Influence Character

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.

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.

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.

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.