Influence Character

Where does the “You and I are alike” concept come from?

I'm looking for articles that help explain the two sides of the same coin concept, but can't find anything.

I don't know where there are specific articles on the "You and I are alike" dichotomy, but the concept is simple:


In the back story (for a Change Main Character**) or at the beginning of the story (for a Steadfast Man Character**), there comes a point where the Main Character must choose a path to take because of some PERSONAL inequity or imbalance introduced by an event of some sort. The Main Character then goes down that path attempting to resolve the personal problem. The Influence Character represents the path not chosen -- the path that is intimately tied to that original choice consciously or unconsciously made by the Main Character at the point when and where the original inequity was addressed.


The part of the argument that ties the two perspectives together, those of the Main Character and Influence Character, is the point of origin -- the event that introduced the original inequity. They both have some relationship to the core inequity that is both the source of personal conflict for the Main Character, but also is the source of the Main Character's drive. This is what gives them a basis in similarity.


The part of the argument where the Main Character and Influence Character diverge is the path taken/chosen to address the original inequity. The Main Character represents the path taken. The Influence Character represents the path NOT taken by the Main Character and is the alternative to the Main Character's path. That is WHY the Influence Character cannot be ignored by the Main Character. The Influence Character represents a legitimate means to addressing the original inequity. However, legitimate does not mean it is the "right" (effective) means to address the "problem."

This divergence in paths/approaches to resolving the Main Character's inequity creates a tug-of-war between the two characters. There is no way for the Main Character to know if it is on the right path toward resolving it's personal problems, or if the Influence Character's path is the better of the two.


So, with the Main Character representing one path and the Influence Character representing the alternative path, a storytelling convention has emerged where the Main Character and Influence Character have a conversation that establishes this relationship. It often goes something like this:

IC: We're the same.
MC: No, we're not the same. You [insert an example of the different path]...
IC: True, but you [insert an example of the shared attention to the inequity], just like me.

... or an interchange that effectively communicates the same information.

In short order, the author has informed the audience about:

  • The Main Character's position on addressing the Main Character's personal problem
  • The Influence Character's alternative position on addressing the Main Character's personal problem
  • How the Main Character and Influence Character are similar in their approaches
  • How the Main Character and Influence Character are dissimilar in their approaches


In the storyform, the most visible expression of the Main Character/Influence Character approach divergence is seen at the Class level of the structure. One character searches for the solution externally (Situation or Activities), while the other uses an internal approach to resolving the inequity (Fixed Attitude or Manipulation/Psychology). That explains the "not alike" part of the argument.

The part that explains the similarity of their approaches relates to the axis of their dynamic (diagonal) pair relationship in the structure. Both characters will have throughlines in EITHER domains that explore processes (i.e. Activity and Manipulation) OR domains that explore the state of things (i.e. Situation and Fixed Attitude).

In this way the two have a basis in common ground (state or process) as well as a divergence in approach (internal or external).


A grand argument story does not begin until all four throughlines are present. [NOTE: This is not the same as how the story is presented to the audience through storyweaving. The AUDIENCE may not be aware of the presence of all four throughlines at the beginning of the work, but each of the four throughlines must be evident BEFORE the first act turn, and preferably much earlier than that point in the story.] A key part of the Main Character's purpose in the story is to explore the path it has taken in its attempt to resolve its personal issues. That exploration is unlikely to occur without the irritating effects on the Main Character's complacency (if any) by the Influence Character exploration (or embodiment) of the path NOT taken by the Main Character.

The inciting event sets into motion the collision (and cohesion) of the four throughlines that form the underlying basis of the story and the drive towards its resolution (or non-resolution).

- - - - - - - - - - - -

** As a general rule, the Main Character's personal inequity is established in the back story for Change Main Characters and at the beginning of the story for Steadfast Main Characters, but there are many exceptions to this rule, especially in stories that don't end well for the Main Character (Judgment: Bad).  

The Influence Character’s Impact on a Steadfast Main Character

I was wondering that in knowing the existence of an Influence Character and how they challenge the Main Character emotionally -- get them to face their personal issues, and so on -- my question is:

"If the Main Character is steadfast, is the Influence Character still challenging the Main Character as if the Main Character were a change character?  Or is it that the Main Character challenges the Influence Character throughout the story to change the Influence Character's approach?

Both, though the frame of reference is always the Main Character.

The Influence Character's behavior creates greater and greater pressure* for the Main Character to change, which forces the Main Character to EITHER build up greater and greater resistance to the pressure, or slowly have the Main Character's resolve eroded.  By the end, the Main Character stays the course, either through conscious choice or perseverance. 

MEANWHILE, the Main Character's steadfastness challenges the Influence Character's determination, which either erodes the Influence Character's adherence to its paradigm, or makes the cost of maintaining the Influence Character's paradigm too challenging to hold.  By the end, the Influence Character gives in or gives up and changes by adopting the Main Character's perspective (in the context of the inequity).

* NOTE: The pressure increases in part because the Influence Character adapts as the Main Character adopts new approaches to resisting the Influence Character's alternative world view.  The changing approaches occur act-by-act, and are visible in the changing frames of reference represented in the four Signposts in the Main Character throughline, the Influence Character throughline, and the MC/IC Relationship throughline.

How can I make sure the audience knows who the Influence Character is?

In the Impact Character Throughline, the Symptom is where this character hopes to have the greatest impact, and Response is how he wants things to change because of that impact. Could you explain this for me in the context of preparing the story, because this is essentially the root of understanding the IC Symptom and Response regardless if they are Steadfast or Change, correct?

The idea of "how [the IC] wants things to change because of his impact" presupposes several things:  a(that the IC is aware of the MC, which it needn't be, b) that the IC is aware of its influence on the MC, which it needn't be, and c) that the IC is trying to influence the MC to change, which it needn't be trying to do.

The answer to your question is "no, it is not the root of understanding the IC Symptom and response..."  It is ONE understanding, and looking at it that way does not take into account the temporal nature of a story where the ebb and flow of influence waxes and wanes and builds (or decreases) as the story moves forward. You're looking for a spatial relationship between the story points to answer a temporal process. They are interconnected, temporally, spatially, and in the context of the other throughlines -- all of which describe the evolving/devolving effects of the inequity at the center of the story. Generalizations, like the one quoted above serve to clarify complex relationships, inadequately represent the entirety of those relationships and therefore fall short of providing "root understanding" for anything.

My recommendation about this whole IC business and your writing is to let it go. You're aware that there is an IC and you know the nature of the context within which the audience will view the IC. That is sufficient to write your story well enough that your audience should put the pieces (and connections) together for themselves.

Think of the four throughlines like composing a sentence. One throughline is a noun, another a verb, another an adjective, and the last like an adverb. Whichever noun, verb, adjective, and adverb you put in the sentence, readers glean meaning through both their understanding of the meanings of the vocabulary you choose, but also by your vocabulary's inherent relationship to one another because of the type of grammatical family into which each falls. You don't need to tell your audience that an adjective acts upon or moderates a noun because that is part of what makes an adjective an adjective.

You do not need to tell the audience that an IC influences or impacts the MC because that is built into the nature of the IC as defined by a storyform. The storyform holds the grammar and nature of the narrative (sentence) structure. You, as author, choose WHICH "noun", "verb", "adjective", and "adverb" fit within the storyform you've chosen, conform to the nature of the narrative elements, and illustrate your creative style and intent through your storyencoding and storyweaving. It is up to
the audience, through Story Reception, to unweave and decode your work to find the underlying storyform that indicates your story's underlying meaning.

Once you've written your first draft, you can test to see if an audience understands if the IC is seen as the IC in the story. If it isn't, you may choose to be more explicit in illustrating the IC story points and how they influence the MC, but I recommend letting your muse guide you through your first go at writing the story. There are plenty of opportunities to
make adjusts during rewriting.

Can the Main Character decide both he and the Influence Character are wrong?

In my story, he MC (in the case of a Change MC) is on the wrong track and the IC character is trying to influence or persuade him otherwise. SO, my question is: will a story still be as solid and "Complete" if the MC changes, but finds Faith (again, in my story's case) in something else than what the IC was arguing or what the Main character believed before? In other words, is it possible to keep a solid story structure if two arguments are being made throughout the story from the IC and the MC, but at the end the MC discovers both their arguments were wrong and discovers some new path to take (in terms of his character change)? So is it okay to introduce a new argument at the end of the story as a big twist to the audience? 

For lack of a better example, let's say the IC is arguing that the blue pill is the best pill, and the MC is arguing that the red pill is the best pill, but in the climax of the story the MC realizes that there is something better than the blue AND red pill - and I introduce the green pill, so he chooses that and his Problem is resolved through that path. Or is that not something I should really be doing?

The IC argument is FAITH, not any particular incarnation of faith.  For example, Obi-wan tells Luke he needs to trust the Force, when really all Luke needs to do is to TRUST SOMETHING... ANYTHING -- himself, the Force, doesn't matter.  So your MC  has to have faith in something even if the IC is saying have faith in something else.  The point is that the conversation is no longer about Disbelief, which was the source of his personal conflict.  The 'conversation' has moved on and the MC Problem becomes a moot point -- it is of no consequence any longer because that story (argument) is over.  THAT IS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT PART OF THE CHANGE.  It may turn out that Faith isn't the answer either, but the fact that the MC has  released himself from the black hole created by the blind spot associated with the MC Problem is what allows the MC to move on with his life.

Blue pill vs. Red pill isn't the right kind of comparison.  The real issue is perceived world versus reality (perception v. actuality), but the pill representation is only meaningful to the MC (Neo) if he can conceive of the difference between the two, which he can't because he's not ready.  What the pills represent at that point in the story is the first step TOWARD being able to know the difference between the two. Just like your character, Neo has to get past the distractions of the pills so that he can let go of his disbelief and have faith that he could be the ONE.  It just so happens that he is so we have a happy ending, but you could have had an ambiguous ending like that of Inception where the MC has changed but the audience doesn't know if he ended up in reality or perception land.  For the MC it doesn't matter because that was not his personal problem.

What term is more accurate, Obstacle Character or Impact Character?

The original Dramatica terms uses Obstacle Character, while Layman's Terms uses Impact Character. The original Dramatica Dictionary refers Obstacle Character to Impact Character, and Impact Character carries the definition. What were the reasons that caused Obstacle to be chosen and why was it changed? Is the term Obstacle more accurate than Impact, and if so, why?

Our original intent was to view the OC as an obstacle preventing the MC from hiding from his personal issues. We revised the label to IMPACT Character to make the IC/OC more active than the seemingly passive "obstacle" to be circumvented.

Just to make your lives even more complicated, we're introducing a third interpretation of this character's label in the next version of Dramatica: the Influence Character. We feel it strikes a nice balance between the indirectness of an obstacle and the directness of an impact.

In point of fact, they are ALL equally valid interpretations of the purpose for having a character representing or proselytizing an alternative viewpoint to that of the MC in the MC's approach to resolving his personal issues. Active or passive, aware or unaware, the obstacle/impact/influence character represents an alternative paradigm to that of the main character.

Why do Villains tend to be the Influence Character in Horror stories?

Why do villains tend to be the impact characters in horror stories? Also, are there any examples of horror that come to mind in which the Influence Character is not the Villain or Antagonist?

The Villains, who are also often the Antagonists, are frequently the Influence Character because the IC is one of the few characters whose perspective must exist until the end of the story. So the Villain is often the IC in horror stories because everybody else is dead or removed from the scene.

There are a couple of movies that come to mind where the Villains (or monsters) are not the IC, though several of them are mixed genres such as Horror/Fantasy, Horror/SciFi, or Horror/Drama"

  •  The Reaping: IC: The little girl; Villain: Doug (and the townsfolk)
  •  Pitch Black: IC: Riddick; Villians: Monsters
  •  Aliens: IC: Newt; Villains: Aliens/Mother Alien
  •  Stir of Echoes: IC: Ghost (Samantha Kozac); Villians: The neighbors that killed her and covered it up.
  •  Edge of Darkness: IC: Hit Man; Villains: Corporate and government cover-up guys
  •  30 Days of Night: IC: Stlla Oleson (love interest); Villains: Vampires

Granted, these are the exceptions rather than the rules, and each of these seem to be more than just "horror" movies.

Does the Influence Character’s Problem-Solving Style matter?

The Main Character's Problem-Solving Style can be chosen/viewed in both the Story Engine and the Query System. However, the Influence Character's Problem-Solving Style does not seem to be choosable or viewable anywhere within the software. Is it there somewhere that I missed? Or can it be determined 'by hand' by looking at other choices, such as the MC's Problem-Solving Style? Even if it doesn't matter I would like to know how to determine what the IC problem-solving style is.

It is not something you can choose in the software. I believe, theoretically--in a perfect story--the Influence Character's Problem-Solving Style would be the opposite of the Main Character's (Holistic when the Main Character's PSP is Linear and Linear when the MC's PSP is _Holistic). But I don't believe this is absolutely needed for complete comprehension of a story's meaning (storyform).

In other words, it is nice to have it in there, but it doesn't have to be opposite.

How can I identify the Influence Character?

How can I identify who my Influence Character is when he/she is also involved in the rest of the story as an Objective Character?

First of all, try thinking about your story only in terms of what is REALLY going on -- not what SEEMS to be going on. This is the viewpoint that most clearly identifies the storyform. After you know what your story is truly about, then you can hide it, hint at it, and otherwise obfuscate it from your audience. The events as they TRULY transpire make up the story's Plot. The events as they are presented to the audience is what we call Storyweaving. In works that rely on mystery and suspense, the storyweaving will present things much differently than the linear progression of the Plot.

The questions you should then ask yourself is this: What is my Main Character's PERSONAL concern? This issue is something that the MC would take with him or her even if the other characters went away. That will help define the MC's point of view. Then ask the question: Who in the story has a fundamentally different and alternative Point of View on the same type of issues. Identifying that individual will help you identify WHO your Influence Character is.

The alternative approach is to PICK a character as the Influence Character and GIVE him/her an alternative world view to that of the MC. Sometimes that works -- especially if you do not have a clear idea who the Influence Character is.

On your point about what the Main Character's personal issue is, if his or her problem is "Disbelief" AND he or she is a character that ultimately changes to resolve his/her personal issues, this would indicate that FOR THIS CHARACTER looking at things in a skeptical manner leads to conflict or errors (or other such problematic behavior). This would imply that the personal solution for this character would be to open his or herself up to belief in order to resolve his/her personal issues. If the character ultimately Remains Steadfast to his/her skeptical approach in an effort to resolve his/her personal issues, then disbelief would be better understood to be the source of his/her drive and not so much as a "problem."

Concerning the teacher as an Influence Character, the teacher need not be aware of the MC or his/her impact on the MC for them to act as the IC. Of course, this is more difficult to storytell, but it is very doable. However, the IC must represent an alternative attitude or approach (paradigm) to that of the MC when considering the issue that is key to the MC. Having a different pov is not enough. It must be a different POV on a single issue -- the issue that is pivotal to the story in general and the MC specifically.

Let me reiterate about being "objective" about your own story. For the moment, dismiss the storyweaving from your considerations. Determine what is really going on in your story. Then, and only then, re-look at the Dramatica questions and answer them based on this purely Author's point of view. You should find this process a little easier, and hopefully determine the answers to the questions that are nagging at you.

Can the Influence Character role be played by different characters?

Can the Influence Character be one thing for a time and then hand off to another player in Grand Argument Story? In other words, does IC have to be there from start to finish in the same player?

The Influence Character function can be handed off successfully from one Objective Character to another, but it is tricky. There is a section in the theory book on "hand offs" and it covers this topic pretty well. The idea is that the Influence Character function has to be felt throughout the entire story, whether they are actually present or not. The Influence Character is a presence whose impact is felt by the Main Character, forcing the Main Character to face their personal problems. This function can be held in one player and then picked up by another, but the same appreciations have to be at work in both players when they are being the Influence Character; i.e. the same Concern, Issue, Problem, Solution, Critical Flaw, Benchmark, etc.. If two characters in your story carry this function, then they should never meet in the same scene because it will feel like you have two of the same character in there. In a hand off, it is probably best to have the original Influence Character drop back to be less important to the story when a new player becomes the Influence Character. Maybe the original IC should drop out of the story altogether, it's up to you. But the more they hang around after giving up their original function, the more potential for confusion there will be.

The best hand off I've noticed yet is done in Clint Eastwood's In the Line of Fire. The Influence Character function is first held in Renee Russo's character, the woman agent who eventually becomes Clint's partner. But when Clint's first partner is murdered by John Malkovich's character, then the John Malkovich character takes over the Influence Character position. At this point, Renee Russo becomes pretty much an archetypal sidekick. The thrilling storytelling at the time of this switch helps hide what's really happening. The author's also seemed to really have a firm grasp of how they wanted this to work, so they never violated the hand off and successfully had two characters represent the Influence Character function.

Your question makes me think of another example of how an Influence Character can be woven into a story in an unconventional way. The play The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams has an Influence Character who doesn't actually appear on stage to say any lines until the last third of the play. The Main Character in this play is Laura, the meek daughter who is kind of hidden in the play by her lack of dialogue and activity. But her devotion to an unrequited love from her old high school is brought up regularly in the play, and this person is coincidentally invited over for dinner toward the end of the play. This gentleman caller is the Influence Character, and the final scenes allow Jim O'Conner to continue his role as the Influence Character in person. This example illustrates how the Influence Character has to be present throughout the whole play in some manner or other (like in Laura's little shrine to Jim), but does NOT have to actually be there in person for every single act.

Are there any rules as to what objective elements the Main and Influence Character should have?

REGARDING the Objective Story Problem and Solution (and Symptom and Response), the answer is, "Yes, these elements will appear in the characters." The Main Character's objective function will be to embody one of these four elements with the Influence Character embodying its dynamic opposite. Which is which is dependent on a LOT of variables which I won't go into at this time. In a future version of Dramatica Story Expert we hope to have it determine it for you. Until that time, go with your instincts.

Is an Objective Character the same as the Influence Character?

I have a handle on most Dramatica terms but I'm having troubles conceptualizing Objective Character. Is an Objective Character the same as an Influence Character?

No, they are quite different.

  1. Objective Characters have structural roles and are identified by their functions.
  2. The Influence 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 Influence 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 field viewed by a general on a hill overlooking the dramatic 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 Influence Character.

The Influence 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 Influence Character is right, and sometimes wrong. And sometimes the Main Character chooses the good path and sometimes the bad one. Also, the Influence 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 Influence 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. Influence Character is "you" (for we never see things from the Obstacle's point of view, but rather look AT the Influence 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 Influence Character. Which one will determine the complex nature of the relationship between Main and Influence, 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 in the Subjective story (Relationship 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 Influence 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 Influence 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 Influence, 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 it 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.

If the Influence Character is a passenger in the Overall Story, will it weaken that story?

Is having your Influence Character as a passenger in the Overall Story an acceptable situation, or does it weaken that Overall Story?

It is quite an acceptable situation and in no way weakens the OS. Typically, the IC is given a stronger role in films/screenplays because of the limited length of the work. It is easier to have the IC do multiple duty (the MC as well) in order to economize on time. That's why Archetypes appear so frequently. They are storytelling shorthand for potentially complex relationships. Longer works or novels have the luxury to examine a "passenger" IC to the fullest.

What relationship does the Influence Character have to the rest of the Objective Characters?

The Influence Character (IC) is tied to one of four characteristics in the Objective Story (OS): the OS problem, OS solution, OS focus, or the OS direction. The Main Character (MC) is also tied to this quad of elements. Determining which one is a little beyond the scope of this email, but suffice it to say that these are the ONLY elements that are required to tie the MC and IC to the OS. Traditionally, however, authors tend to make their MC and IC a little more integrated into the "big picture" Objective Story.

Can there be more than one Influence Character?

Can there be more than one Influence Character through the arc of the main character's throughline?

Absolutely "Yes," you may have more than one Influence Character as your story progresses along. There are two ways to do thishe first is to hand-off the duties between players. This usually happens at act changes but need not. An example of this type of multiple ICs can be found in A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. The "Ghosts" collectively are Scrooge's Influence Character. You'll notice that the different ghosts never appear together. This is important to keep from confusing the audience about their function in the story.

The other way to have more than one Influence Character is to have the Influence Character represented by a group. The tricky thing about doing this is that each of the players representing the Influence Character MUST share the same world view or condition and thus have the same impact on the Main Character. For example, in The Incredibles, Helen Parr (Elastigirl) is Influence Character to her husband's Main Character. Their relationship is mirrored by their children, Violet and Dash. In essence, both the MC and Influence Character throughlines are explored through two players each. Though this example show two MCs and two ICs, you can easily have one Main Character with multiple Influence Characters.