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.

Why do the character elements change position in the different throughlines?

My understanding from the Theory Book and all the examples I've seen shows the Motivational Quads with Consider/Logic/Feeling/Reconsider in the top left quad, and the others played out accordingly. After completing my storyform, the top-left quad looks like this: Consider/Pursuit/Avoidance/Reconsider, with other changes accordingly. The replacement of Logic by Pursuit and Feeling by Avoidance is throwing me. Is this what is supposed to happen after I complete a storyform?

The arrangement of the elements is different in each of the four throughlines/domains. For the sake of consistency, the arrangement we usually show in the book and reference material is the arrangement found in the Activities class. The arrangement you describe for your story suggests that your Overall Story Throughline is in the Fixed Attitude class.

In other words, Dramatica shows you the arrangement (and groupings) of the story elements appropriate to your Overall Story Throughline's domain.

How can I effectively illustrate the different character interactions?

It says by highlighting a Character that has been assigned to the grid in character builder [The Build Characters window in the Dramatica Pro and Writer's DreamKit software], you can see a basic description of that characters dramatic relationship.

But if two characters are in a scene and one has hinder and the other as Logic (motivation grid and thus are not adjacent) according to Dramatica there is No character interaction between there character traits or should I say Dramatica can not represent this.

The interaction of character elements makes the most sense when interacting elements within a single quad. Describing interactions between character elements from different quads is fine, but there won't seem to be a lot of identifiable ground for conflict other than general agreement or disagreement.

So, don't feel inhibited from interacting any elements. It creates interesting storytelling.

You can show personal information about characters other than the MC and IC, but beware. When you begin to create personal experiences with OS Characters, your audience will be inclined to see them as MC's. This is fine if your creating substories for these characters. However, if you're not, you run the potential of confusing your audience.

CAVEAT: This seeming limitation is only regarding the Grand Argument Story that you are telling. Digressions and substories are open to all sorts of exploration--personally or impersonally. Just make sure YOU don't get confused so your audience doesn't get confused.

How do turncoats and character reveals work within Dramatica?

Any experience, thoughts, or suggestions on using the Build Character screen for writing mystery/thrillers?

Specifically, I'm having trouble with the "apparent story" and the "true story" aspect of writing a mystery/thriller and assigning elements in the Build Character screen. Things seem to be one way during much of the story. As the detective investigates, the picture keeps changing, until at the end, day is revealed to be night, white is really black, and the true bad guy's identity is revealed.

So what should be encoded in Build Characters: the characters' apparent motives, methods, purposes, or their "ultimate, true" elements? A big problem is that those true elements aren't revealed until the end, making it hard to put them in the story earlier.

The best way you make a characters look like they're one thing but are really another is to build your characters with seemingly incompatible traits. The trick is to show the "public" traits but conceal the "private" traits until the reveal. By conceal I mean use misdirection so that the effects of the private traits are either misinterpreted or associated with someone other than that character. This often works when assigning traits from the different character trait levels (motivation, methodology, evaluation, purpose).

For example, let's say we have a character that is both oppose and proaction. He can publicly oppose things while privately (and unknown to the audience) act as a provocateur by setting things into motion proactively. Eventually the hidden trait is connected by others (and the audience) to its proper owner and that character's "true" (complete) nature is revealed.

How do the character elements work in each of the throughlines?

I know that there are 64 elements to be distributed among overall characters. However, the Main and Influence characters double up as overall characters, so if you had a main character who was also a protagonist - would you need two sets of elements or would they be the same for that player? Also, how do you go about choosing character elements - can you pick them from anywhere? I have noticed that they are arranged in different patterns for each separate class - is this purely for picking just one element for each throughline to signify their main problem. Does it affect the way you pick elements for the overall characters?

You're right about the Main Character and Influence Character. Each one has a complete set of character elements. These elements describe the POSSIBLE places the problem might be in each of their throughlines, but only the PROBLEM element in each throughline is the cause of conflict in the throughline. So, while you may have your Main Character explore all of the elements while trying to solve his personal problems, only the MC Solution will do.

Both the MC and IC also have Overall Story counterparts (more accurately, the players that represent the MC and IC also represent players in the Overall Story throughline). Therefore, their roles in the OS (and the elements assigned to those characters) give them something to do within the context of the Overall Story. For example, Luke Skywalker--as MC--tries to work out his personal problems and learns to trust his instincts, while he plays protagonist in the Overall Story as a proponent in fighting the Empire.

The different patterns within each class are understandable when you look at how the Dramatica structural model is built. The bottom level is where the elements from which you build your Overall Story characters are found. Unlike the top three levels, however, each item does NOT have its own unique label (e.g. Pursuit and Consider). There is one set (or what we call a "chess set") of 64 unique labels which cover all of the elements for a single Domain/Throughline. Dramatica consists of four Domains and the elements appear within each of these Domains. The DIFFERENCE between the elements of one Domain and another is the arrangement of the elements within the quads. Though a dynamic pair is never split (e.g. Pursuit and Avoidance), it will be paired with different dynamic pairs to make up each quad. The combination of the four elements within each quad is different from domain to domain. These combinations create slightly different contextual "flavors" for the elements which substitute for unique labels. Therefore, Pursuit in a Situation domain is subtly different than Pursuit in an Activity domain because of the shared elements of the quad in which it is found.

Picking elements for MC or IC do not control which elements you assign to their functions in the Overall Story throughline. Build the characters however you'd like to.

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.

Do I have to show the Influence Character’s Resolve?

Do I have to show that the impact character has really changed at the end of my script? For the IC is a villain in this story and if I show him as a changed person in the end (since MC is steadfast) then it sounds like an age old moral tale.

A: If your Influence Character is a change character, you should show it. It doesn't matter if he is a villain. Being the antagonist is part of the Overall Story throughline and deals with the story goal. His function as Influence Character is more personal. Most films don't SHOW the moment when the IC changes. It usually happens off screen. We find out that he or she has changed after the fact. For example, Pussy Galore in Goldfinger changes and her change is only given two lines of discussion. Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs changes off screen. We find out he has changed when he calls Clarice Starling and tells her he's not coming after her (he's killed everybody in his life that has come close to him). As a villain, you character will remain steadfastly against the Story Goal. As a Change IC, your IC is transformed.

For example, the character may go from indifference to caring (Sam Gerard in The Fugitive), or independent to committed (Jerry Maguire). In both cases, it's on a more personal level than the of the OS. Showing the IC change does two things for your story:

  1. It contrasts and emphasizes the MC's steadfastness, and...
  2. it gives the IC some emotional depth and complexity that counterpoints his function as an antagonist.

An excellent example of this kind of character is the first season "bad guy," Al Swearengen, in the HBO TV Series, Deadwood. He starts off as the series villain but always has a "human" side to him that makes him far more credible and potent as an Influence Character.

Is a Success Outcome dependent on whether the Protagonist wins?

If the Protagonist in an archetypal story is pursuing something bad and the Main Character (who is the Antagonist) is trying to stop him, how does this affect the outcome of a story? Is a Success outcome dependent on whether the Protagonist wins, or whether the Main Character wins?

The Outcome is always dependent on what is going on in the Objective Story and does not directly relate to the Main Character or the MC’s wishes. For instance, the Objective Story might be about an assassination attempt on the President. If the Protagonist was the prime mover toward killing the President, then Outcome would be based on whether or not he succeeded in doing so (Success if he dies, Failure if he lives). Conversely, if the Protagonist was trying to protect the President from assassination, then the Outcome would be based on how effective he was at preventing the murder (Failure if he dies, Success if he lives).

If the Main Character is the Protagonist, should the Crucial Element be part of the Archetype?

If a Main Character is also the protagonist of the story should the Crucial Element always be one of the elements that make up a Protagonist archetype (pursuit, consider etc.) or can it be any element you choose?

The simple answer is that the crucial element can be any element you want. HOWEVER, you bring up some other issues and they warrant a little follow up commentary.

If your Main Character is a FULLY archetypal main character, then the crucial element would be one of the MC’s eight elements (pursue, consider, actuality, knowledge, proven, effect, certainty, or proaction). Our Star Wars example, on the other hand, is a bit of a cheat. Though the eight principle characters align themselves at the Motivation level into a Dramatica Archetypal Character pattern (and therefore have the “appearance” of truly archetypal characters), the pattern does not hold up as you explore the three other levels of character: Methodology, Purpose, and Means of Evaluation.

Since Star Wars emphasis is decidedly NOT on character, the other levels are not nearly as well drawn as the character Motivations. This works reasonably well because the audience is given enough information to infer that the characters are archetypes. Encoding characters this way frees the author from having to illustrate every function of a character because the rest of the functions are implied. The author only needs to be explicit when a character represents a non-archetypal characteristic.

If the Antagonist changes, will that result in a Happy Ending?

I have a wife as the Antagonist, but I want in the end for the husband and wife to come back together again. Is it possible?

Certainly. Scrooge in A Christmas Carol is certainly the Antagonist (though he happens to be the MC as opposed to the IC), and as a result of his change he is now back in the graces of his fellow Londoners, including his nephew, his debtors, and Bob Cratchet and family.

Can the Antagonist change?

I wouldn’t suggest that the Antagonist change so much as the Impact Character, who just happens to be the Antagonist as well, change. An Antagonist can change after they have won or been beaten, but they shouldn’t do so before that point, otherwise the Objective Story will not have any sense of closure—providing you want to tell a Grand Argument Story that is, in fact, a closed story, i.e. a complete argument.

Can an Antagonist be redeemed?

That’s a storytelling and Story Reception issue more so than a storyforming issue. You can certainly have an extremely “bad” or antagonistic person find the err of their ways, BUT modern audiences may not buy into the happy ending business. This goes in and out of fashion. Modern adult American audiences have a jaundiced view toward “easy” changes of heart and tend to distrust them.

Does the Impact Character have to be a Driver character?

In the Archetypal structure, does the Impact Character have to be among the drivers?

No. The Impact Character can be on the sidelines. However, the IC has a tendency to look more active than many of the Objective Characters purely because of the screen time or book space they take up in the exploration of their personal point of view and with their involvement in the Relationship Story.

Do you have to keep the Archetypal Motivations Dramatica assigns?

Once you have assigned a character a role as an Archetype, does it matter if you change their motivation? Or must you keep the Archetypal Motivations that Dramatica assigns?

The purpose of using archetypal characters in a story is as a storytelling shorthand. The characters appear much more simplistic (less complex) than “real” people, though they still are well rounded (motivations, methodologies, etc.). It doesn’t matter to Dramatica if you reassign motivations after you assign an archetype to a character, providing that you understand that you are thereby making the character more complex and “less” archetypal. We use archetypes in the StoryGuide because it is simpler to lead you (and every other writer who follows it) through the process.

Why are character interactions limited only to the Motivations set?

I have been using the Star Wars example as a guide to understand archetype interaction and organization in the “motivation” set. But the objective story problem is listed as “Physics: test vs. trust” which would be found in the evaluation set. Why then are the character interactions limited only to the “motivations” set?”

The Star Wars characters are actually archetypal only at the motivation level. The other character dimension sets are in completely non-archetypal arrangements. The purpose of using archetypal characters is to show the patterns that exist in the Dramatica model of story. In point of fact, very few stories (other than children’s stories) contain lots of Dramatica archetypes. Most stories are populated with complex characters. Remember, the StoryGuide is designed to “guide” writers through the Dramatica process. It still requires that the writer bring their own writing skills and intuitions to bare.

Is the Emotion Archetype always the Love Interest/Influence Character in a story?

Is the Emotion Archetype most often the Love Interest and also the Impact 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 Impact/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 Impact Character, regardless of the objective role, archetypal or complex. Still, in Star Wars, Obi-wan is the Impact Character, 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-heroes 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.

Can one character replace another within the structure?

Can a character archetype function (I’m thinking of Contagonist here) be displayed by one character who then drops out of the story about half way through, and then this function be taken up by another character - whether new or not???

Yes. We call this a “hand-off” and is briefly spoken of in the Dramatica theory book. Unfortunately, there isn’t any way to indicate this in the Dramatica software at this time. Hint: Avoid having the hand-off characters in the same place at the same time. It is redundant and can be confusing for the audience.

What about stories with too many characters?

What does one do when one has so many characters, as in James Clavell’s Shogun?

Well, in something like Shogun, there are MANY substories intertwined with the main story (a Portuguese pilot stranded in Japan who falls in love with an “off limits” woman and becomes embroiled in local conflicts while trying to get himself and his shipmates back home). Adding substories (which can include sub-plots, sub-characters, sub-themes, and even sub-genres) adds a richness and density to the work, but are not essential to relating the “message” (storyform) of the main story.

What can I do about a story with two Main Characters?

I have two Main Characters in my story. I also have a problem in that another characters seems to be both the Protagonist of the Objective Story and the Impact Character in the Main Character’s story. How do I insert these distinctions?

Dramatica does not allow for more than one Main Character in a story. By Main Character, we are referring to the character through whose eyes the audience experiences the story, the very personal, “in the trenches” point of view. This is not the same thing as a Protagonist, nor the same as a principle or primary character, nor the “player” that these characters are played by. Very few stories have multiple Main Characters within a single story. Usually, when there is more than one Main Character, there is more than one story going on. If that is the case in your story, then you will want to create a different storyform for each Main Character. Stories that have multiple Main Characters work because the MC’s share exactly the same world view and they “hand off” the role back and forth. This is quite difficult to do—principally because the audience is unaccustomed to “body hopping” in their normal experiences.

The terms Antagonist, Protagonist, Main Character, and Impact Character have a very specific meaning in Dramatica. The Antagonist and Protagonist are part of what we call the Objective Characters which represent various approaches to problem solving in the Objective Story throughline (the “big picture”). The Main Character and the Impact Character are participants in the Relationship Story throughline and are identified by their points of view, not their functions. These objective and subjective characters are put into “players,” be they human or otherwise. For example, the “player” Luke in Star Wars is both the Protagonist and the Main Character. He functions as both the prime mover in the Objective Story throughline (trying to blow up the Death Star) and the personal point of view in the Relationship Story throughline (training to be a Jedi Knight). This is different from the way most story theorists approach story.

Why can’t the Main and Influence Characters both change?

I don’t understand why the Main Character and the Impact Character can’t both grow and change in a story, for instance in a story of a marriage. In order for the marriage to be successful, chances are that both characters need to change.

Both the Main Character and the Impact Character do grow over the course of the story. However, character growth is different than fundamentally changing your outlook on an issue. The Change/Steadfast issue concerns the characters’ resolve. The growth issue concerns the direction of the growth: out of something or away from something (stop), or into something or toward something (start). Besides, a “marriage” can have, figuratively speaking, a life of its own complete with its own central issues—issues that are related to but different from those of the Main Character and Impact Character. In Dramatica, we call this relationship between the MC and the OC the Relationship Story throughline.

Can you clarify the difference between Equity and Inequity?

For example: a man is a good guy and equitable. Now something happened to him that seems like inequitable. Is the MC-problem now equity or inequity? Inequity drives him on so I would choose inequity. Is this OK or not?

If when you use the terms “Equity” and “Inequity” you are referring to the Dramatica elements of those names, then the answer is YES—Inequity would be the Main Character’s problem because it is the source of his drive. (I think that this is the answer you’re looking for). If, however, you are using the terms “Equity” and “Inequity” in a more generalized sense to indicate states of balance and imbalance respectively, then the Dramatica term “Inequity” would only be one of the possible 64 choices for the Main Character’s problem.

Can a Main Character’s Goal change?

For example, if a Main Character has a goal is to be a concert violinist, but then ends up in jail, can he change his Goal to one of survival?

A Main Character can have a personal goal at the outset of the story which can change before the first act of the story is completed. The new goal should be the same through the end of the story (at which point the original one might pop up again to start a different story). Over the course of the story, the MC’s personal goal will have its own requirements, prerequisites, preconditions, consequences, etc. that he must address on the way toward achieving his goal.

Warning: Do not confuse the MC’s personal goal with the Protagonist’s efforts to achieve the Objective Story Goal. Though you may design a character that is both the MC and Protagonist, do not make the mistake of combining the MC’s Goal and the Objective Story’s Goal—they are different.

What Dramatica term/s is analogous to “obstacles” the Main Character must overcome?

The nature of the personal “obstacles” that the Main Character needs to overcome are tied to his problem and symptom. The Main Character Problem is the source of his drive which MAY be severely problematic for him. The Main Character Symptom is the primary symptom of the problem and will generally be where the Main Character thinks his problem really is. The Main Character will also be dealing with difficulties arising from the Relationship Story—the relationship between the Main Character and the Impact Character. The nature of those conflicts may or may not be thematically linked to each other. Another way to look at it is in terms of the MC Resolve: Change or Steadfast? This describes what the Main Character does (not what he should do). Obstacles from this point of view are generally events or scenarios that challenge the Main Character’s Resolve. These are most frequently associated with the Impact Character. Originally, the Impact Character was referred to as the Obstacle Character for this very reason.

How can I use Dramatica to help write a story with two Main Characters?

If I can’t have two Main Characters in one story, how do I use Dramatica to structure two stories with the same characters but different main characters when the plots depend each on happenings in the other plot?

Create separate story files for each of the two stories. If you create your character list in one first, you can then use the “Save As…” or “Save A Copy…” commands to create a duplicate with which to work on the second story.

You assign the Main Character and Impact Character designations by bringing up the story info window for the character you want. Use the “Special Identification” popup to set the MC or IC designation.

Assign Objective Story characteristics (the items which comprise the Protagonist, Antagonist, etc.) in the Build Characters window or by using the “Type” popup in the character info window. If you use the Type popup, it will make archetypal characteristic assignments. It is unlikely that you will have full-on archetypes so you should futz with adding and removing characteristics until you are comfortable with the settings. Note: even though all of the characteristics must be used in your story, writers frequently assign only the characteristics they feel are clearly represented by a character. Elements that are not clearly represented may not be assigned to a specific character (though still need to be addressed in the body of the story).

Your description of the shorter and longer stories in the novel is a common technique in epics, series TV, and other longer form or complex works. You really should work out each story separately, even if they share the exact same character set. Once you have your two separate stories thought through, you will then need to determine how you plan to weave the separate stories together.

Does Dramatica account for stories with multiple Main Characters?

I have written a novel that has three points of view (POV, i.e., three limited omniscient characters through whom we see the story) as most writing sources describe, i.e., as Al Zuckerman defines them in his book, “How to Write the Blockbuster Novel.” Zuckerman recommends multiple points of view and it is a very popular and successful technique (Ken Follett, Clancy). Yet it seems Dramatica is set-up to only deal with one Main Character or one POV. How do I use Dramatica for a story like mine with two main characters/protagonists and one antagonist for both main characters? Each chapter is from the POV of only one of the three characters.

First of all, there are actually FOUR POVs in Dramatica—one for each of the throughlines: Main Character, Impact Character, Objective Story (where the Protagonist and Antagonist do their stuff), and the Relationship Story. The Main and Impact Character POVs are the most obvious source of at least TWO points of view. The Protagonist and/or the Antagonist (or any other character in the Objective Story throughline for that matter) can present even more points of view. The big question is, are the multiple points of view truly different from each other, or are some of them the same “paradigm” but shown through the eyes of two or more players? You can have a Main Character point of view that seems to float from one character to another—the bodies change but their take on the world around them is the same. It’s tough, but it is frequently done, particularly in novels. Another approach is to enhance the main story with substories. Each substory will have its own Main Character thereby adding to the multitude of POVs going on in the work. Stephen King uses this approach A LOT.

Getting inside a character’s head doesn’t necessarily make them the “Main Character.” It’s a storytelling device that works particularly well in novels and not quite as well in films or television. We can do this with ANY character in the work, but there should be some indication somewhere in your story as to who you want your audience to most identify with. If you don’t, you have chosen not to make an argument and the interpretation of the work will be left in the hands of the audience (sometimes this is desired). However, if you ARE trying to make a point and you would like your audience to follow you to its conclusion, then, and only then, should you clearly delineate the four throughlines. Your audience need not be able to identify each throughline from the beginning of the story, but by the end they should be able to reconstitute it in its “true” form.

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.

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.

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.

Regarding the Plot Sequence Report, should I look at purposes in terms of motivations?

In the Plot Sequence Report found in Dramatica Story Expert, Act I in the Objective Storyline says: "The Past is explored in terms of Rationalization, Obligation, Commitment, and Responsibility." So, here's the question: The Past is a Universe Type. Rationalization, Obligation, etc., are Psychology Variations. Does that mean that I should look at the objective characters' purposes in terms of their motivations with regard to the psychology variations?

Purposes and Motivations aren't really pertinent to the Objective Story's Thematic arenas. Rather than looking at what the Characters are doing, keep in mind that the Objective Throughline represents a point of view for the audience. From the objective view they will see not only characters, but plot, theme, and genre as well. Of course, this is most clearly seen in the Storyforming stage, and from encoding onward, the view may not be as consistent or clear.

So the point is, forget about characters when using this report and consider the whole point of view. Using the report this way means that the Act itself centers on an exploration of the Past. In other words, when you are exploring the grand scheme of the big picture of your story in an arm's distance sort of way that gives the audience a change to look at the dynamics involved without being personally involved, THEN you will be examining the Past, in Act 1.

Another way to say this is that all four throughlines will have an area around which they center in Act 1. The Past will be one of those four items that serve as the focus of attention for the audience. In your story, in Act 1, the Past will be looked at Objectively (or impersonally, though not necessarily without feeling.)

Now we add in the thematics. What kind of things about the Past will the audience be looking at? Or, turned around a bit, what measuring sticks will be used to judge things that happened in the Past? The answer is: Rationalization, Obligation, Commitment, and Responsibility. These four items describe more specifically than just the notion of "The Past" the areas of interest in the Past that Act 1 will explore most closely from an Objective point of view.

So, look at the wide-ranging plot events, the behaviors that affect or are exhibited by all your characters, the overall genre of your story as it develops in Act 1, and then see that from an Objective sense. Your audience will see these things as all revolving around the Past and being examined in terms of Rationalization, Obligation, Commitment, and Responsibility.

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.

How do I build my characters using the Storyguide?

The StoryGuide is designed to lead you through a PARTICULAR method of creating a story in Dramatica using Archetypal Characters. It is far from the only way, rather it is a guideline for how a writer MIGHT approach developing a story using Dramatica. Since you are not using Archetypal Characters, do not follow the specific directions in the StoryGuide. Just keep in mind that each of your complex characters must be introduced, they must interact, and then they must be "dismissed" or be shown where they stand after the interactions. It's best not to think of Dramatica telling you what you HAVE to do, particularly when it concerns objective characters. The only thing that Dramatica is concerned with (re: objective characters) is that the character elements are shown in action. Dramatica doesn't care one whit about the distribution of the character elements into characters -- that's your storytelling choice as an author.

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.

Why are the character examples from “Star Wars” limited to only the motivation set?

I have been using the Star Wars example as a guide to understand archetype interaction and organization in the "motivation" set. But the objective story problem is listed as "Physics: Test vs. Trust" which would be found in the evaluation set. Why then are the character interactions limited only to the "motivations" set?"

The Star Wars characters are actually archetypal only at the motivation level. The other character dimension sets are in completely non-archetypal arrangements. The purpose of using archetypal characters is to show the patterns that exist in the Dramatica model of story. In point of fact, very few stories (other than children's stories) contain lots of Dramatica archetypes. Most stories are populated with complex characters. Remember, the StoryGuide is designed to "guide" writers through the Dramatica process. It still requires that the writer bring their own writing skills and intuitions to bare.

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.

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.

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.

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."

Why can’t the Main and Influence Characters both grow and change?

I don't understand why the Main Character and the Influence Character can't *both* grow and change in a story, for instance in a story of a marriage. In order for the marriage to be successful, chances are that both characters need to change.

Both the Main Character and the Influence Character do grow over the course of the story. However, character growth is different than fundamentally changing your outlook on an issue. The change/steadfast issue concerns the characters' resolve. The growth issue concerns the direction of the growth: out of something or away from something (stop), or into something or toward something (start). Besides, a "marriage" can have, figuratively speaking, a life of its own complete with its own central issues -- issues that are related to but different from those of the Main Character and Influence Character. In Dramatica, we call this relationship between the MC and the IC the Relationship Story Throughline.

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.

Does the Influence Character have to be a person?

Does the Influence Character (or any other character for that matter) have to be a person? For instance, if the story is about someone facing the desert alone.

No. No character must be a person. They may be animals, minerals, or vegetables. HOWEVER, giving an inanimate object like a desert a "point of view" or "alternative paradigm to that of the Main Character" may take some clever storytelling for your audience to understand. Do not confuse normal, every day obstacles (like cacti, snakes, heat, etc.) for the type of personal impact that the Influence Character has on the Main Character. The IC helps strip away the MC's justifications or, in some instances, helps to build the MC's justification. The IC's impact is very personalized, whether or not the IC is even aware of the MC.

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.

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.

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.

Protagonist or Antagonist? I can’t decide.

As I understand it, Protagonist is the one trying to achieve something. The Antagonist is the one trying to hinder him. This makes a lot of "bad guys" be Protagonists. In Transformers, the Decepticons would often be the Protagonists. This makes James Bond an Antagonist.

It's all in how you position the goal. If you say the goal is to Stop the Decepticons from doing "fill in evil deed here", then the protagonists are the ones pursuing that goal, and the Decepticons ones trying to prevent or avoid that.

Keep in mind that the Story Outcome is tied to the Story Goal. This is a good indicator as to how the author wants the audience to understand who the protagonist and antagonist are.

Contagonist: Why?

I have an intellectual understanding for the need of a Contagonist, but I don't have a practical understanding. Can anyone give me an example of a Contagonist in a well-known film? I've tried to figure out what a Contagonist's motivation might be. Why do they try to thwart or deflect the Protagonist? I can understand why an Antagonist would act like that, but I can't understand what motivates a Contagonist to do so. Are they deluded? Do they know something the Antagonist doesn't? Do they have mixed feelings? Everything I've read seems strong on theory, but not particularly enlightening in practice. Is the Contagonist supposed to be a subtle character who's not as easily quantified as a Protagonist or an Antagonist? Is the concept blurry because the character itself is supposed to be blurry?

First off, there is no need for Contagonists to WANT to tempt or deflect the protagonist or others, it is just what they do. In other words, intent is not needed for a Contagonist to function (the same is pretty much true for all objective characters in the overall story).

The simplest example of a Contagonist I can think of is the little devil that sits on someone's shoulder giving them all sorts of bad advice. Of course, he is balanced out by the Guardian angel. It's important to note that a Contagonist represents temptation and hinder, but is not necessarily applied in any specific direction. The Story Goal gives a useful barometer for an author to use, but that not required for the character to do his job. In Star Wars, Darth Vader is the Contagonist. He deflects the efforts of the protagonist Luke by killing Obi-wan, but also deflects the antagonists' efforts by squabbling with Empire officers, and even suggesting that Gran Mof Tarkin let Luke et al leave the Death Star with the tracking device, which allows the rebels to find and exploit the Death Star's weakness before the Empire blows the Rebel's base to bits. Darth also represents temptation, as in 'here's what happens to you if you give into the temptation of the dark side of the Force.' In subsequent films, he more actively tempts Luke to join him.

The Contagonist need not be blurry, but may appear to be less obvious if it's functions are shown using subtle storytelling techniques.

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.

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.

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.

Do Dramatica Archetypes Sync Up with the Enneagram?

I have Characterpro 5, which helps create characters based on the Enneagram, and have studied it extensively through Poetics and other such books, and am wondering if there is a way to carry over the information into my use of Dramatica.

There is no direct correlation between the nine Enneagram personality types and Dramatica's eight archetypal characters, through there is some crossover.

2 - The Helper --- Guardian
5 - The Investigator --- Reason
6 - The Loyalist --- Sidekick

1 - The Reformer --- Elements of the Reason archetype
4 - The Individualist --- Emotion
8 - The Challenger --- Antagonist

3 - The Achiever --- (Skeptic?)
7 - The Enthusiast --- (Contagonist?)
9 - The Peacemaker --- (Protagonist?)

The primary difference between the Enneagram personalities and the Dramatica archetypes is the result of evaluations made from two vastly different points of reference AND looking at two different things.

The Enneagram looks at integrated personality types and organizes them by dominant traits.

Dramatica sees the entire collection of problem-solving functions as the basis for a SINGLE integrated persona and organizes the elements by problem solving functionality.

That's why there are obvious points of intersection and areas of equally clear divergence.

Melanie Anne Phillips suggested to me that the Enneagram personality types could be built in Dramatica's Build Character window and saved using the "Typecast" feature. If anyone is up to the challenge, I'd be happy to make them available to other Dramatica users by posting them to Let me know if you're interested!

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).