Overall Story Characters

Is an Objective Character the same as the Influence Character?

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

No, they are quite different.

  1. Objective Characters have structural roles and are identified by their functions.
  2. The Influence character is a SUBJECTIVE character, which are identified by their points of view.

Here's a bit more background on how it all fits together...

A central concept of the Dramatica theory is that every complete story represents a model of a single human mind trying to deal with an inequity.

This occurs because in order to communicate an author must make a copy of what they have in mind and show it to the audience. This model of the author's perspective on his or her subject is called the Story Mind.

The audience examines this Story Mind from four different points of view. They are the Objective view (where we find the Objective Characters), The Main Character view (which is the subjective character who represents the audience position in the story), the Influence Character view (which is the subjective character who is trying to change the Main Character's point of view on the issues), and the Subjective view (which describes the growth of the relationship between the Main and Obstacle Characters).

The first view we will examine is from the outside looking in. This is the Objective View. From here, the audience sees characters like soldiers on a field viewed by a general on a hill overlooking the dramatic battle. There are foot soldiers, grenadiers, etc., all identified by their functions in the battle. In stories, we see these as the Protagonist, Antagonist, Sidekick, etc.

The second point of view with which an audience becomes involved with a story is for them to step into the story as if the audience were one of the players. When the audience leaves the general's hill and zooms down to stand in the shoes of one of the soldiers on the field, that soldier becomes the Main Character. The Main Character is simply the name of the player who represents the audience's position in the story.

Because Main Character is a point of view, it can be attached to any of the Objective Characters. So, in one story, the Main Character might be the Protagonist, creating the typical "hero". In another story, however, the Main Character might be the Sidekick, so that the audience observes what the Protagonist is doing without feeling like they are driving the story forward themselves. This is how things are set up in To Kill A Mockingbird, in which Atticus (the Gregory Peck part in the movie) is the Protagonist (driving the action forward) while his young daughter Scout provides the audience position in the story (which is told through her child's eyes) making her the Main Character.

Now, as the Main Character makes his or her way through the dramatic battle, he or she encounters another "soldier" blocking the path. The other soldier says, "change course!" But is it a friend trying to prevent the Main Character from walking into a mine field or an enemy trying to lure the Main Character into an ambush. This other solder is the Influence Character.

The Influence Character represents the alternative paradigm to the Main Character's existing opinions about the central issue of the story. It is their dramatic purpose in the story to force the Main Character to reconsider changing his or her long-held views. This provides the other side of the story's argument, making it a full exploration of the topic, not just a one-sided statement.

Sometimes the Influence Character is right, and sometimes wrong. And sometimes the Main Character chooses the good path and sometimes the bad one. Also, the Influence Character may not even know they have such an influence on the Main Character as to make him or her consider changing attitudes or approaches. The Influence Character can be a role model, even one on TV or from the past, whose presence or recorded works argue the alternative paradigm and influence the Main Character.

The fourth perspective is the Subjective view. This is simply a tale of the growth of the relationship between the Main and Obstacle Characters, as the Main Character is progressively influenced to change even while seeking to hold on to the tried and true. It is this view that gives a story its passionate flavor for an audience, as they watch the two "boxers" circling each other in the "ring".

When all four points of view are provided, all the principal ways of looking at a story's issues are built into the Story Mind. The Main Character is the "I" perspective for the audience - first person singular. Influence Character is "you" (for we never see things from the Obstacle's point of view, but rather look AT the Influence from the Main Character's point of view). The Subjective view is "we" as it describes the relationship between Main and Obstacle. The Objective view provides the "they" perspective, as the audience watches the Objective Characters from the outside looking in.

So, one must develop a complete set of Objective Characters. Then, one of those characters needs to be selected as the audience position in the story (which will affect the whole feel of how the battle unfolds). This will become the Main Character. Next, another Objective Character must be selected as the Influence Character. Which one will determine the complex nature of the relationship between Main and Influence, as part of their interchange will occur between their Objective Character aspects in the Objective story, and part will occur between the Subjective Character points of view in the Subjective story (Relationship Story).

Keep in mind that looking at a character as a doctor, mother, bum, or husband does NOT say anyting about whether they are a Protagonist, Antagonist or any other Objective Character. Objective Characters determine who is for something, who is against it, who acts primarily according to Reason and who with Emotion, and so on. The Mother may be the Protagonist, the Reason character, or even the Sidekick. And choosing her as the Main or Influence would add another level of complexity.

So, it is important for consistency and completeness of the argument made through the Story Mind to assign all the Objective Characters a role in your story and to make one a Main Character and one an Influence Character. But, the "feel" of your story won't truly develop until you assign the social roles these characters fulfill in your story world as well.

Often an author will wish to start with a Mother character or some other social role. Only then does the process begin of determining who is Main and Influence, and then determining what Objective Characters each represents.

How you approach the creation of the full complement of Characters and their roles is up to you. That it must be done is a result of the necessity of creating a Story Mind for the audience to both inspect and possess as the conduit of communication between author and audience.

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."