objective view of the solution that we cannot see in real life. It is this Objective view that shows us important information outside our own limited perspective, providing a sense of the big picture and thereby helping us to learn how to handle similar problems in our own lives.
If the Subjective view is seen as the perspective of the soldier in the trenches, the Objective view would be the perspective of the General watching the engagement from a hill above the field of battle. When we see things Objectively, we are looking at the Characters as various people doing various things. When we are watching the story Subjectively, we actually stand in the shoes of a Character as if the story were happening to us.
A story provides both of these views interwoven throughout its unfolding. This is accomplished by having a cast of Objective Characters, and also special Subjective Characters. The Objective Characters serve as metaphors for specific methods of dealing with problems. The Subjective Characters serve as metaphors for THE specific method of dealing with problems that is crucial to the particular problem of that story.
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Indicted, tried, and convicted: Violence in Western culture as crucified in Natural Born Killers through its public execution. Take "execution," two ways, as NBK kills violence by carrying it to an extreme. Amend "violence IN Western culture," to read, "violence AS Western culture." The message of Natural Born Killers is not that violence is engendered by the system or even that violence is inherent in the system, but that violence IS the system. In such a society where violence is the stock and trade, natural born killers rise to the top. In fact, they are destined to rule as royalty, natural born.
The message of NBK is clear. So clear that we focus our attention upon it, just as we watch a magician's right hand while his left is palming the ball. Virtually all the media talk in articles and reviews has been riveted to the issue of violence. Meanwhile, Oliver Stone is performing his magic behind the smoke and mirrors. His intent? To make us more sensitized to the violence in our everyday lives so that we might question its validity. His method? A brilliant form of propaganda. And that is the focus of this article: how he did it and how you can too.
Unless you walked out of the show when it first began because it antagonized certain sensibilities regarding carnage and mayhem, you were first appalled by the graphic nature of the crimes and then intrigued with the black comedy that sets it in a completely different context. You might sit there, wondering, "I think this is deplorable. I should just stop watching." Then, scene after scene, Stone twists it all around into a cosmic joke and you find yourself amazed that you are laughing. "I should stop watching, but I've never seen anything from this point of view before."
By the time the story is halfway through, you have almost forgotten to look at the violence per se and have become much more interested in looking for the humor. If that is where the story left us, we would merely have been desensitized to even higher levels of violence than we are already. Our tolerance levels would have increased to some degree. There is no good or bad in a system that is inherently evil. From inside the system there is no way to evaluate intrinsics. That is why midway through the film we are presented an alternative paradigm in the form of Red Cloud, the Native American. Just as we are becoming settled into accepting the violence as a necessary component of the humor, Red Cloud illustrates a larger context in which another culture exists that is not made of violence. Suddenly, we can see good and evil. Suddenly, we have stepped out of Western culture to see it for what it is, objectively rather than subjectively.
Now we are assaulted full tilt with the media connection through shots of sheepish audiences in front of the television sets vicariously drinking up the blood of their own kind drawn by broadcast wolves. Again, smoke and mirrors that make us question our own role in sitting in the theater watching NBK. Still, the only characters who are worthy of succeeding are Micky and Mallory. Everyone else is tainted with some degree of restraint. Everyone else is less than pure. In the pecking order that is the Western culture, only the natural born killers have a right to sit at the top of the food chain: cannibalistic christs at the head of the smorgasbord table, "Drink, this is your blood... Eat, this is your body."
Unlike the first half of the story in which we find ourselves placated into accepting the violence, now we find ourselves ever more sensitized to it with every horrendous event. Instead of finding the humor and forgetting the means, we take note of our desire to root for the root of all evil and rebel against the seeds we find within us.
By the end of the story, we cannot help but be disturbed that we wanted the wantonly vicious to succeed. And that is where the propaganda takes hold. Because Stone has been so successful in sucking us in to the Super Bowl of violence, then turned the tables and made us question the rules of his game, we become so focused on the film itself that we are not aware how many times we are helpless but to think of it while watching Saturday morning cartoons with our kids. Every time a news program airs, we note the gleam in the eyes of the anchor reporting atrocities in a foreign land. We see these things and think of NBK, drawing comparisons. But the propaganda is not that we consciously ponder this connection with the overt message of the film, but that we take time to think about it at all. We are focusing on the actual connection, unaware that Stone's amazingly powerful propaganda statement has changed us in a way that prevents us from simply not seeing the violence at all.
The two concepts are closely allied: consciously considering the violence in the media versus not even thinking to consider it. The first is our focus. The second is what makes us focus.
If Oliver Stone had merely intended to create an homage to ultra-violence he would have never brought in Red Cloud. Yet, as the film stands, it clearly snookers us into being deprogrammed from our stupor and sensitized to violence we had become accustomed to and would otherwise unconsciously ignore.
How did he do that? How can we use the same techniques to further our own pet cause as writers? To understand we must examine both the structure and dynamics of Natural Born Killers and how they were transmitted to the audience through storytelling techniques.
Structurally, NBK describes three Western worlds, populated by four principal characters. The "real" world is home to Wayne Gale, the TV "journalist." All of his scenes are presented in the most realistic film making techniques. Unusual editing keeps his scenes consistent with the flavor of the film as a whole, but they are external manipulations of his reality, not presented as part of its makeup. Wayne Gale starts out fully in the "real" world and gradually evolves into the world of the natural born killers, becoming a killer himself, though not natural born. This is indicated as the scenes in which he participates become more and more internally bizarre, not only in action but in lighting, camera angles, film stock and eventually special effects as his face distorts like Micky's. So Wayne has made the transition from the structured world to the dynamic.
In contrast, Scagnetti, the police detective, has always had a foot in each world. He has straddled the line all of his life. Like a half breed, he is not quite natural born, but still not domesticated enough to be unaffected by the smell of blood. His world is presented as a half and half mix of structural reality and dynamic transformation. Before he ever meets up with Micky and Mallory, he kills a young woman for the thrill. But that is where he proves himself not to be natural born. Those who are the Western Royalty get no thrill from killing: its just what they do. As Red Cloud put it, "Stupid lady, you knew I was a snake!"
The filmic storytelling of Scagnetti's scenes reflect the dichotomy of his nature. Although his world is never as distorted as Micky and Mallory's, it is never quite as real as Gale's either. As an example, when Scagnetti investigates the murder scene where Mallory has killed the gas station attendant, the blood pooled behind the boy's head is initially blue. Moments later, seen again the blood is red. This same juxtaposition of imagery is evident as Scagnetti examines the smudges on the shiny hood of the sports car where Mallory seduced the boy. He sees the reality of the evidence just as his associates do, but he also actually sees Mallory, reflected in the metal as if she were still there, reenacting the crime.
The third world belongs to both Micky and Mallory. They share the magic, but from two different approaches. Micky is a do-er, physically making over his world to his liking. In contrast, Mallory is a be-er: she effects change by altering her perception. When we flashback to experience the moment when Micky and Mallory met, we see Mallory's family through her perceptions of them. There is no reality at all in her imagery. Although thrown into a bizarre, sitcom context, the vicious, lechery of her father and the distracted helplessness of her mother are still clearly delineated. We see nothing of her family in anything but her abstract remodeling. Her world is wholly non-real.
Micky has something to learn from Mallory: how to adjust his perceptions to change the nature of personal reality. Mallory has something to learn from Micky: how to alter her environment rather than just reconfigure it. Because of their different approaches, each sees only part of the picture, even while they are born to the magic. Together, however, they are unstoppable, as they control the entire violent world. This is brought home by their success in evading capture until they are separated at the drug store. Alone, they are vulnerable. When they are once again reunited in prison, their ultimate triumph is unavoidable, as long as they remain joined.
This arrangement serves to make the one faulty line of dialog between them stand out like a sore thumb. In their first meeting scene, Micky asks Mallory, "Do you always dress like that or did you do it for me?" She replies, "How could I do it for you if I didn't know you were coming?" This would lead us to believe that somehow Micky has brought the magic to her and that she did not possess it before. But the manner in which she distorted her family clearly indicates the opposite. To be more true to the scenario of her own magic, her reply might better have been, "How much meat do you have in that bag?," by which she doesn't even acknowledge the question, thereby sidestepping the whole issue.
In the end, both Gale's and Scagnetti's worlds are tested against Micky and Mallory's and found to be wanting. Gale is impure. Although he has become a killer, he is not natural born. Therefore, Gale might be at the top of the food chain except in the presence of the True Royalty of Western Civilization. Micky is the inquisitor who finds Gale lacking.
In parallel is the earlier scene in which Scagnetti visits Mallory in her cell. This is the only false moment in the thematic flow of the message. Scagnetti has verbalized his pride at having actually killed someone. Through Mallory, he seeks purification so that he can divest himself of the reality ties that bind, and transform himself completely into a genetic predator. As Earth Mother of this cold natural order, Mallory has it within her power to grant this supplicant his request. She can take him into her womb and give him rebirth as a truly natural born killer. Unfortunately, the rebirthing concept got lost in the sexual dynamics. Rather than making it apparent that Mallory understood her power and chose to withhold it, the idea got lost in parody of adolescent date rape. In this way, the scene lost much of its mystical power and Mallory lost much of her mythic aura.
These three worlds, inhabited by the four principal characters define the perspectives of the story. From a Dramatica perspective, Micky is the Main Character (Physics Class) or first person singular perspective, I. We experience the story primarily through him, which is a standard approach to exploring that view. Similarly, Gale is the Obstacle Character (Psychology Class), identified as the second person singular perspective, YOU. He is always talking about Micky, talking TO Micky, saying "you this" and "you that." Micky responds in the interview scene saying to Gale, "you this" and "you that." Comparatives often occur between the Main and Obstacle characters and NBK is no exception. Micky tells Gale, "We're really just doing the same thing, we're really alike, you and I." Gale angrily retorts that they are quite different. However, through the unfolding of events the point is made that not only were these two characters alike in attitude, Gale eventually proves they are alike in deed as well. Gale changes, actually transforms, and Micky remains steadfast, accepting no substitutes, killing Gale as a pretender to the throne.
In unusual storytelling, the remaining two Dramatica Domains are personified, rather than played out. Scagnetti is the Subjective story incarnate (Mind Class), trapped between Gale's structure and Micky's dynamics. The Subjective Story can be seen in terms of the first person plural perspective, WE. Scagnetti is the battleground upon which the battle between the two worlds is waged. Even his book, entitled "Scagnetti on Scagnetti," further reveals the dichotomy in Scagnetti's nature. Mallory, on the other hand, is the Objective story (Universe Class) identified as the third person perspective, SHE (or THEY). She represents the actual reality of the story, the true magic that has no base in physicality per se, but the point of view from which all valid meaning is derived.
Consistent with the characterization of storylines is the use of on screen dynamics in the symbology of the film. Normally, storytelling is accomplished by having the audience look at the dramatic potentials of a story and then figure out the dynamics that drive them by watching the potential rearrange and reorder themselves, indicating the forces that have moved them. In the end, enough movements have been documented, scene by scene to draw conclusions as to the dynamic environment that holds the message of the story.
In NBK, however, even the dynamics are portrayed right up front for all to see. Changes in film stock, which have no valid internal story impact still serve to connect otherwise disassociated pieces of the drama. Another approach creates comparisons between items of similar or dissimilar shape or color to draw connections. A notable use of this technique is in the opening diner scene in which a cut between the green of Micky's Key lime pie is matched to the green of the jukebox near which Mallory is dancing. Similar colors, similar outlooks, green and green, she is as he is, etc. Third is the use of special effects, such as the face distortion that draws connections at yet another level. And finally, is the editorial technique itself, such as repeating action or editing between two incompatible renderings of a single event.
The last is the most objective approach, imposing its impact from outside the story. The special effects like distortion are the Main Character equivalent, as they are only seen by the audience experientially from the most personal of views. The Subjective perspective is carried through the comparisons of color or shape, and the Obstacle view is presented through the changes in film stock and style, which reflect our perceptions back to us in warped mockery: alternative truths. All of the hidden dynamics are made visible, putting the whole film on trial because there is nowhere left for the audience to hide themselves within the story. The context expands to the real world and we are presented with a fun house mirror, leaving us to ask ourselves, "Is it warped, or are we?"
And that is the nature of the propaganda techniques in this story. First it suckers you in. Then, midway, it throws it all into a different context forcing us to reevaluate ourselves. Finally, it leaves us so focused on the violence that we observed, and confused by our reaction to it that we have effectively become deprogrammed and re-sensitized to violence without ever being aware that we had changed.
Many of us may be resistant to the idea that we can be changed by a work in ways of which we are not aware. But this article itself has been modeled after the structural dynamics of Natural Born Killers. It begins with a discussion of violence of the piece, and suckers you into looking at the mechanisms of the story. Then it turns the tables midway and diverts the issue to describing how propaganda works, forcing us to focus on that methodology. If it were to end as the film did, it would have concluded with the paragraph above, and everyone who read this article would be unaware they had been changed. How changed? Well, the issue of the morality of using propaganda techniques was never brought up. It was left out intentionally. So if we had not drawn attention to the structure of our own propaganda, that missing aspect would naturally be filled in by the mind of each reader whenever they noticed propaganda in the future. It is an essential question to be answered: is this kind of manipulation moral, even if it is for a good cause?
By bringing this all out in the open, it diffuses the power of our propaganda statement. It takes the force of it from the subconscious and elevates it to conscious consideration where it can easily be disposed of by our readers. We really did not want to impact anyone in a propagandistic manner. Our intent is only to objectively describe some of the techniques by which it can and has been employed, then subjectively illustrate its power by using those very same techniques. As a result, you all now possess some tools, which if used will make both you and your indicted subject Guilty as (Sin) Charged.
I am the critic, LessTact. I feed upon the creative efforts of others. Unlike many of my kind, I never prey upon the naive or creatively challenged, but only on the mistakes made by great talents who should know better. A case in point is the tale of the Vampire Chronicles by Anne Rice.
Be forewarned: if you have not yet read the Vampire Chronicles, what follows will almost certainly ruin the experience. But no matter. The fourth book in the series, The Tale of the Body Thief ruins the experience anyway. How can I say this? How can I be so callous? I am the critic, LessTact!
What is it that makes my blood boil about the Vampire Chronicles? Simply this: all four books in the series have the potential to work together as a single Grand Argument Story. Each volume develops another side of a larger vision dealing with the struggle of that self-serving blood sucker of a Main Character, Lestat, to find inner peace. And he finds it. BUT, we aren't told how!
Can you imagine that??? Two thousand pages of reading, all leading up to a final conclusion that ties four perspectives together, all dramatic forces converging on the Main Character finding a way to resolve his angst that has hounded him since the first book, and he just resolves it!
I mean, I'm sitting here in real life. I've got as much angst as anybody. Suddenly, here's this character who suffers even more than I do, but he won't give up. I perk up. I read on. In fact, this undead tragic figure is on a quest to find a way to put his angst behind him. Along the way he gets into the most amazing scrapes and I tag right along with the fellow, sticking right by his side so no matter when it happens, I'll be there to see just how he does it. Why? So I can do it too.
I was waiting to see how he did it even more than if he did it. That's what I wanted to know. And then, at the end of the fourth book in the series, suddenly all his angst is gone and I wasn't told how! Doesn't that just burn you? Well it burns me.
Of course, most of my fellow critics are bleeding-neck cry-babies who whine and complain when they read something they don't like. But I am the critic, LessTact, and believe one should never complain unless they have a better idea. Naturally, I have one. Follow me and learn, if you dare.
To make my point, I must invoke Dramatica, that weird science whose presence can be felt at work in all solid stories. Dramatica sees every complete story as providing four points of view to an audience: Me, You, We, and They. Let us examine each of these in a theoretical sense and then apply them to the volumes of the Vampire Chronicles.
The "Me" perspective is the view through the eyes of the Main Character. This is where an audience feels as if the story is happening to them. It is the most personal of perspectives on the issues of the story.
The "You" perspective is the view afforded of the Obstacle Character. If the Main Character is seen as a soldier in a battle, the Obstacle Character is the soldier coming toward them through the smoke of the battle. The Main Character cannot tell if this figure is friend or foe, only that the Obstacle Character is blocking his path. From this perspective, the audience, looking through the eyes of the Main Character, sees the Obstacle Character as "you."
Some Obstacles, such as Girard in The Fugitive are foes, and must be overcome. Others, such as Obi Wan Kenobi (Luke's Obstacle in Star Wars) or Hannibal Lecter (Clarise Starling's Obstacle in The Silence of the Lambs) are trying to tell the Main Character that he or she is on the wrong path and will not find satisfaction until he or she changes course.
The argument over this "change" issue takes place in the third perspective of "We," the realm of the Subjective Story. Here the Main and Obstacle Characters have it out, each arguing their point of view on the issue, impacting the other with a force that just might make them change. In fact, you can often identify the Main and Obstacle Characters in a story by phrases such as, "We are really both alike, you and I," and, "We're just two sides of the same coin," or, "We are nothing alike!"
Finally, the audience is afforded a fourth point of view: a view of the story more like that of a general on a hilltop watching a battle unfold below. This is the "They" perspective. It is the most objective of the four throughlines and is called the Objective Story. From this point of view, the characters are not identified by their feelings but by their function.
In most stories, these four throughlines are woven together so that they develop concurrently and simultaneously reach a conclusion. In some cases the throughlines are played one after another such as in Kurosawa's Roshomon. This does not mean the throughlines have to cover the same period of history. All that is important is that each follows the quest for a solution from the beginning of the same kind of problem to the outcome of that quest.
What does all this have to do with the Vampire Chronicles? I'll tell you, because I am the critic, LessTact! Each of the four books in the series explores one of these four perspectives. So, like Roshomon, they are taken one at a time.
The first book, Interview with the Vampire, documents the Obstacle Character's throughline. Louis is the Obstacle Character to Lestat's Main Character. To be fair, this does not seem to be the case when one has read only this initial volume. As a stand-alone story, all indications are that Louis is Main Character, Claudia is Obstacle Character, and Lestat is simply an Objective character, perhaps the Contagonist. Once one has devoured the sequels, however, the meaning of Interview with the Vampire is tempered by what follows. Taken in context of the series as a whole, the story of Louis and Claudia becomes a major sub-story and Lestat emerges as Main Character.
For all his suffering, poor Louis is the one having an impact on Lestat, rather than the other way around. Louis is stuck in his deplorable condition - a condition he did not truly want, but he deals with it. In contrast, Lestat, for all his bravado and flash is constantly forced to reconsider his outlook as a result of Louis' constancy.
What an inspired and unusual technique - to begin with the Obstacle Character's tale rather than that of the Main Character. It is all the more inspired that the decision to focus on Lestat was almost certainly made after the first story had been written. Recasting the dramatic relationship of a work by placing it in a larger structure is no mean feat.
Lestat clearly emerges as Main Character of the series in book two, The Vampire, Lestat. This is Lestat's history, documenting how he came to be living his problem, and how far he could get without changing his outlook. Of note, Lestat often refers to Louis' "Interview" as containing gross exaggerations and downright lies. Clearly, we are now to look AT Louis, rather than through his eyes.
In Queen of the Damned, we are shown the big picture, the objective story of the series. This is the tale that describes the nature and history of all vampires - how they came to be, how they ultimately fare, and where they are headed once the smoke has cleared. It is here we can determine success or failure as the outcome of the quest for the objective goal.
This leaves the fourth installment, The Tale of the Body Thief, as the Subjective story between the Main and Obstacle Characters. And, boy, is it ever! This whole volume concentrates on the personal relationship between Lestat and his mortal friend, David Talbot. Clearly, David Talbot has taken over the role of Obstacle from Louis. Just like Louis, he does not wish to be a vampire. In his heart of hearts, Talbot does wish to be a vampire, which makes him the dramatic opposite of Louis. This is part of what lays the groundwork for failure of this fourth volume. For a "hand-off" of dramatic function from one character to another to work, it must be the exact same function. This, alas, was not the case.
It is no accident that Talbot and Louis do not appear in a scene together until the end. Each would be trying to provide the impact to try and change Lestat, but it would be a different kind of impact from each. The message of the story would clearly be out of sync. Keeping their characters apart simply puts off the inevitable, since Louis' impact started things off and now we aren't allowed to see whether his influence had any effect or not at the day of reckoning. Instead, we come to that moment of truth propelled by the exact opposite force, which obscures the meaning of the whole series beyond redemption.
In dealing with a story so large that it takes four books in which to tell it, we might allow our memory of Louis' discontent to fade, and pay more attention to Talbot who is much fresher in our considerations. That is what makes it feel doubly odd to have Louis in the story at all. What dramatic function does he serve?
Sure, there is some poetic justice in his denial of Lestat's request for the "dark blood," clearly a reverse parallel of Lestat's making of Louis. But that's just an interesting irony. It simply closes a door to Lestat, but does nothing to impact him to change. In fact, Lestat simply gets mad and then sloughs it off. Louis is not acting as an Obstacle Character in this story, but because he had done so for the whole first book, he should not have been included here in a different role.
But that is not the worst of it. By the end of the book, we see how Talbot resolves his problem, but not how Lestat resolves his. Talbot is shown to have a moral view that he will be held guiltless if he wants something evil and is forced into it. This plays well against Lestat's view that one is accountable for one's nature, even if one cannot change it.
Talbot clearly explains that once he was transformed into a vampire against his will, it was his moral obligation to live that life according to its own nature. This is exactly what Lestat has never been able to do. Lestat would be left with a simple choice: leave Talbot and remain mired in his angst or take the same leap of faith and rid himself of his inner pain once and for all as he follows in Talbot's spiritual footsteps. In the first case, the whole series of four books ends as a tragedy: there is no hope for Lestat. In the second case, it is a triumph. Having remained steadfast in his view for hundreds of years, Lestat is finally convinced to change and adopt a new world view. Either way, it is this moment of truth where all four volumes converge: the moment for which we were all waiting.
That is what should have happened. What did happen is a tragedy all right, but not in the dramatic sense. Near the end of The Tale of the Body Thief, Lestat is confronted by Talbot's happiness and personal fulfillment and becomes happy himself. What?! Three hundred years of angst and he just shrugs his shoulders and says, "Oh, well, when in Rome..." (Not hardly!)
Still, by that time, there was not much else Lestat could do. You see, Lestat spends most of the book as a mortal himself. His vampire body is stolen by the body thief. The real question that Lestat should have been wrestling with is whether or not he wanted his vampire body back. There could have been a time limit after which the switch became permanent. Or, there could have been limited options where he required the assistance of at least one other ancient vampire to return to his body. One by one, he drops from their favor as he is tempted ever more strongly into the mortal ways. Finally there is only one who can help him, and Lestat must now choose a life or the choice will be made for him.
Wouldn't that have been nice? Alas, it was not to be. Within moments of becoming a mortal, even before he knows the thief has stolen his body, Lestat is sick and tired, in a very literal sense. He hates being mortal and wants his old body back without question. What a story it might have been if he started out hating it and learned to love it again. After all, mortality is an acquired taste.
Then, he might have had a decision to make. By the time he got the opportunity to recover his body, he would no longer be sure he wanted it. His resolve would waver. He would be forced to address the seat of his angst and either accept a mortal life of normality, or a vampire's immortal life of spectacular evil.
We, the readers, make this decision every time we choose to do what we can or what we feel is right. To make such a choice and be satisfied with it is a consummation devoutly to be wished! Ah, what a moment that would be! And which way would he go? Any way Anne Rice wanted him to. Her message might have been that we can receive absolution for our sins and blend into to normal life, even after we have seen Gay Paree. Or, her message might equally have been that one must accept the fullness of one's being - that is it better to shine as a beacon of evil than be lost in a sea of good. Clearly, the later is more consistent with the thematic lean of the series.
But the intensity comes from the fact that it could go either way. As readers, we just don't know until we are shown. That is what we were waiting for, but it is not what we got. No moment of truth, no balanced pros and cons, no pressure to choose. Nope. Lestat makes Talbot. Talbot is happy. Lestat is happy. Big deal.
This type of story problem is not without precedent. I felt the same disappointment after reading Orlando by Virginia Woolf. Orlando (the Main Character) struggles throughout the book to find the path to a peaceful heart, and in the end she (he) does. Again, we are not shown how; she just ends up happy. I suspect that was not an oversight, but simply that Virginia didn't have an answer. In writing about Orlando, she described her own quest for an end to angst. In supplying one to Orlando, she vicariously provided one for herself.
Alas, because the method for achieving a quiet heart was lacking, Ms. Woolf could not duplicate her Main Character's accomplishment and sadly killed herself. Ms. Rice has also given us a happy ending without the means to achieve it. In contrast, I, the critic LessTact, give you the means but will let you draw your own conclusions.
I propose that an author without a solution should not offer one. A story that ends in angst can be a masterwork, as well as a story that ends in angst resolved. A story that ends with angst resolved without resolving angst is nothing more than a merry chase that ends up at a wonderful destination from which its audience is unceremoniously barred.
Lesson Twenty One:
A Reader Asks...
Problem Solving, Problem Solving........and..more........problem solving.
I know how if fits into Dramatica.......... but I also know of a very well intellegent, published author who teaches individuals and organizations how to create what they want and the first thing he teaches....."creating is not problem solving."
I REALLY wish you could have this author look at the Dramatica program and give a brief overview............he may provide a fresh look at scriptwriting like never before. He teaches his "Creating" seminars by watching movies and then discussing what is seen and or not seen.
Please let me know.
I hate to always be in a problem solving mode........or worse..... a teaching and preaching mode.
But I do hunger for the correct perspective.
Understanding opposites............which "He" calls establishing "structual tension". Sound interesting?
ps: Opposite of problem solving is?
Hi, Russell! Thanks for your note. You bring up some very important points, and I'd like to take a moment to, at least briefly, address them.
In your letter you quote an author who teaches creativity as saying,."creating is not problem solving." I couldn't agree more! The process of creating comes from the heart. Still, unless one is satisfied to be his or her own audience, often the fruit of the heart speaks clearly only to the author. This is because storytelling is not about creating a story, but communicating a story. And, it is the process of communication that requires problem solving.
An author often works from real experiences. Even if he or she is building a fictional scene between fictional people, the emotions that arise can only be expressed because at some point in his or her own life the author has felt those emotions, even if under different circumstances.
We do not feel our emotions as singular events. Rather, every emotion is "tied" to many others and connected in a whole network of both strong and weak forces. When an author conjures up a feeling for a scene, this feeling will bring with it all kinds of baggage.
As a result, an author is likely to carry those additional feelings right over into the scene under construction without actually writing them in. This creates a scene in which the primary emotions are well covered, but all the supporting emotions are either missing or so personal that, overall, the scene fails to communicate anything in depth at all.
This is where problem solving comes in. By focusing on the primary emotions (and imformation) to be communicated and determining the context in which the author wishes to present these topics and experiences, Dramatica can "calculate" the necessary supporting components to the story's "argument". The argument, by the way, is just a short hand way of saying the story's "overall consistent and fully explored message."
Now, for a story that is not designed to have either a message or point of view, Dramatica is really pretty useless. Still, such stories can be quite moving as an audience experience. They are an art form all their own. Free form stories follow a course that is unpredictable and creates its impact by the layering of experiences. A story that is an argument, however, is structured in such a way that all dramatic parts ultimately focus on the same central issue, and are seen as reflections of the "problem" at the heart of the story. It is here Dramatica can be of service.
This seems a good point to talk about the "opposite of a problem" question you also pose in your note. The opposite of a problem would be a solution. This fits in with tradition binary opposites. Dramatica, however, is not based on binaries, but on the relationships among four things. For example, in Dramatica we cannot consider only a problem or just a problem and solution, but must also consider "focus" and "direction" as well.
"Problem" and "solution" are well-understood terms dramatically, but "focus" and "direction" are not nearly as often considered. As an analogy, if we think of a problem as a disease, then the solution would be the cure. Focus would be the principal symptom of the discease, and Direction the threatment for that symptom.
Sometimes a body can heal only by curing the disease. Other times, there is no cure and the body can heal only by continuing to treat the symptom until the body heals itself. In story, it is the choice to go with the cure or the treatment of the symptom that determines if characters are on the right path, and it is their choice to stick with that path or jump to the other that determines if they will remain steadfast or change as human beings. The quad structure is a much more descriptive model of real dramatics than simple binary opposites.
To go a step farther, Dramatica is not only concerned with the problem, but (as you indicated at the top of you note) with problem solving as well. It is important to note the difference between the structural "problem" and the dynamic of "problem solving".
A problem is something that is out of balance, which creates an inequity. Problem solving is the effort to eliminate that inequity. Pusuing your line of inquiry a bit farther we might ask, "What is the opposite of problem solving?" The answer to this question is "Justification".
If problem solving is the process to eliminate an inequity, justification can be seen as the process to try and balance the inequity. As examples, if you are hungry and you eat you have eliminated an inequity, hence: problem solving. In contrast, if you are on a diet and get hungry, but instead of eating you light up a cigarette, you have created a new inequity to balance the first one, hence: justification.
Justifications are not necessarily bad. They are just our way of putting off immediate gratification for long-term goals, or sometimes becoming conditioned to a particular way of doing things to the point we become inflexible. Either way, problem solving and justification can be seen as opposites.
What about the Dramatica quad as it pertains to problem solving? One binary in the quad would be problem solving and justification. The other would be Male and Female Mental Sex.
At face value, this seems hardly likely. What, after all, do Male and Female Mental Sex have to do with problem solving or justification? Well, to solve a problem or to justify, one must determine if it is a problem now or could be a problem later. The NOW problem is a spatial appreciation - looking at the structure of the beast. The LATER problem is a temporal appreciation - looking at the dynamics that might come together to create a problem.
As it turns out, although we all have space and time sense, men and women emphasize them differently. As a result, what appears as problem solving to one Mental Sex, is likely to appear as a justification to the other. One cannot absolutely say that something is problem solving or justification unless one knows wheter the effort is being advanced by a Male or Female Mental Sex charater.
Well, I must close now, as to go any further would be to step beyond the scope of the questions you posed in your note.
I hope I have been able to clarify the difference between the structure necessary to clear communication and the dynamic of the personal creative process. Also, I hope I have adequately described the differences between binary opposites and Dramatica's rather more detailed approach of dealing in quads.
Your thought about having the creative writing teacher/author look at Dramatica is a good one. I hope it can be arranged. After all, we're just authors ourselves who worked out a paradigm of story which we have found useful. There's always room for improvement, although I know we often get so excited and wrapped up in our enthusiasm that we can come off sounding rather preachy. We're working to improve that too!
Thanks for such a wonderful reply...have saved to review and contemplate.
Opposite of problem solving.......creating. I get a "frustrating" sense that most people, if not all, are brought up in a mind set of looking at everything as problem solving, possibly as a result of formal education training.
Is it possible to write a script without a main character whos's goal is to solve a problem?
Reason I suggested another author: Looking at "dramatics" from a different perspective for a more complete understanding.
Author, Robert Fritz (CREATING, PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE and soon to be released CORPORATE TIDES) writes that the basic STRUCTURE for Creating is: A person describes as clearly as possible what they want and then describes their current reality which results in "Structual Tension."
Seems most people in society today do exactly the opposite which results in self limitation...........so if we script write in the same "mind set" I get a sense that our scripts would also be self limiting.
I know, I know........ may not be sounding real clear in this area but I'm trying to understand the "bottom brick" of scriptwriting so that I don't develop bad scriptwriting habits as I believe most people have in life, looking at EVERYTHING as a problem to be solved.
Can you point my needle a bit more north.... recomend a movie to see or something?
In your message you said:
- Thanks for such a wonderful reply...have saved to review and contemplate.
I'm glad you found it useful. I think we are all learning about the implications of the Dramatica theory every time we question it. The answers to those questions often open up new insight for ourselves and improve the theory at the same time.
- Opposite of problem solving.......creating. I get a "frustrating" sense that most people, if not all, are brought up in a mind set of looking at everything as problem solving, possibly as a result of formal education training.
Don't get me started on that! I believe there is a tremendous binary/linear bias to all societies world-wide. This belief grew out of the work Chris and I did on Mental Relativity, the psychology behind Dramatica. If you'd like to explore some of those non-story concepts, visit my Mental Relativity pages on the web at http://www.well.com/user/melanie/relative.html
- Is it possible to write a script without a main character whos's goal is to solve a problem?
Sure! The way the software and documentation currently reads, both Male and Female Mental Sex Main Characters are out to solve a problem - the difference being in their "problem solving technique." That is another limited binary appreciation. In fact, both Male and Female Mental Sex Main Characters might be driven by a completely different kind of concern: they might want to be at peace.
Male Mental Sex Characters would seek satisfaction, Female Mental Sex Characters would seek Fulfillment. Currently, Satisfaction and Fulfillment are lumped together in the Dynamic question of"Judgment: "Does your Main Character resolve his or her angst?"
Note the difference here. In problem solving, we have all kinds of problems represented by the sixty-four elements. The "nature" of the problem can be defined in an extremely detailed manner. That is a structural approach, based in logic. But Judgment (a dynamic) is only available in two flavors: "Good" and "Bad". It almost makes you laugh when you compare the degree of sophistication of the logic based problem to the simple binary appreciation of the emotion based Judgment.
Why this imbalance in the software? It is necessary! Just as one cannot see light being a particle and a wave AT THE SAME TIME, so too in Dramatica, one cannot explore the logistic AND the emotional at the same time. Development costs of a product as revolutionary and complex as Dramatica made it impractical in a business sense (and also from the strain on the developers!) to try to create two completely different implementations of the theory. Since Western culture (as is true with most cultures world-wide) emphasizes logic over emotion, we opted to first create a logic-based system that focused on problem solving. In fact, in Western storytelling, problem based stories account for at least 90% of what is written, so our practical decision made Dramatica available to the most writers in the most expedient manner. It is my hope that additional software development will some day implement the emotional side of the theory, thereby opening a whole new door to the organic writer.
Getting back to the question that started all this.... Currently you need to do some mental gymnastics with the software to "convert" the concept of problem-solving to one of Satisfaction or Fulfillment. Here are a few tips and suggestions about how to approach this...
When using logic, Male Mental Sex Characters will seek to solve a problem. When using emotion, Male Mental Sex Characters will seek satisfaction. Problem solving is seen here as a binary notion of things being "correct", satisfaction is a holistic sense of things being "right".
When using logic, Female Mental Sex Characters will ALSO seek to solve a problem. But when using emotion, Female Mental Sex Characters will seek fulfillment. Problem solving is seen here as a comparrison of things being "balanced", fulfillment is a holistic sense of feeling "good".
So, both Male and Female Mental Sex Characters can use either reason or emotion as their principle standard of evaluation from which they derive their drive. But, one will seek satisfaction emotionally and the other fulfillment, and even though both will engage in problem solving (which makes them appear the same) they interpret problem solving differently (which makes them un-alike.)
To develop a satisfaction or fulfillment based story, one must currently emphasize the Subjective Story Throughline, which means that one is thrown back into the logistic nature of the appreciations in order to construct something of a framework around the emotional "arguement".
But there is an easier way. Well, perhaps not easier but much more nuanced. Get in touch with your own feelings. Use the structured aspects of the Dramatica software to handle the logistics of the plot and the topics of the theme and the objective characters. But when it comes to the Main Character, put yourself right in his or her shoes.
The software examines the Main Character as being where the audience is positioned in the story - the "I" perspective; first person singular. But rather than putting the author in that perspective, it takes an outside view of this character so that the author can construct the appropriate concerns that will connect the journey of the Main Character to the development of the story as a whole.
What is not yet provided is support for actually jumping into your Main Character's skin and seeing what the story looks like from there. Early on in the development of the theory, Chris and I did some preliminary work on "skewing the model" so that a subjective view of what the story looked liked from ANY character position might be provided. With all the other areas we needed to address, however, we never had the time to fully develop that aspect of the theory.
Until we are able to incorporate that approach in the software, it is really a simple matter to do it yourself. Pay attention to two things: the "static appreciations" of your Main Character that remain the same for the whole story (such as his or her Concern and Unique Ability) and also the "progressive appreciations" which change over time, such as the act progression through the four "Types" that describe the Main Character's signposts and journeys.
Imagine what it would be like to be in this particular story, having these overall concerns, and also being focused on other immediate concerns of the moment. How would you feel? How might your feelings change the longer you explored these issues? What might be your "gut reaction" to the impact of the Obstacle Character.
By using the logistic output of the software as a guide, you can then follow your heart within that context and be confident that your character will start to take on an honest humanity yet function appropriately in the Grand Scheme as well.
If you don't wish to focus on problem solving at all, make your story an exploration of the Main Character's feelings only. The logistic sense will come by itself between the lines as the Main Character illustrated the both the static and progressive appreciations by the way he or she feels, responds, reacts, and by the shadings that temper his or her observations of the story at large.
Well, I'd better draw this to a close before I write a whole new theory book in one setting!
Keep those questions coming, and best of luck in your writing endeavors.
Lesson Twenty Two:
Jack of all trades, master of none. Sometimes a story just tries to do too much. Often when creating a work, an author will be inspired by a bit of action, a particular character or an interesting theme. Unfortunately, these may not all belong in the same story. A good solution is to choose which of these opposing creative directions one wishes to follow and put the others in cold storage for later. Another approach is to fully develop each of the incompatible concepts as a separate story within the work so that each is internally complete and externally consistent with the others. A regrettable approach is to try and make one story out of the beginnings of several. Rather than having each inspired concept add to the overall impact of the work, they detract from the gestalt, appearing not as creative assets but True Liabilities.
In the attempt to meld too many incompatible creative inspirations into a single story, True Lies ends up fragmented, schizophrenic, and unfocused. Worst of all, because each piece had such potential to develop into a complete story of its own, seeing them incomplete and stunted leaves the audience unfulfilled and frustrated. If we can identify the fragments and conjecture as to how they might have been developed independently, we can apply these techniques in making our own works more consistent.
True Lies embodies three potentially unconnected stories about three characters; Harry, an undercover spy; Helen, his unsuspecting wife; and Dana, their neglected daughter. Story number one involves Harry, who suspects his wife of having an affair and seeks to discover if she still loves him. After eavesdropping on her conversation, Harry is shaken and tells his partner, Gil of his suspicions.
Helen...Helen...is... having an affair.
Hey, Harry. Listen, Helen still loves you, you know. She just wants to bang this guy for a while. It's nothing serious...you'll get used to it.
Story number two is about a housewife who discovers that her husband has been lying to her for seventeen years, loses her trust in him, and must decide if she will trust him again. Harry and Helen are kidnapped by the terrorists and Harry is forced to tell the truth about his secret life, and face the consequences with Helen.
What can I say? I am a spy.
You bastard! Lying, son of a bitch!
Oh, don't you call me honey! You don't ever get to call me honey, again. You understand me? You pig!!
Story number three is about a man who doesn't pay enough attention to his daughter, so she comes to believe that she is unimportant to him and the man must try to prove to his daughter that he truly cares. Returning from a mission, Harry is insensitive to the fact that he should have bought something to bring home to his daughter. Luckily, his partner Gil remembered and saves the day.
I've got a...souvenir Swiss Snowy Village.
What's that for?
For Dana, stup! You know, bring your kid home a gift. You know...the dad thing.
Right, got it...nice touch.
Notice that the first and third stories focus on the man as the main character, while in story number two the main character is the wife. This is the first problem created by the multiple stories in True Lies: there is no consistent main character, yet the filmmakers forced it to have one. In other words, the story dealing with the wife's lost trust in her husband should have been told from her perspective to be consistent with the dramatic potentials of that story. However, the filmmakers chose to tell the story from her husband's point of view and thereby placed the audience in the uncomfortable position of wanting to see the story from her side, yet forced to look at her (themselves) from the outside. This pulls the audience right out of the passionate argument and robs that story of its heart.
It is this misplaced perspective that makes Harry seem to be a voyeur in the stripping scene and steals the meaning of their time together on the island, right up to his final rescue of her from the runaway limo on the bridge. In spite of this weakness in perspective, there must be some consistency that strings the three stories together or the film would not have worked at all. This consistency is the Objective Story. Every story has an Objective (or plot-oriented) side and a Subjective (or character-oriented) side. The three stories mentioned above are all Subjective in nature. The consistency in True lies is the Objective story about the terrorist threat, which spans all three. So, even though the entire middle of the film is told through the wrong character's eyes, the Objective story of terrorism strings them all together. How could this disjointed subjective side of True Lies have been fixed? There are two easy options: turn two of the partially developed subjective stories into subplots of the primary subjective story or lose the two least powerful stories altogether. Let's explore each option.
Losing two of the stories is certainly the easiest (though it may not be acceptable to filmmakers who insist on incorporating every good idea they have, whether it belongs in a film or not). If we take a look at where each of the three stories begins and where each segues into the next, we can perform a hypothetical amputation and see if the patient is healthier for it.
The opening teaser is just that: a teaser. All of Harry's shenanigans boil down to backstory exposition that he is a successful, dashing spy. Other than that, there is not a single bit of information that isn't brought out later, including the relationships among the members of Harry's team. It is important to recognize the difference between a dramatic storyform and dramatic storytelling. The chase scene at the end of the teaser is exciting and well-told, but it doesn't add to our understanding of the characters or their personal problems, and also offers precious little to our knowledge of the terrorist plot.
After the teaser, Harry goes home to his family and a "normal" life. Here we get our first glimpse of the beginning of the third story about the neglected daughter, Dana. But this story is so thin as to be almost not there. Dana dumps her father's proxy gift in the wastebasket and takes some cash from his partner's jacket. Aside from stirring a cake, she is barely involved in the movie until the Harrier sequence. Her story concludes with a visually stunning Harrier rescue, yet how can we care about her when we hardly know her? Still, at least the point is made that Harry doesn't know his daughter any better than we do.
You know, it's not just because you're a bad parent, I mean, kids, today, are ten years ahead of where we were at the same age. Hey, you think she's still a virgin?
Don't be ridiculous, she's only... What is she now?
She's 14 Harry!
She's only 14 years old.
Harry's partner, Gill, seems to know much much more about Harry's daughter. We see no more than a superficial exploration of the relationship between Harry and Dana. The daughter as an essential character to the story's solution or resolution seems quite invalid. We could easily dispose of her, and never miss her. Since we are first talking about cutting out two of the stories and later exploring ways to integrate them, let's just have the happy couple be childless and lop off the harrier sequence at the end.
What?!? Lose all that wonderful Harrier CGI?!? Yep. Car crashes and high-tech planes are a dime a dozen as action fodder. If you don't care about the people involved, you might as well go to the demolition derby. But how would we eliminate the villain if not by Harrier? How about by helicopter? Instead of landing for the Big Nuke, Harry could have just stayed on the copter, caught up to the villain and blown him out of the sky. THEN he lands and kisses his wife while the bomb goes off in the background.
Of course, rescuing the daughter was supposed to resolve her belief that her father didn't care about her. But did it really do that? The only clue we have is that just before Harry and Helen (his wife) are called out on assignment from their dinner table, Dana is sitting there all clean cut. Somehow shifting from grunge to debutante "one year later" is to serve as author's proof that she now understands that her father cares for her.
But what about Harry and the Harrier as he calls up to his daughter, "Trust me."? What about it? The issue was never whether Dana trusted him. That was Helen's issue. Dana just didn't think he cared. We don't get that from his showing up in a plane like Captain America and telling her to trust him. Presumably, the shock of seeing your computer salesman dad in a Harrier might just overshadow that event as single-handedly proving that he cares. So, we lose Dana's story and along with it, unfortunately, some exceptional CGI.
Now we have the "man who thinks his wife is cheating" story to dispose of. This story is developed better than the daughter's. Here, at least, we have some real emotion. Harry loves Helen, but does Helen still love Harry? From the look of things, no. He eavesdrops on a single conversation she has on the phone and is immediately convinced she is having an affair.
Helen, it's Simon. Is it safe to talk?
Listen, I can't talk long...Can you meet me for lunch tomorrow? I must to see you.
I suppose so. Where?
Same place. 1:00 o'clock. I have to go now. See you tomorrow. Remember, I need you.
Well, the overtones there were rather good, so we buy his conviction. He investigates, puts her in situations that force her to lie, and ultimately frightens and browbeats her in a high-tech sweat session. This story starts VERY well . . . and it develops well . . . and then it doesn't end when it should. In the interrogation scene, Harry comes to realize Helen is telling the truth about not having or even intending to have an affair. He almost becomes a human character when he starts to feel saddened and guilty for his lack of trust in her when he has been lying to her all these years. Helen admits that she has been tempted toward the excitement of the moment, but never to have an affair.
I needed to feel alive. I just wanted to do something outrageous, and it felt really good to be needed, and to be trusted, and to be special. It's just that there is so much I wanted to do with this life, and it's like I haven't done any of it, and the sand's running out of the sand glass, and I just wanted to be able to look back and say:
"See, I did that. I was reckless and wild and I fucking did it."
Quite frankly, I don't give a shit if you understand that or not!
She beats on the window and Harry is shamed. Still he puts the question to her:
Do you love your husband?
Yes, I love him. I've always loved him, and I will always love him.
That's when he should have come out of the control room, embraced her and begged her forgiveness. She is angry, she is hurt, but he is genuinely repentive. Does she love him even after this or has he lost her forever with his lack of trust? Dissolve to "one year later" at the party scene and we see the two of them tangoing together. She has forgiven him, he has learned his lesson, and she gets her excitement. Happy ending, the party bookends the story.
In True Lies the story doesn't end there. Harry doesn't reveal himself. Rather than asking her forgiveness for all he has already done to her, he inflicts further emotional stress by making Helen believe her family is in danger.
She wants a little adventure, so I'm going to give her one.
I'm offering you a choice. If you work for us, we will drop the charges and you can go back to your normal life, if not, you will go to federal prison, and your husband and daughter will be left waiting and alone. Your life will be destroyed.
More lies. Nothing learned. Then, he manipulates her, and humiliates her while he watches like a lecher. Not an admirable character. Oh, sure, she beats him on the head before she knows who he is. Wouldn't it have been better under the circumstances if she beat the tar out of him after she recognized him? But all this is swept under the carpet by the Objective story when the terrorists kidnap them both from the room. That's no way to resolve a Subjective problem!
Which brings up the question of where that particular problem DOES resolve. In fact, it never does. There is never a scene in which Helen forgives Harry or in which he asks forgiveness. They just sort of come out of it like two people who have been married a long time, have a spat, and it just blows over. But you sure don't find romance in a party scene stemming from a relationship like that! We needed to see this one resolve. Since we didn't and since the Objective story wanted to focus more on the terrorists, let's axe this story as well.
What does that leave us with? An opening scene in which a spy does spy things. Harry comes home to his "normal" family who don't know. He is "marked" by the villain. Terrorists break into his house, take him and his wife hostage. Helen is shocked to find that Harry has been lying to her and doesn't want anything to do with him. She won't trust anything he says. On the island, he is given truth serum. She learns that he really does love her. When it wears off, he starts grandstanding to win her back. He tells a few white lies to make himself look better in her eyes and gets caught in the fibs. Now she REALLY doesn't trust him. She won't believe anything he says, which puts a big crimp in his ability to get them safely off the island and stop the terrorists.
Helen ends up in the runaway limo on the bridge. Harry catches up by helicopter. He yells to her that the bridge is out, but she can't see it behind the fire and believes he is still grandstanding to win her back. No matter what he says, she doesn't believe him and time is running out. Finally, Harry tells her that if he is lying now, then she must believe he never loved her. She makes a leap of faith, hoping that his love is enough to make him truthful. In fact, it is a literal leap of faith, as she takes his grip just in time to be pulled from the limo before in crashes off the collapsed bridge. Author's proof, she made the right choice. They land, they kiss, (bomb goes off), the end, no party scene.
But we cut out so much! True, but the film would have felt so much better! Still, its a shame to lose so many good storytelling concepts. If we could find a way to complete each story internally and then bring them all together in a single film, we might be able to have our cake and eat it too. How might we complete, then combine them to cater to their strengths and compensate for their weaknesses?
Turning Liabilities into Assets
Let's open with the party scene. Just for kicks, lets see something at the party or the computer room that hints at the nuclear connection. Harry goes home to his "normal" family life. We learn that his daughter believes he doesn't care "because you're never there." Dana has to say this at least once. We need a scene with her, not just a moment when she gets the gift. She goes off with the boyfriend and Harry sees and HEARS her with the hidden camera as her boyfriend tells her, "You sure your dad won't mind you going?" Dana replies, "He doesn't care about anything I do. Sometimes I feel like I don't even have a dad." Well, maybe the dialog is clunky, but you get the idea: we set it up that Harry is never there for her when she needs him.
Now, the "affair" proceeds as it was filmed. But when we come to the interrogation scene, Jamie makes more of a point about how her life is so boring. (We could foreshadow and support this in the office scene earlier when she got the call from the used car salesman). Harry breaks down, feeling shamed. His buddy tells him to go in and ask her forgiveness. He says he can't because she'll never trust him again. He believes he'll lose her. Harry still can't tell the truth. Instead, he decides to lie even more in an attempt to win her back.
What are you doing Harry??
Just giving her a little assignment.
You got to be shittin' me!?!
Harry decides to set it all up, trying to give her what she fantasizes about and winning her back in the process. (Sure, its self-serving to the male audience, but that's the intended audience, after all.) But when Helen goes up to the room, humiliates herself and finds out it is Harry, she lambastes him with the phone. Before the issue between them can be resolved, the terrorists show up and take them away.
Harry and Helen end up on the island as described above where she is sure he loves her but still he lies to win her back. Her lack of trust hinders his ability to get them safely off the island. Helen ends up in the limo, makes the leap of faith (after all, for the intended audience the woman has to be the one to change), they land, kiss, nuclear bomb, and then they get the word that Dana has been taken.
We cut to the terrorists holding Dana. We need the villain to tell her she is bait to lure her father. She tells him that her dad won't come: he doesn't care about her at all. Again, she HAS to say this at least once. NOW, we have all the elements in place for her to be surprised not only by her daddy in a Harrier, but that it is HER DADDY. Harry's line is not "trust me", but "I love you." And that is when Dana jumps because she knows her daddy will catch her.
One year later, the happy family, the phone call, the party bookend, and just before the tango, Harry picks up something for his daughter as a souvenir. He says, "This is for Dana, she loves unicorns," letting us know that he has come to care enough about his daughter to know her special likes. Then the tango, roll credits, happy ending.
The interesting thing about this minor rewrite is that it would have added nothing to the budget. All that was required was a minute or two of new film in existing locations with existing cast and a few additional lines of dialog. Yet, with that little effort, rather than being true liabilities, the "three unsuccessful stories" could have gotten this film's storyforming assets in gear. And that's no lie.
Lesson Twenty Three:
It is easy to think of the principal character in a story as "the hero." Many beginning writers tend to base their stories on the adventures or experiences of a hero. As writers become more mature in their craft, they may come to think of their central character as a "protagonist," or perhaps a "main character." And yet, through all of this, no consistent definitions of any of these terms have ever been agreed upon. Before we proceed then, it seems prudent to establish what Dramatica means by each of these concepts.
In other words, a hero is a blended character who does two jobs: move the
plot forward and serve as a surrogate for the audience. When we consider all the
characters other than a Protagonist who might serve as the audience's position
in a story, suddenly the concept of a hero becomes severely limited. It is not
wrong, just limited. The value of separating the Main Character and Protagonist
into two different characters can be seen in the motion picture, To Kill a
Mockingbird. Here, the character, Atticus, (played by Gregory Peck) is
clearly the Protagonist, yet the story is told through the experiences of Scout,
his young daughter.
Later on, we will explore many other ways in which the Main Character can
be employed in much less archetypal terms than as a hero. For now, the key point
is that Dramatica identifies two different kinds of characters: those who
represent an audience point of view, and those who fulfill a dramatic function.
The reason there are two kinds of characters goes back to the concept of the
Story Mind. We have two principal views of that mind: the Objective view from
the outside looking in, and the Subjective view from the inside looking out. In
terms of the Story Mind, the Objective view is like looking at another person,
watching his thought processes at work. For an audience experiencing a story,
the Objective view is like watching a football game from the stands. All the
characters are most easily identified by their functions on the field.
The Subjective view is as if the Story Mind were our own. From this perspective, only two characters are visible: Main and Obstacle. The Main and Obstacle Characters represent the inner conflict of the Story Mind. In fact, we might say a story is of two minds. In real life, we often play our own devil's advocate, entertaining an alternative view as a means of arriving at the best decision. Similarly, the Story Mind's alternative views are made tangible through the Main and Obstacle Characters. To the audience of a story, the Main Character experience is as if the audience were actually one of the players on the field. The Obstacle Character is the player who blocks the way.
To summarize then, characters come in two varieties: Objective and Subjective. Objective Characters represent dramatic functions; Subjective Characters represent points of view. When the Main Character point of view is attached to the Protagonist function, the resulting character is commonly thought of as a hero.
Lesson Twenty Three:
Archetypes exist as a form of storytelling shorthand. Because they are
instantly recognizable, an author may choose to use archetypal characters for a
variety of reasons -- because of limited storytelling time or space, to
emphasize other aspects of story such as Plot or Theme, to play on audience
familiarity, etc. The main advantage of Archetypes is their basic simplicity,
although this can sometimes work as a disadvantage if the characters are not
developed fully enough to make them seem real.
There are eight Archetypal Characters: Protagonist, Antagonist, Reason, Emotion, Sidekick, Skeptic, Guardian, and Contagonist. Several of these are familiar to most authors. Some are a bit more obscure. One is unique to Dramatica. We will introduce all eight, show how they interact, then explore each in greater detail.
In our earlier discussion of what sets the Subjective Characters apart
from the Objective Characters, we described how authors frequently assign
the roles of both Protagonist AND Main Character to the same player in
The concept of "player" is found throughout Dramatica and differs from what we mean by "character." Dramatica defines a character as a set of dramatic functions that must be portrayed in order to make the complete argument of a story. Several functions may be grouped together and assigned to a person, place, or thing who will represent them in the story. The group of functions defines the nature of the character. The personage representing the functions is a player.
In other words, a player is like a vessel into which a character (and therefore a set of character functions) is placed. If more than one Objective Character is placed into a single player, the player will appear to have multiple personalities. This is clearly seen in the dual characters contained in player, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, or the many personalities of Sybil.
No doubt the most well-known of all the Archetypal Characters is the
Protagonist. As with all the Archetypal Characters, there is a specific
"shopping list" or "recipe" of dramatic functions that
describes the Protagonist. In this regard, the archetypal Protagonist is the
chief proponent and principal driver of the effort to achieve the story's goal.
At first, this description seems far too simple for even the most archetypal of Protagonists. This is because the Main Character is so often combined with the Protagonist when Archetypal Characters are used, that we seldom see a Protagonistic player representing the archetypal functions alone.
Still, pursuing the goal is the essential function of the Protagonist, and beginning here we can construct a network of relationships that describe the remaining archetypes.
(As a side note, the entire exploration of the Subjective Story is an independent job of the Main Character. For purposes of describing the Archetypal Protagonist, therefore, we will be considering only its role in the Objective Story Throughline as just another player on the field [albeit a crucial one]).
So, for our current needs, the Archetypal Protagonist can be considered the chief proponent and principal driver of the effort to achieve the story's goal.
Lesson Twenty Four:
The Archetypal Antagonist is diametrically opposed to the Protagonist's successful attainment of the goal. Often this results in a Protagonist who has a purpose and an Antagonist comes along and tries to stop it. Sometimes, however, it is the other way around. The Antagonist may have a goal of its own that causes negative repercussions. The Protagonist then has the goal of stopping the Antagonist. For purposes of establishing a consistent way to analyze how all Archetypal Characters relate to the goal of any story, Dramatica defines the Protagonist's goal as the .i.story's goal;, regardless of which kind it is.
Just as the Protagonist is often "doubled up" with the function of
the Main Character, the Antagonist is sometimes (though less frequently)
combined with the Obstacle Character. The Obstacle Character is fully explored
in the Subjective Characters section of this book. For now, a simple description
of the Obstacle Character will serve our purposes.
Just as the Antagonist opposes the Protagonist in the Objective Story, the Obstacle Character stands in the way of the Main Character in the Subjective Story. Note we did not say the Obstacle Character opposes the Main Character, but rather stands in the way. The Obstacle Character's function is to represent an alternative belief system or world view to the Main Character, forcing him to avoid the easy way out and to face his personal problem.
When combining the Obstacle Character and the Antagonist in the same player, it is essential to keep in mind the difference between their respective functions, so that both dramatic purposes are fully expressed.
Lesson Twenty Five:
Having briefly described the Protagonist and Antagonist, we can already see
how they represent basic functions of the Story Mind. The Protagonist represents
the drive to try and solve a problem; the Antagonist represents the drive to
undermine success. These two characters teeter back and forth over the course of
the story as each in turn gains the upper hand.
Even in the most Archetypal terms this conflict is an insufficient process to fully describe an argument, for it fails to address many other basic concerns that will naturally occur in the minds of audience members, and must therefore be incorporated in the Story Mind as well. That is why there are six other Archetypal Characters. Just as Protagonist and Antagonist form a pair, the other six Archetypal Characters form three other pairs. The first of these is made up of Reason and Emotion.
The Reason Archetypal Character is calm, collected, and cool, perhaps
even cold. It makes decisions and takes action wholly on the basis of logic.
(Remember, we say wholly because we are describing an Archetypal
Character. As we shall see later, Complex Characters are much more
diverse and dimensional.)
The Reason character is the organized, logical type. The Emotion character who is frenetic, disorganized, and driven by feelings.
It is important to note that as in real life, Reason is not inherently better than Emotion, nor does Emotion have the edge on Reason. They just have different areas of strength and weakness which may make one more appropriate than the other in a given context.
Functionally, the Emotion Character has its heart on its sleeve; it is quick to anger, but also quick to empathize. Because it is frenetic and disorganized, however, most of its energy is uncontrolled and gets wasted by lashing out in so many directions that it ends up running in circles and getting nowhere. In contrast, the Reason Character seems to lack "humanity" and has apparently no ability to think from the heart. As a result, the Reason Character often fails to find support for its well-laid plans and ends up wasting its effort because it has unknowingly violated the personal concerns of others.
In terms of the Story Mind, Reason and Emotion describe the conflict between our purely practical conclusions and considerations of our human side. Throughout a story, the Reason and Emotion Archetypal Characters will conflict over the proper course of action and decision, illustrating the Story Mind's deliberation between intellect and heart.
Lesson Twenty Six:
The next pair of Archetypal Characters are the Sidekick and the Skeptic,
who represent the conflict between confidence and doubt in the Story Mind. The
Sidekick is the faithful supporter. Usually, a Sidekick is attached to the
Protagonist. Sometimes, however, they may be supporters of the Antagonist. This
gives a good clue to the way Dramatica sees Objective Characters: The purpose of
the Sidekick is to show faithful support. That does not determine who or what
it supports, but just that it must loyally support someone or something. Other
dynamics of a story will determine who the Sidekick needs to be attached to in
order to make the story's argument, but from the standpoint of just describing
the Archetypal Characters by themselves, the Sidekick faithfully supports.
The Sidekick is balanced by the Skeptic. Where the Sidekick has faith, the Skeptic disbelieves; where the Sidekick supports, the Skeptic opposes. The nature of the Skeptic is nicely described in the line of a song... "Whatever it is, I'm against it." In the Story Mind, it is the function of the Skeptic to note the indicators that portend failure. In contrast, the Sidekick notes the indicators that point to success. The interactions between Sidekick and Skeptic describe the Story Mind's consideration of the likelihood of success.
Lesson Twenty Seven:
Finally we come to the remaining pair of Archetypal Characters. The first of these archetypes is a common yet often loosely defined set of functions; the second archetype is unique to Dramatica. The first of these characters is the Guardian. The Guardian functions as a teacher/helper who represents the Conscience of the Story Mind. This is a protective character who eliminates obstacles and illuminates the path ahead. In this way, the Guardian helps the Protagonist stay on the proper path to achieve success. Balancing the Guardian is a character representing Temptation in the Story Mind. This character works to place obstacles in the path of the Protagonist, and to lure it away from success. Because this character works to hinder the progress of the Protagonist, we coined the name "Contagonist".
Because the Contagonist and Antagonist both have a negative
effect on the Protagonist, they can easily be confused with one another. They
are, however, two completely different characters because they have two
completely different functions in the Story Mind. Whereas the Antagonist works
to stop the Protagonist, the Contagonist acts to deflect the Protagonist. The
Antagonist wants to prevent the Protagonist from making further progress, the
Contagonist wants to delay or divert the Protagonist for a time.
As with the Sidekick, the Contagonist can be allied with either the Antagonist or the Protagonist. Often, Contagonists are cast as the Antagonist's henchman or second-in-command. However, Contagonists are sometimes attached to the Protagonist, where they function as a thorn in the side and bad influence. As a pair, Guardian and Contagonist function in the Story Mind as Conscience and Temptation, providing both a light to illuminate the proper path and the enticement to step off it.
As a group, the Archetypal Characters represent all the essential functions of a complete Story Mind, though they are grouped in simple patterns. Because the Archetypes can be allied in different ways, however, a degree of versatility can be added to their relationships
Lesson Twenty Eight:
Complex Characters are created from the same set of dramatic functions as
Archetypes. The principal difference is that the Archetypal Characters group
together functions that are most similar and compatible, and Complex Characters
don't. This means that although Archetypal Characters may conflict with one
another, an Archetypal Character is never at odds with its own drives and
attitudes. This is why the Archetypal Characters so often appear to be less
developed than Complex Characters or perhaps less human.
To create characters who more closely represent our own inconsistencies, we must redistribute their functions so they are less internally compatible. As this results in many more levels of exploration and understanding, we refer to any arrangement of character functions other than an Archetypal grouping to be Complex. A character containing such a grouping is a Complex Character.
A single story may have both Archetypal and Complex Characters. The decision
of how to group the functions is completely open to an author's storytelling
desires. The problem is, until one is aware of exactly what these functions are
and how they relate, it is impossible to make meaningful decisions about how to
combine them. These essential functions are at such a basic level that they form
the elemental building blocks of Objective Characters. Therefore, we refer to
these functions as character Elements. Listing them gives no feel for the
end product, much as just listing the Periodic Chart of Elements in chemistry
gives no feel for the natures of the compounds that might be engineered through
As a result, the best way to present the character Elements with meaning is to start with the Archetypal Characters (who by definition contain all the Elements) and break them down, step by step, level by level, until their elemental components are exposed. In this manner, understanding is carried down to the Elements, which may then be combined in non-archetypal ways to create Complex Characters.
Lesson Twenty Nine:
We have now created four distinct pairs of Archetypal Characters. Each pair presents the birthing ground of a particular kind of conflict. Two Characters bonded in such a relationship constitute a Dynamic Pair. Here are the Eight Archetypal Characters organized by Dynamic Pairs.
We can easily see how these Archetypal pairs represent a broad analogy to a human mind dealing with a problem. The Protagonist represents the desire to work at resolving the problem. Its Dynamic Pair, the Antagonist represents the desire to let the problem grow. As with the Archetypal Characters, we all face an internal battle between making decisions based upon Reason or upon Emotion. Like the functions of the Sidekick and Skeptic, the Story Mind will contain a struggle between Faith and Disbelief. And finally in an Archetypal sense, the Mind will be torn between the Contagonist's temptation for immediate gratification and the Guardian's counsel to consider the consequences.
There is another useful grouping of the Archetypal Characters which helps
uncover their essential Elements. Four of the characters seem to be the prime
movers of the story, and it is their interactions that determine the thrust of
the effort to address the story's problem. The other four are "back seat
drivers" -- perhaps highly interested in the outcome, but rather than
forcing the plot, they influence those who do force the plot. Remember,
these descriptions are only applicable in a general way but serve to make
comparisons between similar traits of characters. In Dramatica, we group four
similar items that are interrelated into a simple table called a quad.
So, we can create a quad of Driver Characters and a quad of Passenger
In simple stories, the Protagonist, Antagonist, Guardian, and Contagonist are
all major drivers of the story. Whatever the object of their efforts,
Protagonist will be trying to achieve it, Antagonist will be trying to prevent
its achievement, Guardian will act to aid the achievement, and Contagonist will
act to hinder (although Guardian and Contagonist may not be directly concerned
with the goal itself or even each other). Regardless of their personal levels of
awareness, each of these Characters seen Objectively acts with a unique
drive that represents a basic Motivation of the Story Mind.
For example, if the Protagonist wants to build a shopping center, the Antagonist will not want it built. The Contagonist might get an injunction delaying construction so it can profit from a stock deal, even though it may like to see the center built eventually, and the Guardian might find a legal loophole to overturn the injunction, perhaps just as a by-product of another matter it is representing in court.
Remember, these Objective Characters are not judged by how THEY see the story, but how WE see them affecting the story.
Lesson Thirty One:
Unlike the first quad, these four Characters are not the prime movers of the
story, but rather ride the coattails of the Driver Characters. If not for the
Drivers, the Passengers would not even be involved with the problem. Each
represents an approach or attitude in the story: Sidekick is forever faithful
while Skeptic is forever doubting; Reason acts on the basis of logic and Emotion
responds from feelings. Of course, each of these Characters also has its own
motivations, but seen Objectively as part of the Story Mind they represent
different approaches and attitudes toward solving the problem.
Before we sub-divide the Archetypal Characters into their basic Elements, let's get a better feel for them by examining the Drivers and Passengers in several well known stories
Lesson Thirty Two:
Most people would agree that Luke Skywalker is the Protagonist in Star
Wars and Dramatica sees it the same way. The Empire itself, embodied in
the Gran Mof Tarkin and his troops, is the force diametrically opposed to
the story's goal of destroying the Death Star, and is therefore the Antagonist.
Obi Wan Kenobi is the Guardian, protecting Luke and company and providing
"moral" guidance, whereas Darth Vader is the Contagonist, representing
the temptation of the "Dark side of the Force" and hindering progress
at every turn.
Han Solo functions as the Skeptic, arguing his disbelief in the Force as well as his opposition to just about every course of action anyone tries to take. R2D2 and C3PO jointly fill the role of Sidekick, forever faithful to whomever they are assigned. Princess Leia is Reason, coldly calculating (although this is tempered in the storytelling), calm-headed and the real planner of the group. Chewbacca, in contrast, responds frequently with little or no thought and acts solely on the basis of his feelings, which clearly defines him as Emotion.
(It should be noted that R2D2 and C3PO have a well developed sub-plot between them, that is forefront as the movie opens. This gives them much more personality and versatility, and spells out differences between them that would not occur if they both simply shared the sidekick function. Sub-plots are dealt with later in the Storyweaving section of this book.)
Having delineated our eight characters in Star Wars, let us organize them into Drivers and Passengers.
Lesson Thirty Three:
We can label Dorothy as the Protagonist in The Wizard of Oz
with some confidence. Certainly the Scarecrow seems to be Reason since he is the
planner of the group ("I'll show you how to get apples!"), but he is
not very calm or collected. In fact, he is quite the opposite. Similarly, the
Tin Man looks like Emotion as he cries in the poppy field, yet he is anything
but frenetic when he rusts himself from the tears. Clearly, our original
Archetypes don't seem quite as true-to-form as they did in Star Wars.
Let's file that away for later and press on. The Cowardly Lion fills the role of Skeptic and Toto performs as the Sidekick. Glinda is an unabashed Guardian and the Wicked Witch of the West balances her as the Contagonist. But just a moment here... Doesn't the Wicked Witch act more like an Antagonist? Indeed she does, yet she seems to also fill the same role compared to Glinda as Darth Vader fills compared to Obi Wan. Assuming for a moment that the Wicked Witch IS the Antagonist, then who is the Contagonist?
There is only one major character yet unaccounted for -- the Wizard himself.
The Wizard as Contagonist? Somehow it doesn't sound quite right. At this point it becomes apparent that the characters in Oz are not all exactly Archetypal. Something is going on with the Scarecrow and Tin Man and the Witch and the Wizard that doesn't quite fit. Exploring these shortcomings of the Archetypal Character model as applied to Oz will ultimately offer some insight into the essential character Elements.
For the time being, however, let's pencil in the Witch as Antagonist and the Wizard as the Contagonist so we have a place to start. Here are the Eight Simple Characters of The Wizard of Oz in Quad format, ignoring any inconsistencies for the moment.
Lesson Thirty Four:
Chief Brody fills the Protagonist's shoes in Jaws, and few
would doubt that the Shark is the Antagonist. Hooper, with all his gizmos, takes
the Reasonable stand, while Quint, who simply hates sharks, functions as
Emotion. The Mayor is a strong Contagonist and Brody's wife is a weak Sidekick
although it almost seems as if Hooper fills that role sometimes as well. Once
again, more versatility is needed than the Archetypal Characters provide.
We still need a Guardian -- someone to protect Brody as well as stress the proper moral course. Simply put, Jaws has no character that performs BOTH functions. Rather, the moral half of the Guardian's role is played by Hooper who reminds Brody of his duty and urges him into taking action against the shark problem, while the protective role is filled in turn by the land itself, Hooper's boat, and ultimately Quint's boat.
There is no reason why a character must be a person. A boat can be a
player as well as a person, as long as it can demonstrate its function to the
audience. Again, in Dramatica, the point of a story is to illustrate all aspects
of the Story Mind dealing with a problem. As long as each aspect is accounted
for, the specific carrier of that Element is structurally irrelevant and
may only have storytelling ramifications.
So far we have not determined the Skeptic in Jaws. Who refuses to believe evidence of the shark problem or the need for taking action against it? Clearly the Mayor embodies that characteristic well, and yet was previously identified as the Contagonist. Obviously some "doubling up" is going on here. If we look at who is across from whom in quad form, we can see some of the basic dramatic Character conflicts in Jaws.
From this breakdown, we see a good example in both the Mayor and Hooper of single players who actually portray two distinct Archetypal characters. The Mayor functions as Contagonist and Skeptic, whereas Hooper portrays both Guardian and Reason. Some of these broad labels fit better than others, which is why there are actually some Complex Character arrangements in Jaws as well, that do not quite fall into the strict Archetypal mold
Lesson Thirty Five:
Now that we have become familiar with Archetypal characters and some of their
limitations, let us recap our list of the eight Archetypal Characters as a
prelude to resolving the inconsistencies we saw in The Wizard of Oz
PROTAGONIST: The traditional Protagonist is the driver of the story: the one who forces the action. We root for it and hope for its success.
ANTAGONIST: The Antagonist is the character directly opposed to the Protagonist. It represents the problem that must be solved or overcome for the Protagonist to succeed.
REASON: This character makes its decisions and takes action on the basis of logic, never letting feelings get in the way of a rational course.
EMOTION: The Emotion character responds with its feelings without thinking, whether it is angry or kind, with disregard for practicality.
SKEPTIC: Skeptic doubts everything -- courses of action, sincerity, truth -- whatever.
SIDEKICK: The Sidekick is unfailing in its loyalty and support. The Sidekick is often aligned with the Protagonist though may also be attached to the Antagonist.
GUARDIAN: The Guardian is a teacher or helper who aids the Protagonist in its quest and offers a moral standard.
CONTAGONIST: The Contagonist hinders and deludes the Protagonist, tempting it to take the wrong course or approach.
Re-examining the list, we can learn something new that will help us in analyzing The Wizard of Oz and Jaws: each of the Eight Archetypal Characters contains one characteristic pertaining to actions and another characteristic pertaining to decisions.
Action Characteristic: Pursues the goal. The traditional Protagonist is the driver of the story: the one who forces the action.
Decision Characteristic: Urges the other characters to consider the necessity of achieving the goal.
Action Characteristic: The Antagonist physically tries to prevent or avoid the successful achievement of the goal by the Protagonist.
Decision Characteristic: The Antagonist urges the other characters to reconsider the attempt to achieve the goal.
Action Characteristic: The Guardian is a helper who aids the efforts to achieve the story goal.
Decision Characteristic: It represents conscience in the mind, based upon the Author's view of morality.
Action Characteristic: The Contagonist hinders the efforts to achieve the story goal.
Decision Characteristic: It represents temptation to take the wrong course or approach.
Action Characteristic: This character is very calm or controlled in its actions.
Decision Characteristic: It makes its decisions on the basis of logic, never letting emotion get in the way of a rational course.
Action Characteristic: The Emotional character is frenzied or uncontrolled in its actions.
Decision Characteristic: It responds with its feelings with disregard for practicality.
Action Characteristic: The Sidekick supports, playing a kind of cheering section.
Decision Characteristic: It is almost gullible in the extent of its faith -- in the goal, in the Protagonist, in success, etc.
Action Characteristic: The Skeptic opposes -- everything.
Decision Characteristic: It disbelieves everything, doubting courses of action, sincerity, truth -- whatever.
Lesson Thirty Six:
Having split them in two, we can see that each of the Archetypal Characters has an attitude or Decision characteristic and an approach or Action characteristic. When we arrange both characteristics under each of the eight Archetypes in our Driver and Passenger Quad format, we get a graphic feel for the Archetypal Objective Characters and the Elements they represent.
In Dramatica, we refer to these 16 characteristics as the Motivation Elements because they describe what drives the Archetypal Characters.
Lesson Thirty Seven:
Let's see how well these sixteen Motivation Elements line up with the
characters we have examined so far. As Protagonist, Luke does indeed seem to be
both the pursuing character and the one who urges all to consider
the need to achieve the goal ("We've got to help the Princess!"). The
Empire definitely wants to prevent Luke from succeeding, and urges him
and all others to reconsider the propriety of his actions - reconsider or
you will die. Obi Wan provides a sense of conscience, at the same time helping
Luke when he gets into trouble. Darth, on the other hand, clearly represents the
tempting "Dark side of the Force," as well as hindering
Luke's progress, the Rebel's progress, and even hindering progress by the Empire
R2D2 and C3PO are ever faithful and supportive, and Han is the perennial disbeliever and opposer. Chewbacca acts on his feelings and behaves in an uncontrolled way, and Leia is extremely controlled and driven by logic.
Charted out, the assignment of characteristics to the various characters has a good feel to it.
Lesson Thirty Eight:
Returning to Oz, Dorothy is both pursue and consideration. Toto is faith and support. The Cowardly Lion is clearly disbelief and oppose, and Glinda is conscience and help. But here is where breaking the Eight Archetypal Characters into 16 characteristics solves our previous problems.
When we look at the Scarecrow he appears to exemplify logic but his approach, rather than being in control, is quite uncontrolled. Similarly, although the Tin Man is undoubtedly feeling, his demeanor is just as surely described by control.
Apparently, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man have swapped characteristics: logic goes with uncontrolled and feeling goes with control. In a sense, both of these Characters now contain two Elements that are at odds with each other. The Action Element does not reflect the Decision Element. This creates two very interesting Characters who have an additional degree of depth to them: an internal friction, inconsistency, or conflict. This is the kind of arrangement that begins to make characters more complex.
But what about the Witch and the Wizard? What is it that makes them diverge
from the Archetypal molds? Could it be a similar "swapping" of
Elements? As it turns out, it is a similar swapping, but not exactly the
same. To be the Archetypal Contagonist, the Wizard would have to be temptation
and hinder. To be the Antagonist, the Witch would have to be reconsideration
and prevent. But rather than swapping an Action Element for another
Action Element, the Witch ends up with both Action Elements and the
Wizard with both Decision ones!
When we put this information into our Quad formation, the Elements do not line up in a simple way.
Everyone still has two characteristics; however, the arrangements are not
Archetypal for all the Characters in The Wizard of Oz. As a
result, the Archetypal role names have been removed where they do not apply.
Lesson Thirty Nine:
Brody, as Protagonist, is very nicely pursue, and certainly with his bell-ringing and whistle-blowing Brody is consideration as well. Hooper does provide the sense of conscience and helps Brody. The Mayor definitely hinders our Protagonist and dishes out plenty of temptation to give up the quest. Certainly the shark forces reconsideration of the propriety of the goal and goes out of its way to prevent Brody from accomplishing his goal of adjusting its feeding habits. Brody's wife is his faithful supporter. Hooper adds to his functions by filling the role of logic as well, yet he is very uncontrolled in his approach, as made evident by the variety of devices he employs to no apparent success. Quint is clearly operating from his feelings, but his approach is very simple and in control. The Mayor, in addition, supplies us with disbelief and oppose.
A Better Way to Group Elements
A better way to organize these characteristics is to separate the Action
Elements from the Decision Elements. Of course, since the Eight Archetypal
Character Types describe a specific pairing of Action characteristic to Decision
characteristic, when we separate the sets, we cannot keep the Archetypal
Character names as their contents are split. Nevertheless, it is much more
useful to arrange the Elements by their similar natures rather than by the
simple arrangement contained in the Archetypal Characters.
With 16 characteristics, we can create four quads of four characteristics each. This grows from having a Driver Character Quad and a Passenger Character Quad, then splitting each in two (Action Quad and Decision Quad), giving us four Quads: the Action Driver Quad, the Decision Driver Quad, the Action Passenger Quad, and the Decision Passenger Quad.
In Dramatica, a group of four Quads is called a Set. Note how the set above provides additional meaning. For example, when dealing with a problem of Action in terms of Drivers, one would have the choice to Pursue, Prevent, Help, or Hinder. When a Character represents the Drive to Pursue, it applies itself to achieving the goal. Although it may also want the goal to be achieved, a Help Character focuses its efforts on being useful to the Pursuit of the goal rather than instigating its own effort. This explains the functions of and relationship between the Protagonist's Drive (Pursue) and the Guardian's Drive (Help).
Similarly, when a Protagonist's Drive is Pursue, an Antagonist's Drive is Prevent. And, of course, the Contagonist Hinders the Protagonist's Pursuit. In fact, when we consider all four Quads, we can obtain a very precise understanding of why the Eight Archetypal Characters are created as they are and exactly how they relate.
So far we have only explored sixteen different character Elements. One way to create complex characters is by assigning these sixteen Elements to characters in non-archetypal patterns. However, as great as the number of potential characters that can be created is, this limited set of sixteen Elements is still not sufficient to describe all the rich complexities of the Objective Characters we see in sophisticated stories. This is because these sixteen Elements only represent character Motivations. In fact, we call them the Sixteen Motivation Elements.
Like real people, characters are driven by Motivations, but they also aspire
to different Purposes, employ different Methodologies in the
effort to achieve those purposes, and use different Means of Evaluation
to determine the effectiveness of their efforts. The old adage that one should
dimensional characters falls short by one dimension. Fully realized characters are four dimensional possessing an Action and Decision Element in each dimension.
In the following sections we will explore two kinds of character complexity. First we will look at ways to rearrange the Motivation Elements, and second, we will outline how to bring the other three character dimensions into play.
Lesson Forty One:
Once again, to enhance our "feel" for these relationships, let's add the names of the Characters in Star Wars to the Quads.
As before, the amazingly pure Archetypal Characters of Star Wars translate into a completely symmetrical pattern. Each Character has an Action Quad characteristic and a Decision Quad characteristic. Each pair of Characters is in direct opposition, both internally and externally. Further, Driver Archetypes are represented exclusively in the Driver Quads, and Passenger Archetypes are found entirely within the Passenger Quads.
Lesson Forty Two:
In looking at these patterns, the Passenger Characters in The Wizard of
Oz seem very much like the Passenger Characters in Star Wars,
with that one notable exception of the "flipping" of Logic and Feeling
in relation to Control and Uncontrolled. In other words, the two Characters
simply traded places on one Dynamic Pair of Elements in a single Quad. It makes
sense that a stereotypical Reason Character would be logical AND controlled, and
a stereotypical Emotion Character would be feeling AND uncontrolled. But if you
simply flip the Action Characteristics in relation to the Decision
Characteristics, far more versatile Characters are created -- characters whose
approach is no longer in complement to their attitude, but in conflict
with it. In a sense, these Characters are made more interesting by creating an
inequity within them even as they continue to represent methods of
problem solving within the Story Mind.
Looking at the Wizard and the Wicked Witch we see that the other kind of swapping of characteristics also creates much less stereotypical Characters. Rather than a tempter, the Wicked Witch becomes a completely action-oriented pest not only trying to prevent Dorothy from achieving her goal, but hindering her every step on the way as well. The Wizard becomes a purely decision-oriented tempter who represents taking the apparent easy way out while also (through his fearsome reputation, embodiment, and requests) urging Dorothy and her friends to reconsider their decisions. This lack of action characteristics may help explain why the Wizard is so obviously absent during most of the story, although his influence is felt throughout. Obviously, the nature of the combinations of characteristics has a great impact on which decisions and actions the audience will expect and accept from a Character.
Lesson Forty Three:
Clearly, the Driver Character characteristics in Jaws are as
simple as those in Star Wars. In fact, they are identical in terms
of which characteristics are combined into a single Character. However, when we
look at the Passenger Character characteristics, we see a new phenomenon: some
of those Elements are present in the Driver Characters, two of whom are doing
The Mayor represents Temptation and Hinder as a Driver Character but also represents the Passenger characteristics of Disbelief and Oppose. Hooper, a Driver in Conscience and Help, also represents Logic and Uncontrolled, putting him in conflict with Quint. It is clear that these "multi-characteristic" Characters are much more complex in their make-up and therefore in their interactions than Archetypes. For this reason we refer to them as Complex Characters.
Lesson Forty Four:
The question now becomes, "Is there a definitive set of rules that govern how characteristics may or may not be combined without violating the analogy of the Story Mind?" Let's find out.
The first thing we notice when examining the Motivation Characters is that there is never an instance where a Character contains both characteristics in a Dynamic Pair. This makes common sense: "One cannot serve two masters." Essentially, how can you be AGAINST something at the same time you are FOR it? So, our first rule of combining characteristics is: Characters should never represent more than one characteristic in a Dynamic Pair.
Sounds good, but what if you want to create a Character who represents one view and then the other. For example, if you had a one-woman show, you would need to combine ALL 16 Motivation characteristics into one person. This is accommodated by the difference between a character and a player. In a one-woman show, even if it is a single story argument, there might be a multitude of characters but only one player. The key to keeping them separate is that the player changes from one character to another, never simultaneously portraying more than one, such as by donning different apparel or adopting a different voice.
In light of this additional information we add a second rule of thumb to our first: Players should never represent more than one character at a time.
In truth, there are many valid reasons for combining opposing characteristics
in one body. An example is Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde. As
Jekyll and Hyde, this player has a split personality representing, in effect,
two Characters in the same body.
Dramatica sees a player as a shopper filling a grocery sack full of characteristics. You can select whatever you want, as long as you don't put in both Elements of a Dynamic Pair. You can also carry as many bags as you can handle.
But wouldn't a fixed grouping of characteristics prevent a Character from growing? For the answer, look back at what these characteristics really are. They are the problem-solving processes within the Story Mind seen Objectively. They are Objective Characters. Objectively, characters remain the same; it is Subjectively that they grow as points of view change. In a sense, the Objective nature of characters describes their innate disposition, in which no changes can be made. The Subjective nature of characters describes their learned behavior, which is what can be evolve in the course of a story.
What does all this mean in a practical sense to us as Authors? First, Dramatica tells us there are only 16 Motivations to spread among our players. If we use the same characteristic twice, it clutters our story. If we neglect to employ one, there will be a hole in our story's argument. Finally, we have a great deal of flexibility to create unique and memorable characters while fulfilling all the requirements an audience will look for in a Story Mind.
Lesson Forty Five:
As an exercise, let's take a look at how the Motivation characteristics are
represented and combined in some familiar well-written stories. Why don't we
tackle something simple like Gone With the Wind.
"Simple?" you say. In terms of thematics, Gone With the Wind is an extremely rich and complex story. But in terms of the characters, GWTW is no more complex than any of the other stories we have analyzed so far. Let's see how.
A list of the most notable Characters might include: Scarlett O'Hara, Rhett
Butler, Ashley Wilkes, Melanie Wilkes, Scarlett's sister Suellen, Frank Kennedy,
Scarlett's father Gerald O'Hara, and Prissy. Taking them one at a time, we can
see the stuff they are made of.
Intuitively, we sense that Scarlett and Rhett are the two most important characters. Looking at the 16 characteristics, Scarlett is clearly Pursue. She pursues Rhett, she pursues Ashley, she pursues the tax money, she pursues a fortune. She is motivated to get people to consider things they normally would not. Based on this analysis we will call Scarlett PURSUE and CONSIDERATION.
Rhett, on the other hand, spends most of his time avoiding. He avoids getting involved in the war, and by his contraband dealings he avoids financial hardship. He avoids Scarlett's advances, avoids the firing squad, avoids paying her the tax money, and on and on. Nonetheless, it is Rhett that continually urges Scarlett (and everyone else) to reconsider their actions. So Rhett comes down as AVOID and RECONSIDERATION.
Comparing Scarlett to Rhett, each contains one action characteristic and one decision characteristic. Solely in terms of Motivations, Scarlett and Rhett are Archetypal Protagonist and Antagonist.
There is little to disguise Ashley's effect as TEMPTATION upon Scarlett. Just
because he never actively tempts her does not diminish his actual temptation
value. And this is a good point to file away for later: A character does not
have to actively or even consciously employ a characteristic to represent it.
Looking for Ashley's physical characteristic, although it is not strongly drawn, we find him to be HINDER. Now since his physical self is designed to be the source of Scarlett's temptation, Hinder has been down-played to make him more attractive. Nevertheless, he repeatedly jeopardizes Scarlett's situation. Temptation and Hinder make Ashley a Contagonist.
Melanie, in complement to Ashley, is CONSCIENCE and HELP. She continually tutors Scarlett in the "correct" morality, simultaneously cleaning up the real world messes that Scarlett leaves in her wake. Melanie is forever smoothing ruffled feathers and it is she who handles the hiding of the Yankee renegade soldier that Scarlett shoots. Conscience and Help make Melanie the Guardian.
It is interesting to note the Character pairings designed into this story. Scarlett (Pursue and Consideration) is paired with Rhett (Avoid and Reconsideration). Ashley (Temptation and Hinder) is paired with Melanie (Conscience and Help). Obviously, Margaret Mitchell had an amazingly intuitive sense of where the dramatic potentials lie. (But then, we knew that already, didn't we?) Let's see if this pattern continues.
Scarlett's screaming sister Suellen plays nicely as FEELING and UNCONTROLLED,
making her the Emotion Character. Her choice of husband, Frank Kennedy (who is
snatched by Scarlett) is again, an opposite. Kennedy, by virtue of his steadfast
business development and religion of practicality defines LOGIC. And also by
virtue of his steadfast business development and resistance to diverging from
his plans demonstrates that he represents CONTROL (restraint). Kennedy fits
nicely as the Reason Character, again, in a complementary posture to his
Finally, we reach a most telling pair. First, we perceive Scarlett's father Gerald O'Hara has FAITH. He believes that a war will never happen, then believes the South will win. Even when they have already lost he won't give up his faith. He goes into a fantasy world rather than admit his faith is in error. On the flip side, he constantly OPPOSES Scarlett's wishes. In the opening scene, Scarlett wants love but her father is pushing real estate. After the fall, he keeps jumping in with inane comments about the way Scarlett is handling the house. Consistently (albeit gently) he opposes her.
Prissy, on the other hand, has no faith at all. She is absolutely convinced that no matter what the situation, the worst will happen. She is a DISBELIEVER pure and true. And yet, she SUPPORTS Scarlett in every self-serving endeavor she instigates. As with other characters we have examined, Mr. O'Hara and Prissy have swapped characteristics, this time between the Skeptic and Sidekick. They are a complementary pair. This is a wonderful twist from a thematic standpoint, pairing and swapping characteristics between a rich white landholder and a poor black slave.
Lesson Forty Six:
If there is anything that can be seen as "typical" about a
Hitchcock film it would be his forefront use of thematics. Rear Window
is no exception. As with Gone With the Wind, the enjoyment of the
story comes largely from what happens between the lines. But unlike GWTW,
the characters in Rear Window are relatively complex.
At first glance, it may seem that there are quite a few characters, what with the neighbors and all. There's the Composer, trying to sell his first hit song. There's Miss Lonely Heart, who can't get a date. We see a lot of Miss Torso who exercises in front of her open window. Upstairs is the Couple With the Dog, downstairs, the Sunbather. And, of course, Thornton the murderer.
More prominent, of course, is Jeffries and the characters we see in his apartment: his girlfriend Lisa; Doyle, the detective; and his Nurse. (It is important to note that Thornton also shows up in Jeffries' apartment near the end of the story and is the only neighbor to do so.)
The purpose of characters is to show how aspects of the Story Mind deal with
a problem. And this is what determines that the neighbors are not Objective
Characters. Aside from Thornton, they all have their own little stories, but
only interact with each other peripherally, if at all. Their private stories
enhance the thematic atmosphere of the overall story but neither advance nor
clarify the plot.
If we eliminate all the neighbors who do not interact, we pare our list down to five actual characters: Jeffries, Lisa, Doyle, Nurse, and Thornton. If Rear Window is well written, we would expect all sixteen motivation Elements to be distributed among these five. Let's see if they are.
Who represents FAITH? Unquestionably Jeffries. He maintains his belief that a
murder has been committed in the face of objections by each of the other
characters. Lisa can't talk him out of it and neither can his Nurse. Thornton
denies it by his actions and Doyle is not convinced until after the proof is
irrefutable. In fact, Doyle personifies DISBELIEF, even while HELPING Jeffries
gain information to which he would not otherwise have access. Lisa comes around
to accepting the possibility and so does Nurse. Thornton already knows
the truth, but Doyle is never convinced until he sees the proof with his
In addition, Doyle relies on LOGIC to support his disbelief. He will not accept Jeffries' contentions without logical arguments. Then is Jeffries FEELING? No. Jeffries does not disregard Logic in his considerations; he merely can't supply it. Jeffries urges the others to CONSIDER what he knows and what he suspects. Lisa, on the other hand, continually acts on impulse without regard for logic, illustrating nicely the characteristic of FEELING.
If Jeffries is CONSIDERATION, we would expect his nemesis, Thornton, to cause RECONSIDERATION, and he does. Thornton's apparently guilt-free actions are a constant force that urges Jeffries (and the others) to RECONSIDER. All we ever see of him is that he acts methodically to carry out his plan, whatever that might be. It is his methodical approach that makes Thornton the CONTROL Character as well. He wastes no time or energy on anything but the task at hand, whereas Jeffries dabbles at whatever fills his view, even when it interferes with his goal of getting the goods on Thornton. Jeffries plainly illustrates the Element of being UNCONTROLLED.
Even though Lisa SUPPORTS Jeffries in his quest, she manages to HINDER his efforts through distraction and re-direction of their conversations. She clearly TEMPTS him to give up PURSUING this crazy scheme. In contrast, Jeffries' Nurse OPPOSES his efforts, even while providing a moralistic philosophy or CONSCIENCE to his every comment. And, of course, Thornton would prefer to AVOID the whole thing.
If we take a slightly different form, we can arrange the five Characters as
column headings and list their characteristics beneath them.
Assigning the Character names of Rear Window to the Motivation Characteristic Quads we get:
Using the grid above we can predict the principal conflicts of Rear
Window simply by noting which characters are in Dynamic (diagonal)
positions and the issues (Elements) over which each pair will diverge.
In summary, the set of sixteen Motivation Elements offers a valuable tool for understanding some of the essential building blocks of Objective Characters and how they can be distributed to create both Archetypal and Complex characters.
Lesson Forty Seven:
Lesson Forty Eight:
Lesson Forty Nine:
Lesson Fifty One:
Lesson Fifty Two:
In The Elements of Structure: Foundations we described four throughlines in a story - the Objective Story Throughline, Main Character Throughline, Obstacle Character Throughline, and Subjective Story Throughline. The Objective Story Throughline describes the relative value of the approaches of the Objective Characters. The Main Character Throughline describes the point of view and growth of the Main Character. The Obstacle Character Throughline describes the alternative point of view and growing impact of the Obstacle Character, and the Subjective Story Throughline describes the ongoing argument between the Main and Obstacle Characters as to whether the Main character should change or not.
A good way to think of these four throughlines is as four different points of view through which the audience relates to the Story Mind -- the same four points of view we all use in all of our relationships. The Main Character represents the "I" point of view. The Obstacle Character represents the "you" perspective. The Subjective Story Throughline covers the "we" perspective, and the Objective Story Throughline explores the "they" perspective. Taken together, the four points of view range from the most personal to the most impersonal, and provide all of the angles we use to examine the nature of our problems and the relative value of alternative solutions.
We have previously looked at the Elements of Character from a purely objective perspective. When we stand in the shoes of a character, however, we get an entirely different perspective. Rather than seeing how the events of a story relate to one another, we become more concerned with how events effect us personally. Providing this experience is the purpose of the Main Character.
Lesson Fifty Three:
There is only one Main Character in a story. Why is this? Because each complete story is a model of the Story Mind which reflects our own minds, and in our minds we can only be one person at a time. At any given moment, we have a position in our own thoughts. Our state of mind in regard to a particular problem reflects the biases of the position on which we stand. If a story is to fully involve an audience, it must reflect this point of view.
What Is the Story Mind?
Dramatica is built on the concept that the structure and dynamics of a story are not random, but represent an analogy to a single human mind dealing with a problem. We call this concept the Story Mind. A Story Mind is not a character, the author, or even the audience, but the story itself. It's as if the audience's experience of a complete story were like looking inside of someone's head. Every act and scene, the thematic progression and message, the climax, plus all the characters and all that they do represent the parts and functions (or thoughts if you will) of the Story Mind.
A complete story successfully argues all possible sides of its message, thus it will address all the possible human perspectives on that specific issue. That is how the structure and dynamics of a single story create a single Story Mind. This is also why characters are common elements in all stories, along with theme, plot, acts and scenes. Each of these represent the way in which essential human psychology is recreated in stories so that we can view our own thought processes more objectively from the outside looking in.
Now before we go on, it is important to note that there can be many Main Characters in a completed work, but there will be only one Main Character in a completed story. This is because a work is the finished product an author puts before an audience, and may contain a single story, several stories, or several partial and complete stories all woven together or at least nestled in the same fabric of storytelling. This means that a book or a movie, a stage play or teleplay, may have no Main Character at all, or it may have many. But for any single story in that work, there will be only one Main Character.
A Grand Argument Story does not allow the audience to stand in the shoes of every character, every Element, and see what the story looks like from there. Such a work would simply be too big to handle. Rather, the purpose of a Grand Argument Story is to determine if the Main Character is looking at the problem from the right place, or if he should change his bias and adopt another point of view instead.
Lesson Fifty Four:
There is also one other very special character who represents the argument
for an alternative point of view. The character who spends the entire story
making the case for change is called the Obstacle Character, for he acts as an
obstacle to the direction the Main Character would go if left to his own
As with each of us, the last thing we tend to question when examining a problem is ourselves. We look for all kinds of solutions both external and internal before we finally (if ever) get around to wondering if maybe we have to change the very nature of who we are and learn to see things differently. We can learn to like what we currently hate, but it takes a lot of convincing for us to make that leap.
When a Main Character makes the traditional leap of faith just before the climax, he has explored all possible means of resolving a problem short of changing who he is. The Obstacle Character has spent the entire story trying to sell the Main Character on the idea that change is good, and in fact, pointing out exactly how the Main Character ought to change. The clock is ticking, options are running out. If the Main Character doesn't choose on way or the other, then failure is certain. But which way to go? There's no clear cut answer from the Main Character's perspective.
The Main Character came into the story with a tried and true method for
dealing with the kind of problem featured in the story. That method has always
worked for the Main Character before: it has a long history. Suddenly, a
situation arises where that standard approach doesn't work, perhaps for
the first time ever. This marks the beginning of the story's argument. As the
story develops, the Main Character tries everything to find a way to make it
work anyway, holding out in the hope that the problem will eventually go away,
or work itself out, or be resolved by the tried and true method.
Along the way, the Obstacle Character comes into the picture. He tells the Main Character there is a better way, a more effective approach that not only solves the same problems the Main Character's tried and true method did, but solves this new one as well. It sounds a lot like pie in the sky, and the Main Character sees it that way. Why give up the old standby just because of a little flak?
As the story develops, the Obstacle Character makes his case. Slowly, an alternative paradigm is built up that becomes rather convincing. By the moment of truth, the long-term success of the old view is perfectly balanced by the larger, but as of yet untried, new view. There is no clear winner, and that is why it is a leap of faith for the Main Character to choose one over the other.
Lesson Fifty Five:
Main Character Resolve: Does the Main Character ultimately Change or
In completely empathizing with the Main Character of a story, we practically become this person. There are certain dynamics we expect to be able to determine about a Main Character as part of experiencing things from his point of view. One of these is called Main Character Resolve.
Main Character Resolve answers the question "Does the Main Character ultimately Change or Remain Steadfast?" At the beginning of the story the Main Character is driven by a particular motivation. When the story ends, he will either still be driven by the same motivation (Steadfast) or have a new motivation (Change).
Main Character Resolve really describes the relationship between the Main Character and the Obstacle Character. The impact of the Obstacle Character is what forces the Main Character to even consider changing. If the Main Character ultimately does change, it is the result of the Obstacle Character's effect on the Main Character's perspective. If, on the other hand, the Main Character remains steadfast, then his impact on the Obstacle Character will force the Obstacle Character to change.
Star Wars: Main Character: Luke Skywalker (Change)
Obstacle Character: Obi Wan Kenobi (Steadfast)
The Story of Job: Main Character: Job (Steadfast)
Obstacle Character: The Devil (Change)
To Kill A Mockingbird: Main Character: Scout (Change)
Obstacle Character: Boo Radley (Steadfast)
The Fugitive: Main Character: Dr. Richard Kimble (Steadfast)
Obstacle Character: Agent Sam Gerard (Change)
It should be noted that the Obstacle Character need not even know he is having that kind of effect on the Main Character. He may know, but he may easily not even be aware. Main Characters are defined by the point of view, Obstacle Characters by the impact on that point of view.
Lesson Fifty Six:
As a final thought in this brief introduction to Subjective Characters, the
"leap of faith" story is not the only kind that occurs. Equally
reflective of our own mind's processes is the slow change story where the
Main Character gradually shifts his perspective until, by the end of the story,
he is seen to have already adopted the alternative paradigm with little or no
Usually, in such stories, a particular dramatic scenario occurs near the beginning of the story and is then repeated (in some similar manner) near the end. The Main Character reacted one way in the first scenario and then the audience gets a chance to see if he responds the same way again or not. In the Slow Change story, the Main Character may never even realize he has changed, but we, the audience, are able to evaluate the worth of the journey the Main Character has been through by seeing whether the Main Character has been changed and whether that is for better or worse.
In our current Western culture, especially in Hollywood-style motion pictures, the leap of faith story is favored. In other media and cultures, however, the Slow Change story predominates. In theory, each reflects the way our minds shift belief systems: sometimes in a binary sense as a single decisive alternation, and other times in an analog sense as a progressive realignment.
Lesson Fifty Seven:
One of the most common mistakes made by authors of every level of experience is to create a problem for their Main Character that has nothing to do with the story at large. The reasoning behind this is not to separate the two, but usually occurs because an author works out a story and then realizes that he has not made it personal enough. Because the whole work is already completed, it is nearly impossible to tie the Main Character's personal problem into the larger story without a truly major rewrite. So, the next best thing is to improve the work by tacking on a personal issue for the Main Character in addition to the story's problem.
Of course, this leads to a finished piece in which either the story's issues or the Main Character's issues could be removed and still leave a cogent tale behind. In other words, to an audience it feels like one of the issues is out of place and shouldn't be in the work.
Now, if one of the two different problems were removed, it wouldn't leave a complete story, yet the remaining part would still feel like a complete tale. Dramatica differentiates between a "tale" and a "story". If a story is an argument, a tale is a statement. Whereas a story explores an issue from all sides to determine what is better or worse overall, a tale explores an issue down a single path and shows how it turns out. Most fairy tales are just that, tales.
There is nothing wrong with a tale. You can write a tale about a group of people facing a problem without having a Main Character. Or, you could write a personal tale about a Main Character without needing to explore a larger story. If you simply put an Objective Story-tale and a Main Character tale into the same work, one will often seem incidental to the real thrust of the work. But, if the Main Character tale and the Objective Story-tale both hinge on the same issue, then suddenly they are tied together intimately, and what happens in one influences what happens in the other.
This, by definition, forms a Grand Argument Story, and opens the door to all kinds of dramatic power and variety not present in a tale. For example, although the story at large may end in success, the Main Character might be left miserable. Conversely, even though the big picture ended in failure, the Main Character might find personal satisfaction and solace. We'll discuss these options at great length in The Art Of Storytelling section. For now, let us use this as a foundation to examine the relationship between the Subjective Characters and the Objective Story.
Lesson Fifty Eight:
The point at which the Objective Story and the Main Character hinge is appropriately called the Crucial Element. In fact, the Crucial Element is one of the sixty-four Objective Character Elements we have already explored. When we look at the Objective Character Elements as the soldiers on the field (from our earlier example), there is one special Element from which the audience experiences an internal perspective on the story. This is the Main Character position in the Objective Story, and the Element at that point is the Crucial Element. As a result, whichever Objective Character represents the Crucial Element should be placed in the same player as the Main Character. In that way, what happens during the Main Character's growth will have an impact on his Objective function. Similarly, pressures on his Objective function caused by the story's situations will influence his decision to change or remain steadfast.
We can see that a Protagonist will only be a Main Character if the Crucial Element is one of the Elements that make up a Protagonist. In other words, a Protagonist has eight different Elements, two from each dimension of character. If one of them is the Crucial Element, then the player containing the Protagonist must also contain the Main Character. This means that there are really eight different kinds of heroes that can be created. An action hero might have a Crucial Element of Pursue, while a thinking hero might have a Crucial Element of Consider. Clearly, the opportunities to create meaningful Main Characters who are NOT Protagonists are also extensive.
The Obstacle Character has a special place in the Objective Character Elements as well. We have already discussed Dynamic Pairs. As it turns out, the point at which an Obstacle Character will have the greatest dramatic leverage to try and change the Main Character is the other Element in the Dynamic Pair with the Crucial Element. In simpler terms, the Main and Obstacle Characters are opposites on this crucial issue. Often one will contain the story's problem, the other the story's solution.
In the Objective Character Element set, if the Main Character (and Crucial Element) stands on Pursue, the Obstacle Character will occupy Avoid. If the Main Character is Logic, the Obstacle Character will be Feeling. In this manner, the essential differences between two opposite points of view will be explored both in an objective sense, looking from the outside in, and also in a subjective sense, from the inside looking out. All four throughlines come into play (Objective Story, Main Character, Obstacle Character, and Subjective Story), and by the end of the story, the audience will feel that the central issue of concern to the Story Mind has been fully examined from all pertinent angles.
To summarize, a complete story requires that both the Objective and Subjective views are provided to an audience, and that they are hinged together around the same central issue. This is accomplished by assigning the Main and Obstacle Characters to the Objective Characters who contain either the story's problem or solution Elements. The Element held by the Main Character becomes the Crucial Element, as both the Objective and Subjective Stories revolve around it.
The Crucial Element: Where Subjective meets Objective
The Crucial Element will be an item which is at the heart of a story from both the Objective and Subjective points of view. How this happens depends greatly on the Main Character. The Crucial Element is the connection between the Main Character and the Objective story and makes the Main Character special enough to be "Main." This issue at the heart of the Main Character is thematically the same issue which is at the heart of the Objective Story.
To Kill A Mockingbird Crucial Element is INEQUITY
Inequity is the problem which is causing all of the conflict around the town of Maycomb. The trial of Tom Robinson brings all of the towns' people into squabbles about inequity in the treatment of different races, inequity among the social classes of people, their levels of income, and their educations.
Scout, as the Main Character, is driven by her personal problem of inequity. This is symbolized most clearly in her fear of Boo Radley. Kept at the margins of the Objective Story dealings with the problem of inequity, Scout however comes to see her prejudice against Boo Radley as being every bit as wrong.
Lesson Fifty Nine:
The following section delves deeply into the inner workings of a Main Character and how that character grows over the course of a story. The material covered will address the following questions: How does a Main Character come to have a particular problem? How does that problem come to relate to the Objective Story as well? If the Main Character has a problem, why doesn't he just solve it? How can an Obstacle Character bring a Main Character to the point of change?
This discussion can get pretty theoretical at times, and is presented more for those who are interested in details, rather than as essential reading. If you have an interest in theory, read on! If not, you may wish to skip to the next chapter on Theme, or jump ahead to The Art Of Storytelling for a more practical approach.
At the moment we act in response to a problem, each of us sees our approach as justifiable. If we later regret our actions or are called to task, we all have reasons why we should not be blamed or at least not held accountable. We call these reasons "Justifications." To us, these justifications legitimize our actions. To others who find our actions unwarranted, our reasons seem more like excuses, and our actions unjustified.
Sometimes, we ourselves may be unsure if we are justified in our actions or not because there is a conflict between what our reason and our feelings are telling us. When we see no clear-cut response, we go with the side of ourselves that makes the stronger case.
To convince ourselves (and others) that our actions are justified, we say things like, "This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you," "It's for your own good," I had to teach him a lesson," "She had it coming," I had no other choice," "I couldn't help myself," "There was nothing I could do," "It was the right thing to do," "The end justifies the means," etc. Each of these statements tries to imply that even though feeling says this is wrong, reason makes a stronger case that it is right (or vice versa).
Whenever the "proper" response is unclear, the legitimacy of our actions is open to interpretation. If there were a way to stand outside of it all and take a truly objective view, we could see absolutely which actions were justifiable and which were not. Unfortunately, we are not afforded this objective view in real life. So, we create stories to try and approximate the objective truth.
An author builds an argument that the Main Character was either justified or not in his actions, then "proves" the point by concluding the story with an outcome of success or failure and a judgment of good or bad. In this way, the author hopes to convince an audience that actions taken in a particular context are appropriate or inappropriate. The audience members hope to become convinced that when the proper course of action is unclear, they can rely on a more "objective" truth to guide them.
In real life, only time will tell if our actions will ultimately achieve what we want and if that will bring us more happiness than hurt. In stories, it is the author who determines what is justified and what is not. Within the confines of the story, the author's view IS objective truth.
The author's ability to decide the validity of actions "objectively" changes the meaning of justification from how we have been using it. In life, when actions are seen as justified, it means that everyone agrees with the reasons behind the actions. In stories, reasons don't count. Even if all the characters agree with the reasons, the author might show that all the characters were wrong. Reasons just explain why characters act as they do. Consensus regarding the reasons does not determine correctness.
All characters are driven by their justifications, but only some of the actions they take will end up solving a problem. From the author's "objective" view, approaches that lead to solutions are "problem solving". Approaches that do not are simply justifications.
The process of "problem solving" describes the paths an author promotes as being the most appropriate approaches to the story's problem. The process of justification describes all paths that are not as appropriate.
In a binary sense, the best path of all will be represented by either the Main or Obstacle character. The remaining character of the two will represent the worst path. Of Main and Obstacle, one will be problem solving, the other justifying. All the remaining characters represent alternative approaches between the two extremes.
From an author's perspective, though it is important to know how things will turn out, it is equally important to know how things got started. How is it that people can become so misguided? How is it that characters can become so justified?
It is the nature of people and characters as well, to try and find a source of joy and a resolution to that which hurts them. This hurt might be physical suffering or mental torment. The resolution may be to rearrange one's environment or to come to terms with the environment as it is. Regardless of the source of the inequity or the means employed to resolve it, all thinking creatures try to maximize their pleasure and minimize their pain. That is the primal force which drives us in our lives, and the dramatic force that drives a story.
If our environments would instantly respond to our desires and if our feelings would immediately adjust to new attitudes, all inequities between ourselves and our environments would be equalized at once. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Rather, to solve external problems we must apply effort to rearrange the material that surrounds us, and to solve internal problems we must adopt a series of paradigm shifts to arrive at a perspective that minimizes our anguish.
Because it takes time to resolve inequities, problem solving can be defined as a process we engage in over time. Step by step we chip away at pieces of a problem until we arrive at a solution. We meet pre-requisites that give us the resources to fulfill the requirements that must be accomplished to clear the way to our goal. Or, we change the nature of the forces at work that determine the processes that sustain the inequity, so that it dissolves when its foundation is eroded.
Problem solving requires identifying the source of the inequity and/or the kind of effort that will bring an end to it. Each of these requirements depends upon an accurate assessment of the mechanism that generates the inequity, and therein lies the opportunity for error.
Stories are about one character who is truly problem solving and a second character who believes they are problem solving but are in error. One will be the Main Character and the other the Obstacle Character. In terms of the Story Mind, these two characters represent our own inability to know in advance if the method we have chosen to apply to a problem will lead to success or failure. When our approach leads to failure Dramatica does not refer to the process as problem solving, but calls that process Justification
Lesson Sixty One:
It is important to note that no one justifies because they are stupid or
mean. They are simply adopting the best approach they can conceive, based on
their life experience. Neither justification nor problem solving are
intrinsically good or bad. In fact, they are really the same process, the only
difference being how things ultimately turn out. With the value of hindsight we
can judge if the decisions made and actions taken were appropriate, but we
cannot judge this as the effort is happening since none of us can see the
future. So, no character or person can be certain whether their approach to an
inequity will resolve it, not effect it, exacerbate it, or create another
inequity somewhere else that might be even more disturbing. All any of us can do
- all any of us EVER do is to make the decisions and take the actions our
experience dictates as the best options toward resolving our inequities.
From this perspective, no character is bad, merely misguided. However, that is not the only perspective. If we step into the story and see a misguided character doing hurtful things to others and even to ourselves, from OUR life experience we determine that character must be stopped. Perhaps we argue with them, try to educate them, fight with or kill them or just write them off, severing our emotional ties and letting them spiral down into self destruction because it is the only way to avoid being dragged down with them.
Or, we might argue with them and find ourselves convinced of their point of view, try to educate them but learn something instead, fight with them and lose or be killed, or be written off BY them or hold on to them and be dragged down as well, or drag them down with us.
The point is, both Main and Obstacle characters will feel they are right, believe in what they do, try to convince or thwart their counterpart and ultimately prove to be correct or misguided.
As we are driven by life experiences and since the experiences of each of us are unique, it is no wonder we come into conflict and confrontation over most everything we can think of. Stories are about the incompatibility of two life experiences as they relate to the best way to resolve an inequity.
If a character stands by his life experience, then it stands to reason his approach served him well in other scenarios. Similarly, his counterpart has had different life experiences that served him equally well. In the context of the current inequity in question, each life experience generates an approach incompatible with the other. In one context, each set of experiences was problem solving. In the current context, one will be seen to be problem solving, the other justification.
This is the purpose and function of story: to show that when something has previously served you well one hundred percent of the time, it may not continue to hold true, or conversely, that it will always hold true. Either message is equally valid and depends wholly upon the author's personal bias on the issue, which arbitrarily determines the slant of the message. Obviously, the outcome is not arbitrary to the author, but it is completely arbitrary to the story.
Whether the Main Character is change or steadfast, the outcome success or failure, and the judgment good or bad, determines the audience's position in relationship to the correct and incorrect approaches to the problem, and therefore the impact of the message upon them.
So far we have only identified the difference between problem solving and justification in terms of the results they create. From this point of view, no character can tell for sure if he is on the right or the wrong track until he sees the results. This is fine for the characters, but an author will want to fashion a story so that judgment is passed on each action and decision as it is taken. This is what constitutes the theme of the story and builds the emotional side of the story's argument event by event until (hopefully) the audience is buried under overwhelming evidence to support the author's message and contentions.
Note the difference between the result-oriented rational argument and the more holistic passionate argument. In a story, when all is said and done, the author hopes to convince the audience of his point of view both in terms of its reasonable nature and that it simply feels good as well. In this manner, the audience members adopt the author's bias on the issue and are moved to alter their behavior accordingly in their everyday life. In a broader sense, participating in the story has added to the life experience of the audience and will affect their future choices for problem solving.
To carry an emotional appeal to an audience, a story must not only show the results of a method of problem solving, but must document the appropriateness of each step as well. To do this as an author requires an understanding of the process of problem solving and its justification counterpart. Let us examine both.
Lesson Sixty Two:
Imagine a waitress coming through the one-way door from the kitchen into the restaurant. Her nose begins to itch. She cannot scratch her nose because her hands are full of plates. She looks for a place to lay down the plates, but all the counter space is cluttered. She tries to call to a waiter, but he cannot hear her across the noisy room. She hollers to a bus boy who gets the waiter who takes her plates so she can scratch her nose. Problem solved! Or was it justification?
What if she could have solved the problem just by shrugging her shoulder and rubbing her nose? Then there were two possible solutions, but one was much more direct. Rationally, either one would serve as well in that particular context, yet one was much more efficient and therefore more emotionally satisfying because it required less unpleasant work than the other method.
If the waitress could not use her hand to scratch her nose, then using her shoulder was another potential solution to the same problem. However, trying to find a place to put down the plates is a generation removed from solving the original problem. Instead of trying to find another way to scratch her nose, she was using her problem solving efforts to try and solve a problem with the first solution. In other words, there was an obstacle to using her hand to scratch her nose, and rather than evaluating other means of scratching she was looking for a place to get rid of her plates. When there was a problem with that, she compounded the inefficiency by trying to solve the plate problem with the solution devised to solve the problem with the first solution to the problem: she tried to flag down the waiter. In fact, by the time she actually got her nose scratched, she had to take a round-about path that took up all kinds of time and was several generations removed from the original problem. She made one big circle to get to where she could have gone directly.
But, what if there was a limit: her itching nose was about to make her sneeze and drop everything. Then, going on that long circular path might mean she would sneeze and fail, whereas the only appropriate path would be to use her shoulder to scratch before she sneezes. But what if her stiff uniform prevents her shoulder from reaching her nose? AND what if the extra time it took to try the shoulder actually delayed trying the round-about method just long enough to make her sneeze before the waiter arrived? If she had only taken the great circle route in the first place, she would have had just enough time to solve the problem.
Clearly, problem solving turns into justification and vice-versa, depending on the context. So how is it that achieving results in the rational sense is not the only determining factor as to which is which? Simply because sometimes the costs that must be paid in suffering in a long, indirect path to a goal far outweigh the benefits of achieving the goal itself. When we try to overcome obstacles that stand between us and a goal (pre-requisites and requirements) we pay a price in effort, resources, physical and emotional hardship. We suffer unpleasant conditions now in the hope of a reward later. This is fine as long as the rewards justify the expenses. But if they do not, and yet we continue to persevere, we cannot possibly recoup enough to make up for our losses, much as a gambler goes into the hole after losing her intended stake.
Why is it that we (as characters) throw good money after bad? This occurs because we are no longer evaluating what we originally hoped to achieve but are trying to solve the problems that have occurred with the solutions we have employed. In the case of our waitress, she wasn't thinking about her nose when she was calling to the waiter or yelling to the bus boy. She was thinking about the problem of getting their attention. Because she lost sight of her original objective, she could no longer tally up the accruing costs and compare them to the benefits of resolving the inequity. Rather, she compared each cost individually to the goal at hand: putting down the plates, calling to the waiter, yelling at the bus boy. And in each case, the individual costs were less than the benefits of resolving the individual sub-goals. However, if taken as a whole, the sum of the costs may far outweigh the benefits of resolving the original problem. And since the pre-requisites and requirements have no meaning except as a means to resolving that original problem, any benefits she felt by achieving those sub-goals should have had no bearing on determining if the effort was worth the benefits. But, as she had lost sight of the original problem, that measurement could not be made. In fact, it would never occur to her, until it was too late to recoup the costs even if the problem came to be resolved.
Does this mean the only danger lies in the round-about path? Not at all. If it were to turn out that there were NO direct paths that could work, ONLY an indirect one could resolve the problem at all. And if the existence of the problem is such that its inequity is not just a one time thing but continues to cause friction that rubs one physically or mentally raw, then the inequity itself grows the longer the problem remains, which justifies ANY indirect method to resolving the issue as long as the rate at which the costs accrue is less than the rate at which the inequity worsens.
But let's complicate this even more... Suppose the inequity doesn't worsen at first, but only gets worse after a while. Then what may have been the most appropriate response for problem solving at one stage in the game becomes inappropriate at a later stage. In such a complex web of changing conditions and shifting context, how is an individual to know what choices are best? We can't. That is the point: we can never know which path is best because we cannot predict the future. We can only choose what our life experience has shown to be most often effective in similar situations and hope for the best. It does not matter how often we re-evaluate. The situation can change in unpredictable ways at any time, throwing all of our plans and efforts into new contexts that change their evaluation from positive to negative or the vice versa.
Stories serve as collective truisms, much like the way insurance works. Through them we strive to contain the collective knowledge of human experience so although we cannot predict what will happen to any specific individual (even ourselves) we can tell what is most likely the best approach to inequity, based on the mean average of all individual experience.
Strategy vs. Analysis
Although we have covered a lot of ground, we have only covered one of two kinds of problem solving/justification: the effort to resolve an inequity. In contrast, the second kind of problem solving/justification refers to efforts made to understand inequities so that we might come to terms with them. In a sense, our initial exploration has dealt with strategies of problem solving whereas this other area of exploration deals with defining the problem itself.
Lesson Sixty Three:
We cannot move to resolve a problem until we recognize the problem. Even if we feel the inequity, until we can pinpoint it or understand what creates it, we can neither arrive at an appropriate response or act to nip it at its source.
If we had to evaluate each inequity that we encounter with an absolutely open mind, we could not learn from experience. Even if we had seen the same thing one hundred times before, we would not look to our memories to see what had turned out to be the source or what appropriate measures had been employed. We would be forced to consider every little friction that rubbed us the wrong way as if we have never encountered it. Certainly, this is another form of inefficiency, as "those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
In such a scenario, we would not learn from our mistakes, much less our successes. But is that inefficiency? What if we encounter an exception to the rules we have come to live by? If we rely completely on our life experience, when we encounter a new context in life, our whole paradigm may be inappropriate.
We all know the truisms, "where there's smoke, there's fire," "guilt by association," "one bad apple spoils the bunch," "the only good (fill in the blank) is a dead (fill in the blank)." In each of these cases we assume a different kind of causal relationship than is generally scrutinized in our culture. Each of these phrases asserts that when you see one thing, another thing will either be there also, or will certainly follow. Why do we make these assumptions? Because, in context, they are often true. But as soon as we apply them out of context they are just as likely false.
When we see something occur enough times without exception, our mind accepts it as an absolute. After all, we have never seen it fail! This is like saying that every time you put a piece of paper on hot metal it will burn. Fine, but not in a vacuum! You need oxygen as well to create the reaction you anticipate.
In fact, every time we believe THIS leads to THAT or whenever we see THIS, THAT will also be present, we are making assumptions with a flagrant disregard for context. And that is where characters get into trouble. A character makes associations in their backstory. Because of the context in which they gather their experiences, these associations always hold true. But then the situation (context) changes, or they move into new areas in their lives. Suddenly some of these assumptions are absolutely untrue!
Why doesn't a character (or person) simply give up the old view for the new? There are two reasons why one will hold on to an outmoded, inappropriate understanding of the relationships between things. We'll outline them one at a time.
First, there is the notion of how many times a character has seen things go one way, compared to the number of times they've gone another. If a character builds up years of experience with something being true and then encounters one time it is not true, they will tend to treat that single false time as an exception to the rule. It would take as many false responses as there had been true ones to counter the balance.
Of course, one is more sensitive to the most recent patterns, so an equal number of false items (or alternative truths) is not really required when one is aware he has entered a new situation. However, situations often change slowly and even in ways we are not aware. So context is in a constant state of flux. If something has always proven true in all contexts up to this point then one is not conscious of entering a whole new context. Rather, as we move in and out of contexts, a truism that was ALWAYS true may now be true sometimes and not true at other times. It may have an increasing or decreasing frequency of proving true or may tend toward being false for a while, only to tend toward being true again later. This kind of dynamic context requires that something be seen as false as often as it has been seen as true in order to arrive even at a neutral point where one perspective is not held more strongly than the other.
Lesson Sixty Four:
The second reason characters hold onto outmoded views is that they have built other views upon the outmoded ones. In fact, this is how we learn. We see something as an unerring truth, stop considering it every time we see it and accept it as a given. Then, we assemble our givens, look for patterns and accept the relationships between givens as being givens in their own right. Layer upon layer we weave an intricate web of interconnections, some based on the order in which things are expected to occur, some based on items or activities we associate as always occurring together.
When we encounter something at the top level of the most recently determined givens, it can be a relatively small feat to rethink our conclusions. If one of our base assumptions was wrong, however, there may be no way to reconcile the occurrence with our understanding without completely dismantling the foundations of our whole belief system. Not an easy task! It is much easier to discount the variance as an exception. Even more important, because we have not added the unusual incident to our knowledge base, but simply let it bounce off, the next occurrence of the same "new" truth will meet with the same strength of resistance as the first. We can hold onto our old paradigm unless so many different new truths hit us all at once that it becomes easier to create a new paradigm than to try and dismiss them all.
This is the nature of the Main Character's struggle in a story. He has either built up an understanding of how to try and solve problems that no longer fits, or he has built up an understanding of what causes problems that is no longer correct. The backstory builds upon one of these scenarios. A context is established that creates one kind of problem solving regarding a specific problem. The story begins when the context changes and the problem solving technique is no longer appropriate. The question then becomes whether the Main Character should Change to conform to the new situation or remain Steadfast until things get back to "normal."
The story unfolds as the Main and Obstacle Characters argue over direct vs. indirect, repetition vs. framework, strategy vs. analysis, and problem solving vs. justification. As the story progresses, it is the Obstacle Character's function to force the Main Character through all four of these conflicts, each representing a different "level" of justification (problem solving) until they both stand at the neutral point where one means of problem solving/evaluation is as good as the next. This is the moment of the Leap of Faith, where life experience has been completely counterbalanced by what has been recently learned. This is the moment the Main Character must step into the void with absolutely no personal experiences to guide him, and choose to continue with the path he has always taken or adopt a new one.
The story then resolves in Success/Good, Success/Bad, Failure/Good, Failure/Bad. These four resolutions are the "Author's Proof," wherein he states his personal bias as to what the most appropriate and inappropriate choices were.
From this perspective, we can see how the sequence in which dramatic events occur has tremendous impact not on the structure of a story, but on the meaning derived from that structure. The "feel" of the passionate argument will be determined by the order in which the Main Character passes through the levels of justification to face the real source of the story's inequity.
This sequence affects not only character, but plot and theme as well, and is therefore a complex series of cycles within cycles that is unpredictable during the viewing of a work, but falls into understanding at the conclusion or denouement. Because it is so complex, this is the part of Dramatica best left to computer calculation or to the intuition of the author himself
Lesson Sixty Five:
There are eight questions about a story that are so crucial and powerful that
we refer to them as the essential questions. Determining the answers to these
can instantly clarify an embryonic story idea into a full fledged story concept.
Four of the questions refer to the Main Character and four refer to the overall
Plot. Taken together, they crystallize how a story feels when it is over, and
how it feels getting there.
Both structure and dynamics can be seen at work in characters. Structural
relationships are seen most easily in the Objective Characters who serve to
illustrate fixed dramatic relationships that define the potentials at work in a
story from an objective point of view. Dynamic relationships are seen more
easily in the Subjective Characters who serve to illustrate growth in themselves
and their relationships over the course of a story.
The Subjective Characters are best described by the forces that drive them, rather than by the characteristics they contain. These forces are most clearly seen (and therefore best determined) in reference to the Main Character. There are four Dynamics that determine the nature of the Main Character's problem-solving efforts. The four Character Dynamics specify the shape of the Main Character's growth. Let's explore each of the four essential character dynamics and their impact on the story as a whole.
Character Dynamic Examples
Main Character Resolve:
Change Characters: Hamlet in Hamlet; Frank Galvin in The Verdict; Wilber in Charlotte's Web; Rick in Casablanca; Michael Corleone in The Godfather; Scrooge in A Christmas Carol; Nora in A Doll's House
Steadfast Characters: Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie; Jake Gittes in Chinatown; Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs; Chance Gardener in Being There; Job in the Bible
Main Character Direction:
Start Characters: Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie; Rick in Casablanca; Scrooge in A Christmas Carol; Nora in A Doll's House
Stop Characters; Hamlet in Hamlet; Frank Galvin in The Verdict; Wilber in Charlotte's Web; Jake Gittes in Chinatown; Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs; Chance Gardener in Being There; Job in the Bible; Michael Corleone in The Godfather;
Main Character Approach:
Do-er Characters: Frank Galvin in The Verdict; Wilber in Charlotte's Web; Jake Gittes in Chinatown; Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs; Michael Corleone in The Godfather;
Be-er Characters: Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie; Rick in Casablanca; Scrooge in A Christmas Carol; Hamlet in Hamlet; Chance Gardener in Being There; Job in the Bible; Nora in A Doll's House;
Main Character Mental Sex:
Female Mental Sex Characters: Laura Wingfield in The Glass Menagerie; Nora in A Doll's House;
Male Mental Sex Characters: Frank Galvin in The Verdict; Wilber in Charlotte's Web; Jake Gittes in Chinatown; Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs; Michael Corleone in The Godfather; Rick in Casablanca; Scrooge in A Christmas Carol; Hamlet in Hamlet; Chance Gardener in Being There; Job in the Bible
Lesson Sixty Six:
The first Essential Character Dynamic determines if the Main Character will
be a changed person at the end of a story. From an author's perspective,
selecting Change or Steadfast sets up the kind of argument that will be made
about the effort to solve the story's problem.
There are two principal approaches through which an author can illustrate the best way to solve the Problem explored in a story: One is to show the proper way of going about solving the Problem, the other is to show the wrong way to solve the Problem.
Of course, Success is not the only Outcome that can befall a Main Character.
Another way to illustrate that an approach for dealing with a Problem is proper
would be to have the Main Character Change his way of going about it and fail.
Similarly, the improper way can be illustrated by a Main Character that remains
Steadfast and fails.
So, choosing Change or Steadfast really has nothing directly to do with being correct or incorrect; it just describes whether the Main Character's ultimate Resolve is to stay the course or try a different tack.
Just because a Main Character should remain Steadfast does not mean he doesn't consider changing. In fact, that is a temptation with which he is constantly faced: to give up or alter his approach in the face of ever-increasing opposition.
Even if, in spite of difficulties and suffering, the Main Character remains steadfast, the audience may still not want him to ultimately succeed. This is because simply being steadfast does not mean one is correct.
If the audience is shown that a character is misguided yet remains steadfast, the audience will hope for his ultimate failure.
Similarly, a Change Main Character does not mean he is changing all the time. In fact, in most cases, the Change Main Character will resist change, all the way to the moment of truth where he must choose once and for all to continue down his original path, or to jump to the new path by accepting change in himself or his outlook.
Regardless of the benefits to be had by remaining steadfast, the audience will want the Change Main Character ultimately to succeed if he is on the wrong path and changes. However, if he does not change, the audience will want him to lose all the benefits he thought he had gained.
Your selection of Change or Steadfast has wide-ranging effects on the dynamics of your story. Such things as the relationship between the Objective and Subjective Story Throughlines and the order of exploration of your thematic points is adjusted in the Dramatica model to create and support the ultimate decision of your Main Character to either change or remain steadfast.
Lesson Sixty Seven:
The second essential question determine the direction of the Main Character's
Whether or not a Main Character eventually Changes his nature or remains Steadfast, he will still grow over the course of the story, as he develops new skills and understanding. This growth has a direction.
Either he will grow into something (Start) or grow out of something (Stop).
A Change Main Character grows either by adding a characteristic he lacks (Start) or by dropping a characteristic he already has (Stop). Either way, his make up is changed in nature. As an example we can look to Ebeneezer Scrooge in Dickens' A Christmas Carol.
Does Scrooge need to Change because he is miserly or because he lacks generosity? Scrooge's Problems do not stem from his active greed, but from his passive lack of compassion. It is not that he is on the attack, but that he does not actively seek to help others. This reflects a need to Start, rather than Stop. This difference is important in order to place the focus of conflict so that it supports the overall argument of the story.
In contrast, Steadfast Main Characters will not add nor delete a characteristic, but will grow either by holding on against something bad, waiting for it to Stop, or by holding out until something good can Start.
For a Steadfast Character, growth is not a matter of Change, but a matter of degree. Change is still of concern to him but in his environment, not in himself. Conversely, a Change Character actually alters his being, under the influence of situational considerations. This helps clarify why it is often falsely thought that a Main Character MUST Change, and also why Steadfast characters are thought not to grow.
To properly develop growth in a Main Character one must determine whether he is Change or Steadfast and also at the direction of the growth.
A good way to get a feel for this dynamic in Change Characters is to picture the Stop character as having a chip on his shoulder and the Start character as having a hole in his heart. If the actions or decisions taken by the character are what make the problem worse, then he needs to Stop. If the problem worsens because the character fails to take certain obvious actions or decisions, then he needs to Start.
Of course, to the character, neither of these perspectives on the problem is obvious, as he must grow and learn to see it. The audience can empathize with the character's failure to see himself as the source of the problem even while recognizing that he should or should not change because the audience is shown another view the character does not get: the objective view. It is here that Start and Stop register with the audience as being obvious.
Essentially, if you want to tell a story about someone who learns he has actually been making the problem worse, choose Stop. If you want to tell a story about someone who has allowed a problem to become worse, choose Start.
A Steadfast Main Character's Resolve needs to grow regardless of Start or Stop. If he is a Start Character, he will be tempted by indications that the desired outcome is not going to happen or is unattainable. If he is a Stop Character, he will find himself pressured to give in.
Remember that Direction of growth in a Steadfast Character is largely seen in his environment. His personal growth is seen as a matter of degree
Lesson Sixty Eight:
The third essential question determines the Main Character's preferential
approach to problem-solving.
By temperament, Main Characters (like each of us) have a preferential method of approaching Problems. Some would rather adapt their environment to themselves through action, others would rather adapt their environment to themselves through strength of character, charisma, and influence.
There is nothing intrinsically right or wrong with either Approach, yet it does affect how one will respond to Problems.
Choosing "Do-er" or "Be-er" does not prevent a Main Character from using either Approach, but merely defines the way they are likely to first Approach a Problem. The Main Character will only use the other method if their preferred method fails. Having a preference does not mean being less able in the other area.
Do-er and Be-er should not be confused with active and passive. If a Do-er is seen as active physically, a Be-er should be seen as active mentally. While the Do-er jumps in and tackles the problem by physical maneuverings, the Be-er jumps in and tackles the problem with mental deliberations.
The point is not which one is more motivated to hold his ground but how he tries to hold it.
A Do-er would build a business by the sweat of his brow.
A Be-er would build a business by attention to the needs of his clients.
Obviously both Approaches are important, but Main Characters, just like the real people they represent, will have a preference.
A martial artist might choose to avoid conflict first as a Be-er character, yet be quite capable of beating the tar out of an opponent if avoiding conflict proved impossible.
Similarly, a school teacher might stress exercises and homework as a Do-er character, yet open his heart to a student who needs moral support.
When creating your Main Character, you may want someone who acts first and asks questions later, or you may prefer someone who avoids conflict if possible, then lays waste the opponent if they won't compromise.
A Do-er deals in competition, a Be-er in collaboration.
The Main Character's effect on the story is both one of rearranging the dramatic potentials of the story, and also one of reordering the sequence of dramatic events.
Lesson Sixty Nine:
The fourth Essential Character Question determines a Main Character's
problem-solving techniques to be linear or holistic.
Much of what we do as individuals is learned behavior. Yet, the basic operating system of the mind is cast biologically before birth as being more sensitive to space or time. We all have a sense of how things are arranged (space) and how things are going (time), but which one filters our thinking determines our Mental Sex as being Male or Female, respectively.
Male Mental Sex describes spatial thinkers who tend to use linear Problem solving as their method of choice. They set a specific Goal, determine the steps necessary to achieve that Goal, then embark on the effort to accomplish those steps.
Female Mental Sex describes temporal thinkers who tend to use holistic Problem solving as their method of choice. They get a sense of the way they want things to be, determine how things need to be balanced to bring about those changes, then make adjustments to create that balance.
While life experience, conditioning, and personal choice can go a long way toward counter-balancing those sensitivities, underneath all our experience and training the tendency to see things primarily in terms of space or time still remains. In dealing with the psychology of Main Characters, it is essential to understand the foundation upon which their experience rests.
How can we illustrate the Mental Sex of our Main Character? The following point by point comparison provides some clues:
In stories, more often than not, physical gender matches Mental Sex. From
time to time, however, gender and Mental Sex are cross-matched to create unusual
and interesting characters. For example, Ripley in Alien and Clarice
Starling in The Silence of the Lambs are Male Mental Sex
characters. Tom Wingo in The Prince of Tides and Jack Ryan in The Hunt
for Red October are Female Mental Sex. In most episodes of The X
Files, Scully (the female F.B.I. agent) is Male Mental Sex and Mulder
(the male F.B.I. agent) is Female Mental Sex, which is part of the
series' unusual feel. Note that Mental Sex has nothing to do with a character's
sexual preferences or tendency toward being masculine or feminine in
mannerism--it simply deals with the character's problem-solving techniques.
Sometimes stereotypes are propagated by what an audience expects to see, which filters the message and dilutes the truth. By placing a female psyche in a physically male character or a male psyche in a physically female character, preconceptions no longer prevent the message from being heard. On the downside, some audience members may have trouble relating to a Main Character whose problem-solving techniques do not match the physical expectations.
We have presented four simple questions, yet each carries such weight in
regard to the way an audience will be struck by a story that knowing the answers
provides a strong sense of guidelines for an author in the construction of his
message. The one seeming drawback is that each of the questions appears binary
in nature, which can easily lead to concerns that this kind of approach will
generate an overly structured or formulaic story. One should keep in mind that
this is just the first stage of communication, storyforming, which is intended
to create a solid structure upon which the other three stages can be built.
As we proceed through this process, we shall learn how the remaining three stages bring shading, tonality, and more of a gray-scale feel to each of these questions. For example, the question of Resolve leads to other questions in each of the other stages that determine such things as how strongly the Main Character has embraced change or how weakly he now clings to his steadfastness, how big was the scope of the change or how small the attitudes that didn't budge, how much does change or steadfast really matter to the state of things in the story: will it alter everything or just a few things in the big pond. In the end, the Character Dynamics firmly yet gently mold the point of view from which the audience will receive its most personal experiences in the story.
Although encoding places the argument of a story in the context of real life, the storyform itself is not real life at all. It is an analogy to the mind's problem-solving process. We all know what it is like to face problems in our own lives. However, we have no way of knowing what our manner of dealing with problems looks like from the outside; from a more objective viewpoint. Storyforms deal with only one problem, which is seen from two principal directions: the inside and the outside. When we look at the problem from the inside, we can connect with experiences we all have had. The view is familiar and we relate emotionally to situations that touch our personal nerves. In fact, we tend to substitute our own experiences in place of what we observe in the story. This subjective view holds our feelings and gives credibility to the objective view.
When we take an external view of a story, however, we no longer identify with
the Story Mind directly but view it more like we would in an "out of
body" experience. It is if we had stepped out of our own heads, then turned
around to see what we were thinking. It is from this view that the author makes
his rational argument, telling the audience, "If it feels like this
from the inside, you'll want to be doing that."
Even this simple message carries value for an audience since the audience members can benefit from good advice born of experiences they have not had to suffer personally. In this way, when similar situations occur to them subjectively they can recall the objective dictum from the story giving them at least one plan to try.
All the ways of considering each problem are represented by a story's
characters. Because they represent parts of the argument, Objective Characters
must be called in the proper order and combination to support each of the
author's contentions. This all sounds very complex and manipulative. It is. But
as authors, when we are on a roll we don't stop to consider each aspect of what
we are doing. Rather, it all synthesizes together into the smooth flow of
creativity that we "feel" through our writer's instincts. If the
complexity is not there beneath it all, however, there will be noticeable holes
in our plot and inconsistent characters.
Dramatica identifies every point of view that is essential to the objective argument. It allows an author to divvy them up amongst his characters, then tracks the progress of the characters through the story. In this way, an author can cut loose with creative fervor until the muse fails. Then he can call on Dramatica to locate the end of the thread so he can begin to weave it again
Lesson Seventy One:
Just because characters are Archetypal does not mean they cannot be fresh and
interesting. Archetypal Characters have just as many diverse characteristics as
Complex Characters. The only difference is how these characteristics are divided
among your story's characters. When an equal number are given to each character
and when all the elements making up each character are from a single
"family" of elements, Archetypal Characters are created. In this
sense, an Archetypal Character set is like an alignment of the planets: each
individual orbit is complex, but we choose to observe them when they are all
lined up in a clear and simple pattern.
Nonetheless, we must still explore all aspects of each character to make the Story Mind's argument fully. However, since there is such consistency to the way the elements are distributed, the audience will anticipate the content of each character, allowing an author the luxury of using shortcuts to describe them. In fact, once a character is outlined enough to establish its Archetypal tendency, an author can leave out the rest of the information since the audience will fill it in anyway. In a sense, a character is guilty of being Archetypal until proven otherwise.
When an author wishes to concentrate primarily on action or entertainment, it is often best to take advantage of the Archetypal arrangement to fully make the story's argument with a minimum of exposition. The characters still need to be interesting in order to involve an audience in their story. To illustrate how even Archetypal characters can be intriguing, let's create story using only Archetypes and dress them up in some attractive storytelling.
We want to write a simple story using Archetypal Characters. We can create a PROTAGONIST called Jane. Jane wants to... what?... rob a bank?...kill the monster?... stop the terrorists?... resolve her differences with her mother? It really doesn't matter; her goal can be whatever interests us as authors. So we'll pick "stop the terrorists" because it interests us. All right, our Protagonist -- Jane -- wants to stop the terrorists.
Dramatica says we need an ANTAGONIST. Antagonist by definition is the person who tries to prevent achievement of the goal. So, who might be diametrically against the completion of the task Jane wants to accomplish? The Religious Leader whose dogma is the source of inspiration that spawns the acts of terror?... The multinational business cartel that stands to make billions if the terrorists succeed in their scheme?... Her former lover who leads the elite band of criminals? We like THAT one! Okay, we have our Protagonist (Jane) who wants to stop the terrorists who are led by her former lover (Johann).
Two simple Characters down, six to go. Dramatica now tells us we need a SKEPTIC. Who might oppose the effort and disbelieve in the ultimate success of good Jane? A rival special agent who doesn't want to be left in the dust by her glowing success?... Her current love interest on the force who feels Jane is in over her head?... Her father, the Senator, who wants his daughter to follow him into politics? Good enough for us. So we have Jane who wants to stop the terrorists, pitted against her former lover Johann who heads the criminal band, and opposed by her father, the Senator.
To balance the Skeptic, we're going to need a SIDEKICK. We could bring back her current lover but this time have him knowing how much ridding the world of scum-sucking pigs appeals to Jane so he remains steadfastly behind her. Or we might employ her Supervisor and mentor on the force who knows the depth of Jane's talent, wants to inspire other young idealists to take action against threats to democracy, or prove his theories and vindicate his name in the undercover world... We'll use the Supervisor. So here's Jane who wants to stop the terrorists, pitted against her former lover Johann, the head of the band who wants to stop her, opposed by her father, the Senator, and supported by her Supervisor.
Let's bring in a CONTAGONIST: the Seasoned Cop who says, "You have to play by the rules" and thwarts Jane's efforts to forge a better modus operandi?... Or, the Ex-Con with a heart of gold who studies the classics and counsels her to base her approach on proven scenarios?... Or, her friend Sheila, a computer whiz who has a bogus response plan based on averaging every scenario every attempted? Computer whiz it is. So Jane wants to stop the terrorists, is pitted against the head of the band (her former lover Johann) who wants to stop her, opposed by her father, the Senator, supported by her Supervisor, and tempted by her friend Sheila, the computer whiz.
Keeping in mind the concept of Dynamic Pairs, we are going to want to balance the Computer Whiz with a GUARDIAN. The Master of the Oriental martial arts who urges her to "go with the flow" ("Use The Force, Jane!")?... The Ex-Con again who urges, "Get back to basics"?... or perhaps the Seasoned Cop who paves the way through the undercover jungle?.... We like the Seasoned Cop. Note how we could have used him as Contagonist, but elected to use him as Guardian instead. It's totally up to us as authors which characteristics go into which players. Jane wants to stop the terrorists, is pitted against the head of the band (her former lover Johann) who wants to stop her, is opposed by her father, the Senator, supported by her Supervisor, tempted by her friend Sheila the computer whiz, and protected by the Seasoned Cop.
Since we really like some of our earlier concepts for Characters, let's use
the Ex-Con as REASON, stressing the need to use classic scenarios. We'll balance
her with the Master of the Oriental martial arts, who maintains Jane's need to
break with the Western approach by letting loose and following her feelings.
Well, that seems to cover all eight Archetypal Characters: Protagonist, Antagonist, Skeptic, Sidekick, Contagonist, Guardian, Reason and Emotion. Finally, we have Jane who wants to stop the terrorists and is pitted against the head of the band (her former lover Johann) who wants to stop her, is opposed by her Father, the Senator, is supported by her Supervisor, tempted by her friend Sheila the computer whiz, protected by the Seasoned Cop, urged by the Ex-Con to copy the classics, and counseled by the Master of Oriental martial arts to let loose and follow her feelings.
This is beginning to sound like a lot of many stories we've seen before. Why
have we seen this so many times? Because it is simple and it works. Of course,
we have limited ourselves in this example to the Archetypal Characters, not even
taking advantage of the Complex Characters we could also create.
When you keep in mind the Dramatica rules for mixing and matching characteristics to create Complex Characters, you have an astronomical number of possible people (or non-people) who might occupy your story. Because of the structure of inter-relationships Dramatica provides, they will all fit together to the greatest potential and nothing will be duplicated or missed. As a result, the Story Mind will be fully functional; the argument fully made.
Lesson Seventy Two:
It is not the content that makes characters complex, but the arrangement
of that content. We all know people who have one-track minds or are so aligned
as to be completely predictable (and often, therefore, boring!) People who are
more diverse contain conflicting or dissimilar traits and are much more
interesting to be around. So it is with characters.
Imagine building characters to be like playing Scrabble. There are a given number of letter tiles, no more, no less. The object is to create words until all the tiles have been employed. The game won't feel "complete" if any tiles are left over. Now imagine a set of words that are all the same length and use up all the letters so none are remaining. Suppose there is only one combination of letters that will accomplish this. If we build characters that way, we get the one and only Archetypal set. There's nothing wrong with playing the game that way, but after a few zillion times, seeing the same limited set of words over and over again wears pretty thin. It is much more interesting to create a wide vocabulary of all kinds and sizes of words.
Archetypal Characters have their place, mind you. If an author's focus is on
Plot or Theme, he may want to create easily identifiable Archetypes as a
shorthand to save space and time. As soon as the edges of an Archetypal
Character are sketched out, audiences (who have seen these Archetypes time and
again) will fill in the rest, pending information to the contrary. In this way,
an author can free up time or pages for aspects of the story which may be much
more interesting to him.
As a result, Complex Characters are often the first things torn down in an effort to conserve media real estate. This leads to a glut of action-oriented stories populated by stick-figure people. Whenever there is a glut in one place, you will find a deficiency somewhere else. The imbalance between glut and deficiency creates demand. Box office is directly proportional to demand. No more need be said.
Lesson Seventy Three:
All characters, Archetypal or Complex, have four levels or Dimensions in
which they may contain characteristics. These are:
3. Means of Evaluation
Archetypal Characters contain one characteristic in each of these areas that describes how they deal with external problems. They also contain one each that describes how they deal with internal problems. Altogether they possess eight characteristics.
The easiest way to create Complex Characters is to simply swap a few Elements
between one Archetypal Character and another at the same level. This results in
evenly-balanced characters who aren't nearly as predictable as Archetypes. When
the points of view are mixed so that the focus of a scene or act changes from
Methodologies to Motivations, for example, the manner in which a character
responds might also shift dramatically.
Even more Complex Characters can be built by giving more characteristics to some and fewer to others. For example, one character might have two Motivations, three Methodologies and so on. Another character might only have Purposes but no Motivations or any of the others. Those characters having the most characteristics will be called upon more frequently to appear, thereby strengthening their presence with an audience.
An author can create characters for any purpose, to be played like cards at
particular points in the hand. The only "rules" of character
construction caution against any character containing more than one Element of a
dynamic pair. In addition, it is best to avoid assigning a character more than
one Element from the same quad as the character would then represent conflicting
points of view on the same issue.
At first, this might seem desirable as it would create internal conflict. But in the case of Objective Characters, they are seen from the outside. We cannot perceive their internal deliberations. Any internal conflict simple weakens their objective function.
Lesson Seventy Four:
Elements are the most refined resolution of the problem in a story. Beneath
each Variation are four Elements that make up the parts of that Variation and
are also defined by its umbrella. One of the four elements under the Range is
the Problem of the story in its most essential form. Another of the four will
prove to be the Solution. A third element is the Focus of the story, where the
Problem appears to principally manifest itself. The final element represents the
Direction that is taken in response to the Focus.
Each of these elements has a specific and recognizable function even in traditional story theory. For example, we know that characters often work not toward the real solution but to a perceived solution. And characters frequently grapple with a problem that is ultimately recognized as only a symptom of the real problem.
As indicated elsewhere, stories are really about inequities and their resolutions. When the four principal elements are considered in this light, the Problem element appears more like the essence of the inequity. The Solution becomes the essence of what is needed to restore balance. Depending upon the dynamics of the story, one of the four elements is "lifted up" as the prominent point of view. It becomes the Crucial Element upon which all other lesser inequities in the story center. It is Crucial because if it comes into balance all the remaining inequities of the story are forced to balance themselves as well. If not balanced, none of the others can be resolved.
Elements serve to show what the inequity looks like from all possible points
of view and thereby hone in on the source: the one bad apple in the basket. All
64 Elements in this level must be represented in character form in order to
fully explore the story's inequity. Of all these, two special characters bear
special attention: the Main and Obstacle.
The Main and Obstacle characters do double-duty by carrying the Subjective Storyline and also playing an Objective role by being assigned to two different players that contain an Objective function. The player containing the Main Character always contains the Crucial Element in its Objective role. However, that element does not always have to be the Solution. It might be the Problem, Focus, or Direction Element, depending upon the dynamics. It is this duality that makes those two players the linchpins of the story: the hinge upon which the Objective AND Subjective Problems and storylines converge.
The player containing the Obstacle Character also contains the Element diagonal to the crucial element: the other half of the dynamic pair. In this way as a Main Character or Obstacle Character comes to eventually change or remain steadfast, the subjective problem influences how that player will respond in regard to the Objective Element it also contains. Like magnets with North and South poles, what happens on the Subjective side will influence the Objective stand, and when pressures force a change in the Objective stand, it will influence the Subjective point of view. It is no surprise that this relationship between Objective and Subjective dynamics in characters has seemed so indefinably obscure for so long
Lesson Seventy Five:
Although authors use Subjective Characters all the time they unfortunately
view the Subjective functions simply as other aspects of Objective Characters.
In fact, the two functions are most often blended into a single concept of
character that does double-duty. This is dangerous since every aspect of the
argument must be made twice: once Objectively and once Subjectively. If both
roles are blended, this can appear redundant. As a result, important points in
the separate arguments may be missing. In a temporal medium such as motion
pictures, it is often the Subjective argument that suffers as the focus is on
more objective action. In novels, the Objective Story is often flawed as the
spatial nature of a book favors the Subjective view.
Just because a medium favors one view over the other does not mean anything can be neglected. All parts of both arguments must be present in order to create an effective synthesis in the mind of the audience regardless of the emphasis a medium may place on each view.
Lesson Seventy Six:
Many authors are not aware that a Protagonist does not have to be the Main
Character. When we stop to think about it, many examples come to mind of stories
in which we experience the story through the eyes of a character other than a
Protagonist. Yet when it comes to writing our own stories, many of us never
diverge from a Protagonist/Main combination.
There is nothing wrong with this combination. In fact, as long as both characters are represented in the single player, such a blend is a fine Archetypal Character. The point is: there are other ways.
Subjective Characters range from the Main Character with whom we identify to all the "other soldiers in the trenches" around us as we experience the battle together. They are friends and foes, mentors and acolytes. We see in them characteristics of Worry, Instinct, Experience and Doubt. Rather than functioning as approaches the way the Objective Characters appear to do, the Subjective Characters function as attitudes.
The Main and Obstacle Characters are counterparts. They represent the two principal sides to the argument of the story. Because they are dealing with the same issues a case can be made that they are not too far apart. This often results in such familiar lines as "We're both alike," "We're just two sides of the same coin," "I'm your shadow self," and so on. In contrast, though they are concerned with the same things, they are coming at them from completely opposing views. This leads to common line such as "We're nothing alike, you and I," or "We used to be friends until you stepped over the line."
Many authors picture the Obstacle Character as a negative or evil twin. Although this can be true, it has little to do with the Obstacle Character's dramatic function. For example, if a Main Character is evil and needs to change, their Obstacle might be a virtuous steadfast character. Or both characters might be evil, with the resolve of one contrasting the change in the other. In any case, the function of the Main and Obstacle Characters is to show two opposing sides of the same issue. That is their story function: to show what happens when one changes and the other remains steadfast on a particular issue.
Lesson Seventy Seven:
Both Males and Females use the same techniques, but in different contexts. As
a result, what is problem solving for one may actually be justification for the
other. In fact, for the four perspectives in any given story, in one Domain both
male and female mental sex characters will see a given approach as problem
solving, while in another Domain both will see it as justification. The third
Domain would be problem solving for one mental sex and justification for the
other and the fourth just the reverse.
Men TEND to use linear problem solving as their first method of choice. In linear problem solving, they set a specific goal, determine the steps necessary to achieve that goal, and embark on the effort to accomplish those steps. Gathering facts, or successfully achieving requirements all deal with seeing a number of definable items that must be brought together to make the mechanism work in the desired manner.
This is a very spatial view of problem solving, as it sees all the parts that must be accomplished and/or brought together to resolve the problem or achieve the goal.
Women TEND to use holistic problem solving as their first method of choice. In holistic problem solving, steps are not important and there may not even be a specific goal to achieve but simply a new direction desired. As a result, the RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN things are what is measured and adjusted to create a change in the forces that determine that direction. Unlike male problem solving, there is no causal relationship stating that THIS leads to THAT. Instead, COMBINATIONS of changes in the way things are related alters the dynamics of the situation rather than the structure, and changes context rather than meaning.
This is a very temporal view of problem solving, as it looks at the way things are going and tries to alter relationships so that the direction of the forces that create the problem is deflected.
Now, men and women use both techniques. Also, women may become trained to use the linear method first, and men may develop a preference for the holistic method as their primary problem solving approach. These are preferences made through conscious choice, training, or experience. Underneath it all, the brain's operating system for problem solving will either be linear or holistic. This is what sets men and women apart from each other. No matter how much common ground they come to from training, experience and conscious choice, there is always that underlying level in which they can never see eye to eye, because they have intrinsically different outlooks.
So, when choosing male or female mental sex, we are not concerned with the up front and obvious, we are concerned with that hidden level at the foundation of the Main Character's psyche that dictates a linear or holistic approach to the problem regardless of what is done consciously.
That's why the issue becomes vague - because it is not cut and dried in the Main Character nor is it up front. It is just their tendency at the lowest most basic part of their mind to go linear or holistic.
How can we illustrate this in a Main Character? The following point by point comparison can help:
As we can see, though both men and women will use both techniques depending on context, one kind comes first or takes priority. Which one is the principal technique is determined by mental sex. So, if you keep in mind that this all may be overshadowed by other learned techniques, you can illustrate male and female problem solving techniques as a TENDENCY to employ those listed above, all other things being equal.
Lesson Seventy Eight:
When an audience looks at the Objective Characters, they see the Story Mind
from the outside in. When an audience empathizes with the Main Character, they
see the story from the inside out. In order for the audience to be able to step
into the shoes of the Main Character and look through his eyes, he must possess
a complete mind for the audience to possess. And that perhaps is the best way to
look at it: the audience takes possession of the Main Character's mind. That's
why you hear people in a movie yelling, "NO.... don't do that!!!" to a
Main Character who is about to enter the shed where the slasher is waiting.
However, the question arises: who is taking possession of whom? As authors we direct our Main Character to take control of the audience's hearts and souls. We make them feel what the Main Character feels, experience what he experiences. It's a pretty sinister occupation we engage in. But that is how a story stops being a spectacle and worms its way into the heart
Lesson Seventy Nine:
This segment represents a whole new,
previously unmentioned aspect of Archetypal Characters. After developing
the original eight Archetypes and their Elements with Chris, I went on to
consider what the Archetypes might look like in the Methodologies, Evaluations,
and Purposes. Theory-wise, if the Problem Element of the Objective Story
falls in one of these other dimensions of characters, then the Elements in those
dimensions would be the principal ones by which the Archetypes would be known.
In effect, the set of 16 Elements which contains the Problem Element creates its
own, unique "flavor" or variety of Archetypes.
Often, the original 8 Archetypes can seem limiting and lead authors into creating complex characters when, in fact, all that is really needed is another flavor of Archetypes.
This excerpt describes the first 8 of 24 new Archetypes.
In Chapter One, when we began our exploration of Characters, we divided them into eight Simple Archetypes, based on their Motivations. Similarly, as we begin our exploration of Method, we discover eight Simple Methodologies that the Simple Characters employ. As before, we divide them into two quads: one reflecting Action Methodologies and the other, Decision Methodologies.
The Action Methodologies are Assertive, Passive, Responsive, and Preservative. Let’s take a look at each.
ASSERTIVE: The Assertive approach is based on the "first strike" concept. When one's method is Assertive, she will take the initiative action to achieve her goal or obtain what she wants. ASSERTIVE: The Assertive approach is based on the "first strike" concept. When one's method is Assertive, she will take the initiative action to achieve her goal or obtain what she wants. ASSERTIVE: The Assertive approach is based on the "first strike" concept. When one's method is Assertive, she will take the initiative action to achieve her goal or obtain what she wants.
RESPONSIVE: In Contrast, the Responsive will act only when provoked, but will then retaliate, seeking to eliminate the threat to her status quo. RESPONSIVE: In Contrast, the Responsive will act only when provoked, but will then retaliate, seeking to eliminate the threat to her status quo. RESPONSIVE: In Contrast, the Responsive will act only when provoked, but will then retaliate, seeking to eliminate the threat to her status quo.
PRESERVATIVE: The Preservative methodology is to build back what has been diminished and take steps to guard things against further encroachment. Unlike the Responsive Methodology, the Preservative approach will not strike back against the source of the encroachment but shield against it. PRESERVATIVE: The Preservative methodology is to build back what has been diminished and take steps to guard things against further encroachment. Unlike the Responsive Methodology, the Preservative approach will not strike back against the source of the encroachment but shield against it. PRESERVATIVE: The Preservative methodology is to build back what has been diminished and take steps to guard things against further encroachment. Unlike the Responsive Methodology, the Preservative approach will not strike back against the source of the encroachment but shield against it.
PASSIVE: The Passive approach will be to "go with the flow" and hope things get better by themselves, rather than attempting to improve them. PASSIVE: The Passive approach will be to "go with the flow" and hope things get better by themselves, rather than attempting to improve them. PASSIVE: The Passive approach will be to "go with the flow" and hope things get better by themselves, rather than attempting to improve them.
It is important to note that Assertive and Passive are not the Dynamic pair here. Rather, Assertive and Responsive complement each other. This can be seen by thinking in terms of the borders of a country. Assertive and Responsive will both cross the border, one for a first strike, the other only in retaliation. But Passive and Preservative will never cross the border, one allowing itself to be overrun, and one building defenses.
Whereas the Action Methodologies indicate the approach to manipulation of the environment that is acceptable to a given Character, the Decision Methodologies indicate the mental approach that will be acceptable. The Decision Methodologies are Dogmatic, Pragmatic, Cautious, and Risky.
DOGMATIC: The Dogmatic approach will only consider data that has been "proven" as being correct. Speculative or second-hand information is rejected out of hand. DOGMATIC: The Dogmatic approach will only consider data that has been "proven" as being correct. Speculative or second-hand information is rejected out of hand. DOGMATIC: The Dogmatic approach will only consider data that has been "proven" as being correct. Speculative or second-hand information is rejected out of hand.
PRAGMATIC: In opposition to that approach the Pragmatic Methodology widens their considerations to include information that may prove to be correct based on circumstantial evidence. PRAGMATIC: In opposition to that approach the Pragmatic Methodology widens their considerations to include information that may prove to be correct based on circumstantial evidence. PRAGMATIC: In opposition to that approach the Pragmatic Methodology widens their considerations to include information that may prove to be correct based on circumstantial evidence.
CAUTIOUS: When one decides in a Cautious manner, she determines the relative likelihood of various data, giving greater weight in her considerations to information that appears more certain. CAUTIOUS: When one decides in a Cautious manner, she determines the relative likelihood of various data, giving greater weight in her considerations to information that appears more certain. CAUTIOUS: When one decides in a Cautious manner, she determines the relative likelihood of various data, giving greater weight in her considerations to information that appears more certain.
RISKY: The Risky approach considers all information that is not definitely ruled out as incorrect, giving all data equal weight in the Decision process regardless of its likelihood. RISKY: The Risky approach considers all information that is not definitely ruled out as incorrect, giving all data equal weight in the Decision process regardless of its likelihood. RISKY: The Risky approach considers all information that is not definitely ruled out as incorrect, giving all data equal weight in the Decision process regardless of its likelihood.
In the Decision Methodologies, Dogmatic pairs with Pragmatic, and Cautious complements Risky. As a group these four Action and four Decision approaches constitute the Eight Simple Methodologies, and make up our first organization of Plot. We know these types, don't we? They appear in our world, they appear in our stories, they appear in ourselves. They appear in our stories because they appear in ourselves. As with the Eight Simple Characters, they can be divided in Quads.
The Eight Simple Methodologies
The Action Quad
The Decision Quad
As with the Eight Simple Characters: No Character should represent more than one Methodology in a given Dynamic Pair. In other words, just as one Character should not be the Protagonist and Antagonist, one Character should not be Assertive and Responsive.
Now you may have noticed that every time we talk about the Methodologies we speak of them as the ways in which Characters act or decide. The immediate question that comes to mind is whether or not these Simple Methodologies of Plot are tied to specific Simple Characters. Let's find out.
Lesson Eighty One:
Archetypal Methodologies in Star Wars
Returning to Star Wars, we can analyze the Method each Simple Character employs to see if: a) they limit themselves to one, and b) if there is a match between Character Motivation and Character Method.
Certainly Obi Wan seems RESPONSIVE. He never attacks, just responds to attacks , such as the Cantina scene where he cuts off the creature's arm after it had attacked Luke. But here the direct relationship breaks down. This time Obi is not balanced by Darth, but by the Empire which is the key ASSERTIVE Character in the story. This is exemplified in the Empire's unprovoked attack on Leia's home world of Alderan, and their efforts to track down and destroy the rebel base. Darth takes on a PRESERVATIVE approach, which works nicely with his charge to recover the stolen plans. Every step he takes is an attempt to get back to start. Even when he leads his fighters into the trench on the Death Star, he cautions his henchmen not to chase those who break off from the attack, but to stay on the leader.
Rounding out the Four Simple Action Methodologies, Luke fills the role of PASSIVE. Luke, Passive? Yep. When Uncle Owen tells Luke that he must stay on one more season, Luke argues, but does he accept it? When Obi tells Luke that he must go with him to Alderan, where does he end up? When the Cantina Bartender tells him the droids must stay outside, does he even argue?
Looking at the Decision Quad, Han reads very well as the DOGMATIC approach, which matches nicely with his role as Skeptic. Leia, on the other hand is clearly Pragmatic, adapting to new and unexpected situations as needed. Note the way Dogmatic Han screws up the rescue attempt in the detention block with his inability to adapt, compared to Leia blasting a hole in the corridor wall, manufacturing an escape route.
Interestingly, the joint Sidekick of R2D2 and C3PO is split by the Methodologies of RISKY and CAUTIOUS. R2D2 is always the one jumping into the fray, going out on a limb, trailblazing through blaster fire. In Contrast, C3PO doesn't want to go into the escape pod, doesn't want to go on R2's "mission" to find Obi, and excels at hiding from battle whenever he gets the chance.
Lesson Eighty Two:
If we hang the Star Wars Character names on the Simple Methodology QUAD we get:
RESPONSIVE - OBI WAN RESPONSIVE - OBI WAN RESPONSIVE - OBI WAN
|PASSIVE - LUKE||PRESERVATIVE - DARTH|
|ASSERTIVE - EMPIRE|
PRAGMATIC - LEIA PRAGMATIC - LEIA PRAGMATIC - LEIA
|RISKY - R2D2||CAUTIOUS - C3PO|
|DOGMATIC - HAN|
For the first time we begin to get a sense of some of the conflicts between Characters that we felt in Star Wars, but were not explained by the Motivations of the Simple Characters alone. For example, we can see that in terms of Methodology, Obi is now in direct conflict with the Empire. Suddenly the scene where he is stopped along with Luke by the Storm Troopers on the way into Mos Eisley makes much more sense. As does the scene where he must avoid the Storm Troopers and deactivate the Tractor Beam.
From the Methodology standpoint, Luke is now diametrically opposed to Darth, and that defines that additional conflict between them that does not grow from Luke as Protagonist and Darth as Contagonist. The scene in the Trench where Darth attacks Assertively and Luke ignores him with calm Passivity is a fine example of this.
The antagonism (appropriate word) between Leia and Han has a firm grounding in the Dogmatic versus Pragmatic approach. This is what gives that extra edge between them that is not created by their Simple Characters of Reason and Skeptic.
Of particular note is how R2D2 and C3PO, who share a Character role of Sidekick, are split into a conflicting Dynamic Pair of Risky and Cautious. So many of their scenes have them diverging, even while loyally following Luke. The sniping that goes on between them is a direct result of their opposing Methodologies, and enriches what otherwise would be a flat relationship. After all, if they both agreed with each other's approach AND were jointly the Sidekick as well, how could you even tell them apart, other than by the shape of their costumes?
Finally, notice how poor Chewbaca ended up with no Methodology at all. Perhaps that explains why he never really does anything.
From the chart we can see that the opposition of Dynamic Pairs between Characters is not necessarily carried over into their Methodologies. Indeed, some Characters might be in conflict over principles but not in approach, and vice versa. This relationship between the Motivation Level and the Methodology Level is the embryonic beginning of more believable "3 dimensional" or "well rounded" Characters. To get a more clear understanding of this phenomenon, we can put the Simple Character Quads side by side with the Simple Methodology Quad.Driver Motivation Quad Action Methodology Quad
Passenger Motivation Quad Decision Methodology Quad
When viewed in this manner, the ebb and flow of conflict can be seen as not a single relationship between Characters, but a complex multi-level interrelationship. Yet, we are still dealing here with Simple Methodologies. Just as we had found that each of the Eight Simple Characters contained two components, the Eight Simple Methodologies are composed of two aspects as well: Attitude and Approach. As before, let's separate the Simple Methodologies into their respective components.
Lesson Eighty Three:
The Sixteen Methodologies
Approach Plogistic: The assertive character takes Proaction to upset a stable environment in order to achieve her goals.Approach Plogistic: The assertive character takes Proaction to upset a stable environment in order to achieve her goals.
Attitude Plogistic: She Evaluates her situation to determine what action she should take. Attitude Plogistic: She Evaluates her situation to determine what action she should take. Attitude Plogistic: She Evaluates her situation to determine what action she should take.
Approach Plogistic: When Responsive, a character Reacts to changes in her environment. Approach Plogistic: When Responsive, a character Reacts to changes in her environment. Approach Plogistic: When Responsive, a character Reacts to changes in her environment.
Attitude Plogistic: The Responsive Re-evaluates her environment in light of unwanted changes, and creates a goal to recapture stability. Attitude Plogistic: The Responsive Re-evaluates her environment in light of unwanted changes, and creates a goal to recapture stability. Attitude Plogistic: The Responsive Re-evaluates her environment in light of unwanted changes, and creates a goal to recapture stability.
Lesson Eighty Four:
Approach Plogistic: This character employs Protection to prevent what she has from being eroded. Approach Plogistic: This character employs Protection to prevent what she has from being eroded. Approach Plogistic: This character employs Protection to prevent what she has from being eroded.
Attitude Plogistic: She is driven by Non-Acceptance of the diminishing of her situation. Attitude Plogistic: She is driven by Non-Acceptance of the diminishing of her situation. Attitude Plogistic: She is driven by Non-Acceptance of the diminishing of her situation.
Approach Plogistic: The Passive character exists in Inaction, making no move to counter threats against her. Approach Plogistic: The Passive character exists in Inaction, making no move to counter threats against her. Approach Plogistic: The Passive character exists in Inaction, making no move to counter threats against her.
Attitude Plogistic: She Accepts whatever comes her way. Attitude Plogistic: She Accepts whatever comes her way. Attitude Plogistic: She Accepts whatever comes her way.
Lesson Eighty Five:
Approach Plogistic: Dogmatic deals only in Actualities. Approach Plogistic: Dogmatic deals only in Actualities. Approach Plogistic: Dogmatic deals only in Actualities.
Attitude Plogistic: She relies on Deduction to reduce data to an irrefutable conclusion. Attitude Plogistic: She relies on Deduction to reduce data to an irrefutable conclusion. Attitude Plogistic: She relies on Deduction to reduce data to an irrefutable conclusion.
Approach Plogistic: The Pragmatic concerns herself with Potentialities, looking at all alternative explanations that can be created from existing data. Approach Plogistic: The Pragmatic concerns herself with Potentialities, looking at all alternative explanations that can be created from existing data. Approach Plogistic: The Pragmatic concerns herself with Potentialities, looking at all alternative explanations that can be created from existing data.
Attitude Plogistic: She employs Induction to generate alternatives. Attitude Plogistic: She employs Induction to generate alternatives. Attitude Plogistic: She employs Induction to generate alternatives.
Lesson Eighty Six:
Approach Plogistic: The Cautious character bases her decisions on Probabilities: the most likely of alternatives. Approach Plogistic: The Cautious character bases her decisions on Probabilities: the most likely of alternatives. Approach Plogistic: The Cautious character bases her decisions on Probabilities: the most likely of alternatives.
Attitude Plotgistic: She uses Reduction to narrow the field of conceivable alternatives. Attitude Plotgistic: She uses Reduction to narrow the field of conceivable alternatives. Attitude Plotgistic: She uses Reduction to narrow the field of conceivable alternatives.
Approach Plogistic: The Risky character considers all Possibilities equally, regardless of their relative likelihood. Approach Plogistic: The Risky character considers all Possibilities equally, regardless of their relative likelihood. Approach Plogistic: The Risky character considers all Possibilities equally, regardless of their relative likelihood.
Attitude Plogistic: She processes information with Production to create any alternatives that are not ruled out by known data. Attitude Plogistic: She processes information with Production to create any alternatives that are not ruled out by known data. Attitude Plogistic: She processes information with Production to create any alternatives that are not ruled out by known data.
Lesson Eighty Seven:
Placing these Plogistics in a Quad table we get:
|Internal Approach Set||External Approach Set|
|Internal Attitude Set||External Attitude Set|
Looking at these sixteen Methodologies, it is important to remember what they represent. DRAMATICA looks at each and every element of story structure as an aspect of the Story Mind dealing with a problem. And we can clearly see that these sixteen points represent part of that process.
When examining our environment, we all make Evaluations, Re-Evaluate in light of a changing situation, choose whether to Accept our lot or Not Accept it. We all employ Deduction to determine what we know, Induction to keep our minds open to other explanations, Reduction to determine what is most likely, and Production to be creative. From these we establish what we see as Actuality, Potentiality, Probability, and Possibility, as well as the need for Proaction, Reaction, Protection, or Inaction.
Once again, in stories, these Methodologies can be illustrated in individual Characters or combined in ways that do not violate their potential. The DRAMATICA rules for combining characteristics apply here as well.
Based upon these rules, we can easily create our own multi-level Characters. Let's return to the simple story we wrote about Joan, the Screenplay writer.
As you'll recall, we created Joan, the Protagonist, who wants to write a screenplay. She was in conflict with the Studio Executive, our Antagonist, who wanted to sell a screenplay of her own instead. Joan's father was a Skeptic, not believing in his daughter's talent, but Joan's writing teacher was her faithful Sidekick. As Contagonist, we created Joan's friend, the Computer Whiz, who tempts Joan to use "the System". Guardian to Joan is the Seasoned Writer, who keeps the execs of her tail and counsels her to be true to herself. The Prostitute, a student of the Classics served as Reason, and the Avaunt Guard Artist was Emotion.
As an exercise, let's assign each of these Eight Simple Characters one of the Eight Simple Methodologies. As we've already determined, there is no requirement that a particular Methodology must be matched to a particular Character. So, if we start with Joan who is of primary importance to us, which one of the Methodologies do we like best for our Protagonist? We have a choice of Assertive, Reactive, Preservative, Passive, Dogmatic, Pragmatic, Cautious, and Risky.
Try each one against what we know of Joan. It is clear that any of the eight would create a believable and much more three dimensional Character than the simple Protagonist by herself. And yet, there will be some combinations that will appeal to one Author that are not at all acceptable to another. Protagonist Joan as an Assertive young writer, or Protagonist Joan as Risk taker? Our hero, the adamant, close minded Dogmatist, or the Passive putz? Is she to be Reactive to every ripple in her pond, or Cautious about every move she makes. Doe she try to Preserve what she already has, or take a Pragmatic approach, adapting to a changing scenario? The choices are all valid, and all open to you, the Author.
For our tastes (where they happen to be after lunch as we write this) let's pick a Risky Protagonist. So Joan, the "wanna-be" Script Writer is a real Risk taker, jumping across the stream and looking for the next stone while in mid air. So what kinds of things will this reckless writer do? She'll wager her contract on being able to make a waitress cry with the sentence she scrawled on a napkin in the diner. If her mother's health is failing because she can only afford half the dosage of essential medication that she needs, she'll spend the medication money to fix her broken typewriter so she can finish her outline and get enough of an advance (if they like it) to buy her the full dose. Real Risk taker, our Joan!
So now, we have the rival Studio Exec, our Antagonist. And she can be any one of the seven remaining Methodologies. We could put her in direct conflict of Methodologies as well as Characteristics, by making her the Cautious type. As such, she would lay out all the ground work to assure that her script will be chosen, leaving nothing to chance. Or she could be Responsive, and attack Joan every time she sees Joan's advancement as threatening her own. Or she could be Assertive and attack Joan without provocation, because she feels it will help her own cause. We'll pick Assertive, because we want an Action story, and our Protagonist is not an action Character.
We continue in this manner until we have assigned a Simple Methodology to each Simple Character. So, finally, we have Risky Joan, who wants to write a screenplay and is embattled against the Assertive studio Executive who wants to stop her, opposed by her Preservationist Father, supported by her Passive Teacher, tempted by her friend, the Cautious Computer Whiz, protected by the Responsive Seasoned Writer, counseled by the Dogmatic Prostitute to copy the classics, and urged by the Pragmatic Avaunt Guard Artist to break new ground.
This is beginning to sound a lot less like other stories we've seen before. And that is just with the Simple Motivations and Methodologies. When you figure in complex Motivations and Methodologies by mixing and matching sixteen Motivations with sixteen Methodologies, then group them together in uneven ways: more to some Characters and fewer to others, you can begin to see the great variety of Characters that can be created using the DRAMATICA structure. And that is the real beauty of DRAMATICA. Because it is a system of interrelationships, a relatively small number of variables creates an astronomical number of specific structures. Form without Formula. And it works because it mirrors the structure and functioning of our own minds in the Story Mind.
Continuing along that parallel, we can see that the Story Mind in dealing with a problem will not only be motivated and apply a methodology, but will also monitor feedback to determine the effectiveness of the method and the propriety of the motivation. This function is defined by our third level of Character, Evaluation.
Lesson Eighty Eight:
This segment represents a whole new,
previously unmentioned aspect of Archetypal Characters. After developing
the original eight Archetypes and their Elements with Chris, I went on to
consider what the Archetypes might look like in the Methodologies, Evaluations,
and Purposes. Theory-wise, if the Problem Element of the Objective Story
falls in one of these other dimensions of characters, then the Elements in those
dimensions would be the principal ones by which the Archetypes would be known.
In effect, the set of 16 Elements which contains the Problem Element creates its
own, unique "flavor" or variety of Archetypes.
Often, the original 8 Archetypes can seem limiting and lead authors into creating complex characters when, in fact, all that is really needed is another flavor of Archetypes.
This excerpt describes the second group of 8 of 24 new Archetypes.
Means of Evaluation
As there were Eight Simple Motivation Characters and Eight Simple Methodology Character, we might expect there to be Eight Simple Evaluation Characters, and so there are. A Character might evaluate using Calculation, or Guesswork. She could base her evaluation on Information or Intuition. She might consider the Outcome of an effort or the Means employed to achieve that Outcome. Finally, she might expand her considerations to include the Intent behind the effort and the actual Impact that effort has had.
Putting these Eight Simple Evaluations in Quad form we get:
The Eight Simple Evaluations
The Measuring Quad
The Measured Quad
We can see the patterns of dynamic pairs created between the Eight Simple Evaluations. Let's define each term for a more complete understanding of their relationships.
Calculation: The Calculating Character establishes an unbroken chain of relationships that leads to a conclusion. Her thinking will only carry her as far as the chain can be extended. As soon as she cannot make one thing lead directly to the next, she will not entertain any speculations beyond that point.
Intuition: The Intuitive Character forms her conclusions from circumstantial or nebulous input, rather than a definitive line of logic.
Information: The Character who relies on Information will entertain in her deliberations only definitive packets of data.
Guesswork: The Character who Guesses will fill in the blanks in her information with what appears most likely to go there.
Outcome: The Outcome measuring Character is only concerned with the immediate nature of the objective: whether or not, or how well it has been met.
Impact: Measuring Impact, a Character looks at the ripples in the big picture created by a particular outcome, or looks how well an objective accomplished that for which it was intended.
Means: The Character measuring Means in most concerned with how an Objective was met rather than if it was or how well.
Intent: When a Character measures Intent, she is concerned with the expectations behind the effort that led to the Outcome, whether or not the Outcome was achieved.
Again, these are aspects of Character we have seen before and are familiar with. In our case, their existence and definitions came as no surprise. Rather, we had just never previously considered them all at once as a group in which we could clearly see the relationships among them.
The real value to us as Authors comes in being able to mix and match Motivations, Methodologies and Evaluations. For example, should we be at work building a Character whose nature is best described as Guardian, we might select Dogmatic as her method and Calculation as her tool of evaluation. So this fellow might protect the Protagonist while stubbornly maintaining an ideology, but evaluating the progress of the quest in a very calculated manner: a Character of some individuality and depth.
What if we had the same Dogmatic Guardian who employed Guesswork instead. We can feel the difference in her nature as a result of this change. Now she would protect the Protagonist, stubbornly maintain an ideology, but base her evaluations of progress on conjecture rather than denotative relationships. Certainly, this person has a wholly different "feel" to her, without being wholly different.
The functionality of this is that the way we feel about a Character is based on the sum total of the combined effect of all levels of her attributes. However, when looking at these attributes as separate aspects, we can define the differences between Characters in a precise and specific way in terms of their content and determine if they are nearly the same or completely different. But when we see the dynamic view of the way in which a particular set of aspects merge to create the specific force of a given Character, even a slight change in only one aspect will create a substantially different "feel" to that Character.
When a Character oriented Author writes by "feel" she is sensing the overall impact of a Character's presence. This is not very definable, and therefore dramatic potentials between Characters are often diminished by incomplete understanding of which levels are in conflict between two given Characters, and which are not.
We have already seen an example of this in our analysis of Star Wars. Han (as Skeptic) is only peripherally in conflict with Leia (as Reason). But Han as Dogmatic in directly in conflict with Leia as Pragmatic. If Han and Leia were to argue, there would be much more dramatic potential if they argued over trying a new approach than if they argued over whether or not they ought to take action.
Clearly, the ability to discern the specific nature of the attributes that make up a Character at all levels allows us to precisely define the nature of inter-Character conflicts, without losing sight of the overall feeling that each Character carries with her.
Lesson Eighty Nine:
Evaluations in Star Wars
Looking at the Characters of Star Wars in terms of Evaluation only, the arrangement of attributes is a bit murkier. Since this is primarily a story of action, techniques of evaluation do not play a big role in the progress of the story and therefore have been more loosely drawn. Nevertheless, they are present, even if there is somewhat less consistency than at the Character or Method levels.
Assigning the Eight Simple Evaluations to the Eight Simple Characters of Star Wars by their most common usage in the story, we generate the following list:
Lesson Ninety:Attaching the Character names to the Evaluation Quads we get:
The Eight Simple Evaluations
The Measuring Quad
The Measured Quad
Again, we can see subtle conflicts in techniques of Evaluation between Characters that are compatible at other levels. For the first time, we can see the tension that as an audience we feel between Darth and the Empire in the "Board Room" scene on the Death Star where Darth constricts the breathing of the general he is "bickering" with. The general says to Darth, "...your sorcerer ways have not helped you conjure up the missing plans...", essentially arguing against Intuition.
Looking at Luke, we note that in his dinner table discussion with Uncle Owen he argues his point that he should be allowed to leave with Information: the new droids are working out, all his friends are at the academy, etc. Another example is the moment Luke bursts into Leia's cell to release her. Rather than use any other technique, he describes the situation to her simply by imparting information: "I'm Luke Skywalker. I'm here to rescue you. I'm here with Ben Kenobi."
Obi Wan, on the other hand, relies on Guesswork when the Millennium Falcon is chasing the lone imperial fighter after coming out of hyperspace. He sees the supposed moon, and guesses, "It's a space station!"
Han is completely Outcome oriented, "I'm just in this for the reward, sister!", and is thereby again in conflict with Leia as Intent: "If money is all you care about, then that's what you'll receive."
Chewy can be seen to focus on Means, when he refuses to don the binders for Luke's plan to rescue Leia.
C3PO is always evaluating impact: " We'll be sent to the spice mines of Kessel", and, "I suggest a different strategy R2... Let the Wookie win."
R2, as noted, does not represent a manner of evaluation. We can see by the feel of his Character that he is motivated and has a method, but he never evaluates anything for himself, you just point him and he goes.
Once again, since Star Wars is an action oriented story, the techniques of Evaluation were not as developed as Motivation and Method.
Lesson Ninety One:
As with the previous two levels of Character, the Eight Simple Evaluations can be divided into sixteen evaluations. In Motivation we had Action and Decision aspects, in Method we had Attitude and Approach. In Evaluation we have Passive and Active.
Passive: The Calculating Character sees data as Expectations wherein an unbroken chain of relationships that leads to a conclusion.
Active: To form an Expectation, Calculation develops Theories.
Passive: The Intuitive Character sees the pattern of her observations in the form of a Determination.
Active: To arrive at a Determination, Intuitive makes Hunches.
Passive: The Character who revolves around Information will entertain in her deliberations only definitive packets of data she sees as Proven.
Active: For something to be Proven, the Information Character will institute a Test.
Passive: Guesswork will consider even data that is, as of yet, Unproven.
Active: The system she uses that allows her to accept Unproven data is to Trust..
Passive: The Outcome measuring Character observes the Results of an effort.
Active: To see the Results, she looks toward the Ending of the Effort.
Passive: Measuring Impact, a Character looks at the actual Effects of an effort, as opposed to how well it met its charter.
Active: To determine the Effect, the Impact Character examines how Accurately the ramifications of the effort confine themselves to the targeted goal.
Passive: Means is determined by looking at the Process employed in an effort.
Active: Just as Impact examined Effects in terms of Accuracy, Means examines Process in terms of the Unending aspects of its nature. In essence, Effects are measured by how much they spill over the intended goal, and Process is evaluated by how much of it continues past the intended point of conclusion.
Passive: When a Character measures Intent, she is concerned with the Cause behind the effort.
Active: She looks at the aspects of the Cause that do Not Accurately reflect the scope of the goal.
Lesson Ninety Two:
Let's look at these sixteen evaluation techniques in Quad form.
|Measured Active Set||Measured Passive Set|
|Measuring Passive Set||Measuring Active Set|
As before, these four groupings constitute the dynamic Quads of the Evaluation Set, and are subject to the same DRAMATICA rules as the characteristic and method sets.
Since all good things come in Quads, and since we have so far explored three sets of Character traits, we might expect a final set to round out that Quad as well. DRAMATICA calls that final set of characteristics, Purposes.
Lesson Ninety Three:
This segment represents a whole new, previously unmentioned aspect of Archetypal Characters. After developing the original eight Archetypes and their Elements with Chris, I went on to consider what the Archetypes might look like in the Methodologies, Evaluations, and Purposes. Theory-wise, if the Problem Element of the Objective Story falls in one of these other dimensions of characters, then the Elements in those dimensions would be the principal ones by which the Archetypes would be known. In effect, the set of 16 Elements which contains the Problem Element creates its own, unique "flavor" or variety of Archetypes.
Often, the original 8 Archetypes can seem limiting and lead authors into creating complex characters when, in fact, all that is really needed is another flavor of Archetypes.
This excerpt describes the third and final group of 8 of 24 new Archetypes.
Lesson Ninety Four:
When a Character of a certain Motivation acts with a particular Method using a specific mode of Evaluation, her directions is dictated by her Purpose. Conversely, Motivation, Method, and Evaluation are directionless without Purpose. As a corollary to that, each of the four aspects of Character requires the other three, and is determined by the other three.
This is our first glimpse of the real interdependencies of Dramatica: that any three elements of a Quad determine the fourth. This is WHY Dramatica works; that the elements of story are not independent, but interdependent.
This being the case, let us list our Eight Simple Motivations along side the Simple Methodologies and the Simple Evaluations, and see if we can predict what the Eight Simple Purposes might be.
When we look at the three points we already have, we can extend that line to project the fourth point, Purpose. When we look at a Protagonist who is Assertive and Evaluates in terms of Outcome, her Purpose is to achieve a Goal. But what then of the Antagonist. The Antagonist, being Responsive and Evaluating Impact, is more concerned with the Requirement.
The Antagonist not Goal-oriented? Absolutely Correct. A TRUE Archetypal Antagonist will be consistent through all four character dimensions. She would be Responsive to the threat of the Protagonist's Assertiveness. She would evaluate in terms of the Impact being felt.
Keep in mind that a villain is not the same as an Antagonist. In fact, stories often cast the villain as the Protagonist so that the story's troubles are a result of the villain's proactive actions. Then, when the hero responds, she is justified. In fact, it is hard to find an Archetypal character who is consistent through all four character dimensions.
Take James Bond, for example. Does he decide that there is something he wants to accomplish and then go after it, starting all the trouble? Not really. Rather, a villain does something to achieve what the villain wants, and Bond Responds.
The point being not to say that James Bond is not a "Protagonist," but simply that he is not a consistent Archetype through all four dimensions.
Lesson Ninety Five:
Purposes of other Archetypes
For clarity, let us describe what the other Archetypes would be like if they followed through to consistent Purposes. Then, we can explore how the attributes might be mixed and matched when building specific characters.
For every Goal, there is a Consequence; for every Requirement, a Cost. The Archetypal Guardian is concerned with the Consequence: it is her Purpose to prevent it. The Contagonist, on the other hand is focused on the Cost: it is her Purpose not to pay it. Note the subtle complexities between the positive Purposes of the Protagonist/Antagonist and the negative Purposes of the Guardian/Contagonist.
So, we have half of our Purposes lined out. Next to the other three levels of Character they look like this:
Now, what to do about the Purposes of the remaining four Simple Characters. Harkening back to the terms "Driver" Characters and "Passenger" Characters, we might better describe the Passengers as "Back Seat Drivers". That is to say that just because they are not the prime movers of the direction of the story doesn't mean they are not prime movers of any part of the story. In fact, they are quite active in determining the course of the story.
Just like any journey, a story may focus on the destination, or the sight seeing along the way. Sometimes it is more important where you are going, sometimes how you get there. When a Simple story is destination oriented, the first four Simple Characters are the Drivers. But when a Simple story is journey oriented, the Protagonist, Antagonist, Guardian and Contagonist are relegated to the back seat as Passengers and Reason, Emotion, Sidekick and Skeptic Drive. In fact, all eight are really driving all the time, just in different areas.
What then are these areas? Just as with our minds, the Story Mind's purpose may be one of an External nature or one of and Internal nature. When we want to change our environment, we work toward an External Purpose. However, when we want to change ourselves, we work toward in Internal Purpose.
Since we have been using Simple action stories in most of our examples, the Externally oriented characters have appeared to be the Drivers. But when we look toward Simple Decision stories, the Internally oriented characters become the Prime Movers.
Lesson Ninety Six:
So what then would be the Internal Purposes that complete the list of Eight Simple Purposes?
The difference in Purpose between the two groups that make up the Eight Simple Characters is clear. To see how these Purposes fit in with the Motivation, Methodology, and Evaluation traits, lets examine the Internal Characters one by one.
When you look at the Character of Reason, who Cautiously evaluates things in terms of Information, the Purpose of Satisfaction fits right in. To her counterpart, Emotion, doing things in a Risky manner based on Intuition, Happiness is the Purpose to which they aspire. Similarly, the Passive Sidekick evaluating the Intent, rather than the success, is a perfect supporter seeking only Fulfillment. Her adversary, the Skeptic, trying to Preserve her situation, not concerned with whether the Intent is for the good so much as what Means must be employed, finds her Purpose eventual Contentment.
If a Simple story is about trying to achieve a Goal, the Antagonist will be the Prime Mover. If a Simple story is about trying to reach Fulfillment, the Sidekick will be the Prime Mover.
Lesson Ninety Seven:
What remains is to separate the Eight Simple Purposes into the sixteen Purpose traits. Since we have seen that either the External Characters or the Internal Characters can be the Drivers depending upon the type of story, Each of these simple Purposes can be split into a Situation Purpose and a Condition focus to their Simple Purpose.
Situation Focus: Actuality
Condition Focus: Awareness
Situation Focus: Chaos
Condition Focus: Inequity
Situation Focus: Ability
Condition Focus: Knowledge
Situation Focus: Change
Condition Focus: Speculation
Situation Focus: Projection
Condition Focus: Inertia
Situation Focus: Desire
Condition Focus: Thought
Situation Focus: Self-Awareness
Condition Focus: Perception
Situation Focus: Order
Condition Focus: Equity
Lesson Ninety Eight:
Here are the sixteen Conclusions in Quad form:
|External Condition Focus||External Situation Focus|
|Internal Situation Focus||Internal Condition Focus|
Once more we have an arrangement of the sixteen elements into Quads, but not necessarily the most useful arrangement. As we described before, each of the valid arrangements is most appropriate to Character, Audience, or Author. As Authors we want to put things in the best perspective for our understanding. One of the beauties of DRAMATICA is that if something is adjusted from one valid perspective, it will be equally functional from all other valid perspectives, although not necessarily as meaningful.
This arrangement of the Conclusions is the fully Internal or Character perspective. This is the way we, as individuals, tend to group our Conclusions about ourselves and our environment. We see the elements of the upper left Quad are topped by Knowledge. And to us, these four elements describe what we know about the Universe itself. All of them pertain directly to our understanding of what is out there. In contrast, the upper right Quad deals with our physical relationship with the Universe. These are the Conclusions we draw about how we can affect our environment and how it affects us. This Quad is appropriately headed by "Ability".
Shifting gears, we move to two Quads that describe our understanding of our Minds and our mental relationship with the Universe. The lower left Quad Concludes how we feel about our environment, aptly led by "Desire". The lower right Quad organizes our Conclusions about ourselves, described prominently by "Thought".
But what if we step out of that perspective for the moment and deal with these sixteen elements as if we were looking at someone else's Mind. More precisely: looking into someone else's Mind. We would see that Knowledge, Ability, Desire, and Thought are Conclusions that are the actual motivators for that individual. In truth, the other three elements of each Quad are used to arrive at those four motivating Conclusions. So to from a completely External view - the Author's Perspective - we would group Knowledge, Ability, Desire, and Thought together to form a Quad.
From the External view, Inertia and Change are objective traits of the Universe itself. Equally objective (from the External view) are Actuality and Perception. From the outside perspective, Actuality is the true nature of the Universe, whereas Perception is the true nature of our limited appreciation of it. Since there is always more to see than we have seen, Perception can never match Actuality. But in a limited sense, for a particular consideration, Perception can approach Actuality. So, from the External Author's view, another Quad consisting of Inertia, Change, Actuality, and Perception is created.
Awareness and Self-Awareness describe the degree of our understanding of all the substances and forces in play, both in our environment and ourselves. Projection and Speculation, however, push that understanding into the future, which, due to our limited Perceptions, has the possibility of being to some degree inaccurate. Nevertheless, it is the best we can do with what we currently Know. So, from the Author's perspective, Awareness, Self-Awareness, Projection, and Speculation define a third Quad.
The remaining elements, Order, Chaos, Equity, and Inequity can be grouped together to describe a Mind's understanding of the meaning of the situation, which includes the meaning of the environment by itself, and in reference to self. Therefore, our final Author's perspective Quad consists of Order, Chaos, Equity, and Inequity.
Lesson Ninety Nine:
With this new arrangement, the Quads appear like this:
|External Rating Set||External Judgement Set|
|Internal Judgement Set||Internal Rating Set|
As we examine the Author's Perspective arrangement, we get an entirely different "feel" for how we might use these Quads. In terms of designing Characters as and Author, these are the Dynamic Quads we would not want to violate: for the greatest dramatic potential, we would place no more than one trait from each Dynamic Quad in a single Character. Otherwise, the representation of the individual elements becomes easily muddled and unclear to the Audience.
As before, the DRAMATICA rules apply:
1. "Character" is a consistent combination of motivations, methodologies, evaluations and conclusions.
2. Characters should never represent more than one characteristic, methodology, evaluation, or conclusion from the same Dynamic Pair.
3. A physical "host" may contain up to sixty four Characters.
4. A physical "host" should contain only one Character at a time
Dramatica divides "subplots" into two types: Those that run parallel and don't really affect each other Dramatically, and those that are dramatically hinged together.
An example of parallel subplots can be found in Woody Allen's "Crimes and Misdemeanors" in which the "Crime" story with Martin Landau and the "Misdemeanor" story with Woody Allen never really affect each other.
The purpose of having these two stories in the same "work" is for the audience to be able to compare two completely different issues that share a common cultural concern. In "Crimes and Misdemeanors," it is the differential created between them which provides a social message that extends beyond the meaning found by either of the two Main Characters.
An example of a hinged subplot can be found in the original "Star Wars." Han Solo's debt to Jaba the Hutt is a story in its own right with Han as the Main Character. This subplot eventually comes to have change the course of the plot in the main story.
The purpose of having a subplot may be two-fold: 1: to enhance a character, theme, plot, or amplify part of the genre of the "work" and/or 2: to move the course of the main story in a direction it could not dramatically go in and of itself.
In "Star Wars," Han Solo is initially uncooperative and refuses to get involved in the efforts of Obi Wan or Luke. For example, when the group first arrives on the Death Star, Han wants to fight, not to hide in the room while Obi Wan goes off. But when Luke discovers that the princess is on board, Han wants to wait in the room and not fight. It is his nature.
So, how do we get Han to join Luke in the rescue attempt? We invoke Han's subplot. Luke tells Han, "She's rich," and Han is already hooked. But if there were no Jaba subplot, the money alone would not be enough to convince the uncooperative Han to "walk into the detention area." On the other hand, since Jaba has put a price on Han's head, he's dead already unless he can come up with the money, and this is probably the only chance he's going to get to do that.
As a result, Han joins the plan, acting completely against what his character would do dramatically in the main story but in complete consistency with his personal needs (which are more important to him) in his subplot.
Use both the parallel and hinged subplots to enhance your story's depth and move it in directions it could not legitimately go with only the main plot.
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