Main Character

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.

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.

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.