Objective Characters

Are Objective Characters aware of the Problem and Solution in a story?

Are Objective Characters as blind to the Problem in their Throughline as the Main Character is? If not, then how come they don't simply solve the Issue at hand (with the appropriate Solution).

No and yes.

Objective characters are not a single group of characters working in concert with one another. There are many factions, as well as many varied functions performed by the various characters. They never all have the same agenda. In fact, as much as the protagonist works toward resolving the OS Problem, the antagonist works against its resolution.

The bulk of the objective characters are not aware of the Overall Story Problem and OS Solution until the last act of the story. Some may never be aware of them, even after the story is over. They might see them but not recognize them for their importance. Others may never be aware of the OS Problem and Solution, seeing only the OS Symptom and OS Response.

There will be one or two or more objective characters peppered in the story that can see what is going on, or at least partially so. They provide the voice drowned out by the crowd of other characters that gives insight into the story mechanisms that drive the Overall Story throughline. Sometimes it is the protagonist that does this (e.g. Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird), sometimes the Guardian character, the Antagonist, or a combination of characters (e.g. Obi-Wan and Princess Leia each have incomplete, privileged knowledge about what is really going on in Star Wars: A New Hope).

Even then, these characters may not know about the OS Problem and Solution until later on in the story. Like the Main Character development, it is not a matter of being all or nothing, but a matter of WHEN they know -- or suspect -- what is causing the troubles. Unlike the Main Character development, the Overall Story throughline present the logistical problem to be solved. Instead of the layers of justifications blinding the MC from the source of his troubles, there is a Story Goal in the OS throughline, with Requirements, Prerequisites, Preconditions and more to wade through in order to achieve the Story Goal while resolving the OS Problem.

Lastly, there is the matter of when the AUDIENCE finds out about the OS problem and solution. That is mostly a matter of storyweaving -- controlling WHEN essential information about the storyform is revealed to the audience. There may be a difference between when the characters know, and when we, the audience, know, and when we know THEY know. Fortunately, it's up to us as authors to make those distinctions as we see fit.

Must you maintain the relative position of a character throughout the Build Characters window?

Must you maintain the relative position of a character throughout the sequence of motivation, method, evaluation, and purpose? (A review of some of the examples would suggest otherwise, however, there appear to be more than a few "hidden" relationships and limitations and thought the answer to this might save me time and effort.)

For Archetypal Characters, the answer is "Yes." For more complex, and generally more interesting, characters, the answer is "No." Archetypal characters are archetypal BECAUSE their motivations, methodologies, standards of evaluation, and purposes are completely supportive of each other. You can create very interesting characters by breaking the pattern between the "layers." For instance, an archetypal Protagonist "pursues" through a methodology of "Proaction." That is completely different than a complex character that "pursues" by using the methodology of "inaction" or "protection."

How do I interpret the objective character elements when forming complex characters?

How do I interpret the objective character elements when determining the formations of complex characters who do not respect the traditional archetypes?

Complex objective character interactions are similar to archetypal character interactions, just a little more . . . well, complex. What I mean is that you must interact the characteristics on a case by case basis using whichever characters they inhabit to make your point. Archetypal characters cluster non-conflicting characteristics together into each archetype, thereby simplifying the interactions. Complex characters might conflict in their methodology (e.g. Proaction vs. Reaction), for instance, yet be completely compatible in the motivations (e.g. Avoidance vs. Oppose -- little direct conflict here).

When using the suggested storyweaving methodologies, try thinking less in terms of the interactions of the "players" (i.e. you cast members), and think more in terms of the characteristics interactions. The players that have the characteristics will interact but potentially in different ways on different levels. Especially when you compare them to the rather simplistic interactions that archetypal characters have.

The bottom line is, the characteristics must be shown how they relate to one another. Characters (and players) are the means by which authors typically express those relationships/interactions. Our storybook worksheets are designed to show you how to work at presenting these interactions, but they favor the more simplified archetypal character relationships (to accommodate a more generalized audience). It may be time for you to use some of the concepts from the worksheets (introduction, interaction, etc.), but expand on them to fit your own needs.

How does Dramatica predict the order of character development?

The theory goes so far as to suggest that it can predict the necessary order and appearance of these dynamic elements. I feel like I have missed something very important about the structure of my story and the employment of character. Not only do I not know how to assign the elements effectively, I am beginning to unravel what I do understand about the structure and its relationship to my character formation. Where do I find such a prediction of character dynamics? How does the structure make such predictions?

That's why we refer to Dramatica as a theory of story. The program COULD do that type of prediction, but we do not allow it to. To do so, Dramatica begins to micro-manage the story development process which is completely antithetical to the creative process. In other words, don't look for this in Dramatica because you won't find it in any version of the software that has been released.

My recommendation to you is to loosen up a little on your objective characters. Understand that, from Dramatica's point of view, it doesn't matter which character elements each of your objective characters has. That is COMPLETELY a storytelling choice determined by you, the author, and will not have any bearing on the meaning of the STORYFORM. It will, however, have a potentially strong impact on your STORYTELLING (storyencoding and storyweaving). So even though it makes no difference to Dramatica, it will make a difference to you. SO . . . create characters that you want to populate your story. Follow the rule of 3's as a general guideline. Be aware of each character's characteristics when they interact to determine the nature and direction of those interactions. But most importantly, write it the way that FEELS and LOGICS right for you.

Do I need to explore ALL the character interactions Dramatica suggests?

Am I to understand that I must complete interactions for the entire dimension which contains my crucial problem (evaluation)? The relationship between element quads is clear and the "Rule of Three's " is something I have known for years. But how do I handle the different dimension sets that I am using to describe my characters? Does the theory suggest that if I argue conflicts in motivation, evaluation, and methodology, I have to describe the interactions of all of my characters in each of these sets? That would add up to 72 interactions!

That's right. An absolutely, air tight, fully developed story will explore are four dimensions fully, but this is an exception rather than a rule in screenplays. Novels have the luxury of storytelling "real estate" in which to explore all of the character elements and their interactions in depth. Films are generally much more limited in the time (and "space") with which they have to spend illustrating the character element interactions. Therefore, exploring one dimension fully acts as a short-hand for exploring all four (much as Archetypal Characters act as a short hand for complex characters). You need only touch the other dimensions that differ from the "norm" that should be explored explicitly. I should note that more than one interaction can be done at a time, particularly if you have many objective characters present. Try to get as much mileage out of your storyweaving as possible by doubling or tripling up on your interactions, etc.

Can a character portray any characteristic?

Is it possible for any character to portray a characteristic as long as the character's characteristic(s) don't conflict?

This is iffy. Part of the function of the Objective Characters is to provide a certain constancy of approach or attitude in order for the audience to gauge what is what in the story. You can get around this by using "hand-offs," the technique of passing a function from one player to another. If you have a single player representing an OS function in one scene, and then a completely different, and possibly contradictory, function later on, your audience is likely to be confused. Since all of the Objective Characters are part of a single story point of view, the Objective Story point of view, their function is to represent those functions objectively. Your MC and IC, on the other hand, will change over the course of the story. They each contain the entire set of 64 elements -- the same elements that make up the entire "cast" of Objective Characters.

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.

Is the Dramatica Theory Too Narrow?

Is it my imagination (or ignorance) or does Dramatica have a very narrow approach to story telling? For example, how do you fit your characters into Dramatica's archetypes? I have no Main character... they are all equally important. I have no hero; but I do have one character who is probably more evil than the rest. Is there some aspect of Dramatica that allows you to create a main character that is an antihero--or just plain evil. There is no "Helper" or "Skeptic" or "Guardian" etc. In fact the Dramatic types make very little sense to my story. The instructions suggest something about creating complex characters, but this seems so tedious. Is there another way to fit an unconventional story line into this program?

Archetypes are simple by definition. If you'd like more complex characters, you'll need to move away from the convenience of archetypes and into the world of complex characters. Complex characters are not difficult to create--it's just a matter of choosing their component elements in the Build Characters window. "Complex" refers to the degree to which a character's internal and external characteristics are in harmony (archetype) or at odds (complex).

Personally, I think Dramatica's description of story is far from simplistic. It is rich in depth and breadth. Please do not use the StoryGuide as an indication of Dramatica's reach into your story. The StoryGuide is DESIGNED to be simple and linear because it is designed to be used by Dramatica newbies and therefore uses the archetypes instead of suggesting more sophisticated character choices. However, Dramatica need not be used in either a simple or linear manner. Look to any of the other Query System topic lists or the Story Points window to get a better idea of the Dramatica's scope.

For example, Dramatica does NOT describe characters such as a Hero or Villain. Those are storytelling conventions that are not very useful if you want to do something even slightly less conventional. Instead, Dramatica see characters as having functions in different areas (throughlines) of the story. By separating the functions, an author may combine the "pieces" in interesting ways to create non-traditional characters. By way of example, you may combine the Main Character with the functions of an antagonist or a sidekick or any type of complex character instead of the typical MC/protagonist pairing.

With that said, Dramatica IS best used to develop a particular form of story--one in which an author wishes to present an argument to an audience in the form of a story. If you're not interested in developing a "Grand Argument Story" then Dramatica may not be the tool for you to use. Otherwise, it's by far the best story development tool available and the only one that makes suggestions about your story based information you give it in areas of the story you DID NOT describe.

Do I really need all 64 character elements in my story?

I've been working for some time now on my current script and I have a question that probably only you can answer. I seem to be having a really hard time getting a handle on the number of elements in the 64 Element Set that should be used in creating my chatacters.... I would appreciate if you could enlighten me on this.

"In a perfect world..." every character element would be represented and interacted with every other element.

"In a minimalist world..." the four character elements in the quad that contains the problem element will interact.

The "real" world exists somewhere between the two.

Generally speaking, it's best to describe the interactions of elements in quads (4), sets (16 elements), chess sets (64 elements), or super sets (256 elements = all elements in the four domains). The reason this is a generalization comes from the fact that the qualities that define ANY quad are similar. The difference is the "shading" and levels of subtlety. The more elements, the greater the subtlety. The reason for trying to keep to the factors of "4" is to maintain a semblance of balance. If you explore 12 of the 16 motivation elements, your argument to the audience is going to seem off balance. IF you only argue four, the argument will appear balanced but shallow.

Another factor is the type of finished work in which your story is to be written. A novel has far more "real estate" to explore story nitty-gritty of character element interactions than a screenplay. A screenplay has more room than a short story. A short story has more room than a ballad. Very often the form in which you tell a story may dictate how much time and space you have to tell it.

About the Examples

When analyzing someone else's work, it's often difficult to identify every bit of the author's intent. Big stuff, such as Story Goal or Main Character Problem might be easy, but dissecting the Overall Story Characters is often little more than guess work. Our example files try to identify the character elements where intent could be identified. Where it was unclear or conflicted, we left the elements blank. It's important to keep in mind that Dramatica's tools are just that--tools. Use them to fix things that aren't working properly or to tune them up. Don't trying fixing aspects of your story that aren't "broken." Just because you have a hammer does not mean everything is a nail.

How do I work the character information Dramatica provides into my story?

I am using Dramatica to write a novel and have some questions. How do I use all the character information that I put in at the beginning of the program? Do I need to print out the information and just plug it in as I write chapters? Do I eventually just print out everything I put in your program and write the novel using my word processor?

Anything you put into Dramatica you can export via the reports. You are correct in identifying that Dramatica is a place to develop your ideas and materials, but eventually you will write the finished work in your word processor.

Most of Dramatica's topics ask you to describe story elements in a single place. However, those descriptions may be broken down into bits and pieces which are sprinkled throughout your story. How you use what you've written in Dramatica in your finished work completely depends on what you've written.

Some writers use Dramatica to jot ideas and notes--just enough so that they know how they're going to illustrate the story points. When it comes to writing, they use their notes as guidelines but do not incorporate much of the material itself.

Other writers go into great depth in their descriptions. When it comes to writing the finished work, they copy and paste portions of the materials they've written which become part of the finished work itself. These are just two of the many ways that Dramatica users work with the material they've developed in the Dramatica software.

What is the difference between Contagonist and Antagonist?

The differences between the Contagonist and the Antagonist are best understood by looking at their component character elements.

At the motivation level, the Contagonist represents Temptation and Hinder, whereas the Antagonist represents Reconsider and Avoid/Prevent.

Where a contagonist might lead one astray and impede one's progress, an antagonist would make the argument that one should completely reconsider one's plans while actively acting to avoid or prevent them from taking place.

The same type of relationships between the Contagonist and Antagonist exist in the other three levels of character elements -- Methodology, Purposes, and standards of Evaluation.

How can I use the StoryGuide to develop characters in my story?

The purpose of the StoryGuide in the Dramatica software is to give new users a place to start, plus some guidance in how to use Dramatica to develop stories. As such, its approach is designed to be simple and to deal with stories somewhat simplistically. Nowhere is that more evident than in the Dramatica Archetypal Characters. Once you understand the basics, we recommend taking off the "training wheels" introduced in the StoryGuide and going all out in developing Complex Characters. Use the multiple levels of character elements available to you to create interesting blends of characteristics. Use greater or fewer numbers of characters than the standard "eight-pack" that archetypes come in. In other words, we recommend using archetypes as a place to start, but strongly suggest that you develop them into more interesting, complex characters.

Aren’t Antagonist and Villain the same thing?

Don't they mean the same thing?

Do not confuse an archetypal Antagonist in Dramatica with a classical "Villain." A Villain is a non-Dramatica term often used to describe a character responsible for causing or doing things the audience doesn't like (i.e. the 'Bad Guy') -- usually to characters the audience likes. A Dramatica Antagonist, on the other hand, is the character trying to prevent the overall goal from coming to pass or being achieved. Quite often characters are both the Antagonist and the Villain (e.g. Dr. Evil in Austin Powers, or the Terminator in The Terminator). Other times an Antagonist will be more complex than a simple Villain (Jane Hudson in What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, or Buddy in Lonestar), or a Villain may be the Protagonist (Richard III in Shakespeare's Richard III).

How can I use Dramatica to develop the characters in my story?

When creating Objective Characters in your story, character elements can be combined in just about any combination you can think of. The further away from archetypal characters you make them, the more 'interesting' they may seem to your audience (they'll be less predictable). One 'rule' to follow is to avoid creating characters that contain both sides of a dynamic pair. Another recommendation is to put the MC crucial element in the objective character (player) that is also the MC, and the IC crucial element in the objective character (player) that is also the IC.

How do Main and Influence Characters fit into the story as a whole?

Though the Main Character (MC) and Influence Character (IC) represent alternative world views in your story, they also function in the Overall (Objective) Story as Objective Characters. As characters in the overall story (such as protagonist, antagonist, sidekick, etc.), they each play a role in the efforts toward achieving or preventing the achievement of the Story Goal. As MC and IC, they provide contrasting personal perspectives to those shown from the dispassionate view of the Overall Story throughline, and the passionate view held in the Subjective (Relationship) Story throughline.

How do I figure out what my Objective Story Domain is?

I'm beginning to use Dramatica Story Expert to build a story, and I have a problem; perhaps you can help me. I'm using the workbook for the StoryGuide Pro, and having a lot of trouble figuring out what the Objective Story Domain is for my purposes. I intend to write a fairly standard romance novel. The heroine feels trapped in an unrewarding relationship and eventually she's "saved" by her knight in shining armor. Can you help me see which of the four domains--Universe, Physics, Psychology, or Mind--I should choose to get the ball rolling?

My recommendation is always to start with what you know best. If that's the Main Character throughline, then start there. If it's the Relationship Story throughline (which is frequently strongly emphasized as the "romance" part of a Romance Novel), start there. The same goes for the Objective story throughline or the Influence Character throughline. Another trick is to skip the Domain level if nothing jumps right out and grabs your attention, and proceed to the Types level. Which group of four types (there are four in each class) seems to describe your story's "plot" best? If that doesn't work, skip the Types and go for the Variations. Given the context of the domain you are choosing, which thematic issues seem to be most relevant? Each Type and Variation is unique to the Class in which it is located. (This is not true of the Elements.)

One more thing to keep in mind is that the purpose of picking (or assigning) a domain to a throughline is to identify the general area from which conflict emanates. Is it a situation (Universe), an activity (Physics), an attitude (Mind) or a manner of thinking (Psychology) that is CAUSING TROUBLE for the characters?

You say that your MC "feels trapped in an unrewarding relationship". If the focus is on her physical situation, then that would imply a Main Character domain of Universe. If, however, these feelings were more due to a disturbed (or out-of-balance) mind, then Psychology might be a better MC Domain -- particularly if she is a Be-er and would prefer to change her feelings or ideas when confronted with conflict, as opposed to doing something about it physically.

Is the conflict between the MC and the IC due to physical abuse or problematic activities (Relationship Story Domain of Physics), or is it more like the conflict grows out of manipulations or mind games (Relationship Story Domain of Psychology)?

I have no idea what your Objective Story throughline is about so it's nearly impossible to make a useful suggestions. However, here's a little trick you can use to help think of the Objective Story "objectively." Think of what ALL the characters in your story are concerned with. What holds them together -- why are they even in the story. Make sure that, when thinking of the characters, you identify them by their ROLE (heroine, villain, father, doctor, sister, etc.). Avoid using their proper names. Once you think about a character in terms of their name it's very difficult to avoid personalizing your feelings about them which makes seeing them objectively very hard indeed.