Hero Is a Four Letter Word
It is easy to think of the principal character in a story as “the hero.” Many beginning writers tend to base their stories on the adventures or experiences of a hero. As writers become more mature in their craft, they may come to think of their central character as a “protagonist,” or perhaps a “main character.” And yet, through all of this, no consistent definitions of any of these terms have ever been agreed upon. Before we proceed then, it seems prudent to establish what Dramatica means by each of these concepts.
- A Main Character is the player through whom the audience experiences the story first hand.
- A Protagonist is the prime mover of the plot.
- A Hero is a combination of both Main Character and Protagonist.
In other words, a hero is a blended character who does two jobs: move the plot forward and serve as a surrogate for the audience. When we consider all the characters other than a Protagonist who might serve as the audience’s position in a story, suddenly the concept of a hero becomes severely limited. It is not wrong, just limited. The value of separating the Main Character and Protagonist into two different characters can be seen in the motion picture, To Kill a Mockingbird. Here, the character, Atticus, (played by Gregory Peck) is clearly the Protagonist, yet the story is told through the experiences of Scout, his young daughter.
Later on, we will explore many other ways in which the Main Character can be employed in much less archetypal terms than as a hero. For now, the key point is that Dramatica identifies two different kinds of characters: those who represent an audience point of view, and those who fulfill a dramatic function.
Objective and Subjective Characters
The reason there are two kinds of characters goes back to the concept of the Story Mind. We have two principal views of that mind: the Objective view from the outside looking in, and the Subjective view from the inside looking out. In terms of the Story Mind, the Objective view is like looking at another person, watching his thought processes at work. For an audience experiencing a story, the Objective view is like watching a football game from the stands. All the characters are most easily identified by their functions on the field.
The Subjective view is as if the Story Mind were our own. From this perspective, only two characters are visible: Main and Influence. The Main and Influence Characters represent the inner conflict of the Story Mind. In fact, we might say a story is of two minds. In real life, we often play our own devil’s advocate, entertaining an alternative view as a means of arriving at the best decision. Similarly, the Story Mind’s alternative views are made tangible through the Main and Influence Characters. To the audience of a story, the Main Character experience is as if the audience were actually one of the players on the field. The Influence Character is the player who blocks the way.
To summarize then, characters come in two varieties: Objective and Subjective. Objective Characters represent dramatic functions; Subjective Characters represent points of view. When the Main Character point of view is attached to the Protagonist function, the resulting character is commonly thought of as a hero.
In the next chapter we will begin an in-depth exploration of Objective Characters. Here we will meet the Protagonist, Antagonist, and several other archetypes. Next we will dissect each archetype to see what essential dramatic elements it contains. Finally, we will examine how those same elements can be combined in different, non-archetypal patterns to create more realistic and versatile complex characters.
Then we will turn our attention to the Subjective Characters: Main and Influence. We will examine how the audience point of view is shifted through the Main Character’s growth. We will also explore the forces that drive these two characters and forge the belief systems they possess.
Archetypal Characters: Introduction to Archetypes
Archetypes exist as a form of storytelling shorthand. Because they are instantly recognizable, an author may choose to use archetypal characters for a variety of reasons—because of limited storytelling time or space, to emphasize other aspects of story such as Plot or Theme, to play on audience familiarity, etc. The main advantage of Archetypes is their basic simplicity, although this can sometimes work as a disadvantage if the characters are not developed fully enough to make them seem real.
There are eight Archetypal Characters: Protagonist, Antagonist, Reason, Emotion, Sidekick, Skeptic, Guardian, and Contagonist. Several of these are familiar to most authors. Some are a bit more obscure. One is unique to Dramatica. We will introduce all eight, show how they interact, then explore each in greater detail.
In our earlier discussion of what sets the Subjective Characters apart from the Objective Characters, we described how authors frequently assign the roles of both Protagonist AND Main Character to the same player in the story.
The concept of “player” is found throughout Dramatica and differs from what we mean by “character.” Dramatica defines a character as a set of dramatic functions that must be portrayed in order to make the complete argument of a story. Several functions may be grouped together and assigned to a person, place, or thing who will represent them in the story. The group of functions defines the nature of the character. The personage representing the functions is a player.
In other words, a player is like a vessel into which a character (and therefore a set of character functions) is placed. If more than one Objective Character is placed into a single player, the player will appear to have multiple personalities. This is clearly seen in the dual characters contained in player, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, or the many personalities of Sybil.
Describing the Protagonist
No doubt the most well-known of all the Archetypal Characters is the Protagonist. As with all the Archetypal Characters, there is a specific “shopping list” or “recipe” of dramatic functions that describes the Protagonist. In this regard, the archetypal Protagonist is the chief proponent and principal driver of the effort to achieve the story’s goal.
At first, this description seems far too simple for even the most archetypal of Protagonists. This is because the Main Character is so often combined with the Protagonist when Archetypal Characters are used, that we seldom see a Protagonistic player representing the archetypal functions alone.
Still, pursuing the goal is the essential function of the Protagonist, and beginning here we can construct a network of relationships that describe the remaining archetypes.
(As a side note, the entire exploration of the Subjective Story is an independent job of the Main Character. For purposes of describing the Archetypal Protagonist, therefore, we will be considering only its role in the Objective Story Throughline as just another player on the field [albeit a crucial one]).
So, for our current needs, the Archetypal Protagonist can be considered the chief proponent and principal driver of the effort to achieve the story’s goal.
The Archetypal Antagonist is diametrically opposed to the Protagonist’s successful attainment of the goal. Often this results in a Protagonist who has a purpose and an Antagonist comes along and tries to stop it. Sometimes, however, it is the other way around. The Antagonist may have a goal of its own that causes negative repercussions. The Protagonist then has the goal of stopping the Antagonist. For purposes of establishing a consistent way to analyze how all Archetypal Characters relate to the goal of any story, Dramatica defines the Protagonist’s goal as the story’s goa;, regardless of which kind it is.
Antagonist and the Influence Character
Just as the Protagonist is often “doubled up” with the function of the Main Character, the Antagonist is sometimes (though less frequently) combined with the Influence Character. The Influence Character is fully explored in the Subjective Characters section of this book. For now, a simple description of the Influence Character will serve our purposes.
Just as the Antagonist opposes the Protagonist in the Objective Story, the Influence Character stands in the way of the Main Character in the Subjective Story. Note we did not say the Influence Character opposes the Main Character, but rather stands in the way. The Influence Character’s function is to represent an alternative belief system or world view to the Main Character, forcing him to avoid the easy way out and to face his personal problem.
When combining the Influence Character and the Antagonist in the same player, it is essential to keep in mind the difference between their respective functions, so that both dramatic purposes are fully expressed.
Reason & Emotion
Why Reason and Emotion Characters?
Having briefly described the Protagonist and Antagonist, we can already see how they represent basic functions of the Story Mind. The Protagonist represents the drive to try and solve a problem; the Antagonist represents the drive to undermine success. These two characters teeter back and forth over the course of the story as each in turn gains the upper hand.
Even in the most Archetypal terms this conflict is an insufficient process to fully describe an argument, for it fails to address many other basic concerns that will naturally occur in the minds of audience members, and must therefore be incorporated in the Story Mind as well. That is why there are six other Archetypal Characters. Just as Protagonist and Antagonist form a pair, the other six Archetypal Characters form three other pairs. The first of these is made up of Reason and Emotion.
Reason and Emotion Described
The Reason Archetypal Character is calm, collected, and cool, perhaps even cold. It makes decisions and takes action wholly on the basis of logic. (Remember, we say wholly because we are describing an Archetypal Character. As we shall see later, Complex Characters are much more diverse and dimensional.)
The Reason character is the organized, logical type. The Emotion character who is frenetic, disorganized, and driven by feelings.
It is important to note that as in real life, Reason is not inherently better than Emotion, nor does Emotion have the edge on Reason. They just have different areas of strength and weakness which may make one more appropriate than the other in a given context.
Functionally, the Emotion Character has its heart on its sleeve; it is quick to anger, but also quick to empathize. Because it is frenetic and disorganized, however, most of its energy is uncontrolled and gets wasted by lashing out in so many directions that it ends up running in circles and getting nowhere. In contrast, the Reason Character seems to lack “humanity” and has apparently no ability to think from the heart. As a result, the Reason Character often fails to find support for its well-laid plans and ends up wasting its effort because it has unknowingly violated the personal concerns of others.
In terms of the Story Mind, Reason and Emotion describe the conflict between our purely practical conclusions and considerations of our human side. Throughout a story, the Reason and Emotion Archetypal Characters will conflict over the proper course of action and decision, illustrating the Story Mind’s deliberation between intellect and heart.
Sidekick & Skeptic
The next pair of Archetypal Characters are the Sidekick and the Skeptic, who represent the conflict between confidence and doubt in the Story Mind. The Sidekick is the faithful supporter. Usually, a Sidekick is attached to the Protagonist. Sometimes, however, they may be supporters of the Antagonist. This gives a good clue to the way Dramatica sees Objective Characters: The purpose of the Sidekick is to show faithful support. That does not determine who or what it supports, but just that it must loyally support someone or something. Other dynamics of a story will determine who the Sidekick needs to be attached to in order to make the story’s argument, but from the standpoint of just describing the Archetypal Characters by themselves, the Sidekick faithfully supports.
The Sidekick is balanced by the Skeptic. Where the Sidekick has faith, the Skeptic disbelieves; where the Sidekick supports, the Skeptic opposes. The nature of the Skeptic is nicely described in the line of a song… “Whatever it is, I’m against it.” In the Story Mind, it is the function of the Skeptic to note the indicators that portend failure. In contrast, the Sidekick notes the indicators that point to success. The interactions between Sidekick and Skeptic describe the Story Mind’s consideration of the likelihood of success.
Guardian & Contagonist
What are the Guardian and Contagonist?
Finally we come to the remaining pair of Archetypal Characters. The first of these archetypes is a common yet often loosely defined set of functions; the second archetype is unique to Dramatica. The first of these characters is the Guardian. The Guardian functions as a teacher/helper who represents the Conscience of the Story Mind. This is a protective character who eliminates obstacles and illuminates the path ahead. In this way, the Guardian helps the Protagonist stay on the proper path to achieve success. Balancing the Guardian is a character representing Temptation in the Story Mind. This character works to place obstacles in the path of the Protagonist, and to lure it away from success. Because this character works to hinder the progress of the Protagonist, we coined the name “Contagonist”.
Contagonist: “Whose side are you on?”
Because the Contagonist and Antagonist both have a negative effect on the Protagonist, they can easily be confused with one another. They are, however, two completely different characters because they have two completely different functions in the Story Mind. Whereas the Antagonist works to stop the Protagonist, the Contagonist acts to deflect the Protagonist. The Antagonist wants to prevent the Protagonist from making further progress, the Contagonist wants to delay or divert the Protagonist for a time.
As with the Sidekick, the Contagonist can be allied with either the Antagonist or the Protagonist. Often, Contagonists are cast as the Antagonist’s henchman or second-in-command. However, Contagonists are sometimes attached to the Protagonist, where they function as a thorn in the side and bad influence. As a pair, Guardian and Contagonist function in the Story Mind as Conscience and Temptation, providing both a light to illuminate the proper path and the enticement to step off it.
Archetypes—a Balanced Part of the Complete Argument
As a group, the Archetypal Characters represent all the essential functions of a complete Story Mind, though they are grouped in simple patterns. Because the Archetypes can be allied in different ways, however, a degree of versatility can be added to their relationships.
Complex Characters are created from the same set of dramatic functions as Archetypes. The principal difference is that the Archetypal Characters group together functions that are most similar and compatible, and Complex Characters don’t. This means that although Archetypal Characters may conflict with one another, an Archetypal Character is never at odds with its own drives and attitudes. This is why the Archetypal Characters so often appear to be less developed than Complex Characters or perhaps less human.
To create characters who more closely represent our own inconsistencies, we must redistribute their functions so they are less internally compatible. As this results in many more levels of exploration and understanding, we refer to any arrangement of character functions other than an Archetypal grouping to be Complex. A character containing such a grouping is a Complex Character.
Archetypes and Complex Characters Together
A single story may have both Archetypal and Complex Characters. The decision of how to group the functions is completely open to an author’s storytelling desires. The problem is, until one is aware of exactly what these functions are and how they relate, it is impossible to make meaningful decisions about how to combine them. These essential functions are at such a basic level that they form the elemental building blocks of Objective Characters. Therefore, we refer to these functions as character Elements. Listing them gives no feel for the end product, much as just listing the Periodic Chart of Elements in chemistry gives no feel for the natures of the compounds that might be engineered through combining them.
As a result, the best way to present the character Elements with meaning is to start with the Archetypal Characters (who by definition contain all the Elements) and break them down, step by step, level by level, until their elemental components are exposed. In this manner, understanding is carried down to the Elements, which may then be combined in non-archetypal ways to create Complex Characters.
Drivers and Passengers
We have now created four distinct pairs of Archetypal Characters. Each pair presents the birthing ground of a particular kind of conflict. Two Characters bonded in such a relationship constitute a Dynamic Pair. Here are the Eight Archetypal Characters organized by Dynamic Pairs.
Functions of Dynamic Pairs
We can easily see how these Archetypal pairs represent a broad analogy to a human mind dealing with a problem. The Protagonist represents the desire to work at resolving the problem. Its Dynamic Pair, the Antagonist represents the desire to let the problem grow. As with the Archetypal Characters, we all face an internal battle between making decisions based upon Reason or upon Emotion. Like the functions of the Sidekick and Skeptic, the Story Mind will contain a struggle between Faith and Disbelief. And finally in an Archetypal sense, the Mind will be torn between the Contagonist’s temptation for immediate gratification and the Guardian’s counsel to consider the consequences.
Forcing the Story Forward
There is another useful grouping of the Archetypal Characters which helps uncover their essential Elements. Four of the characters seem to be the prime movers of the story, and it is their interactions that determine the thrust of the effort to address the story’s problem. The other four are “back seat drivers”—perhaps highly interested in the outcome, but rather than forcing the plot, they influence those who do force the plot. Remember, these descriptions are only applicable in a general way but serve to make comparisons between similar traits of characters. In Dramatica, we group four similar items that are interrelated into a simple table called a quad. So, we can create a quad of Driver Characters and a quad of Passenger Characters.
The Driver Quad
Quad One: The Driver Characters
In simple stories, the Protagonist, Antagonist, Guardian, and Contagonist are all major drivers of the story. Whatever the object of their efforts, Protagonist will be trying to achieve it, Antagonist will be trying to prevent its achievement, Guardian will act to aid the achievement, and Contagonist will act to hinder (although Guardian and Contagonist may not be directly concerned with the goal itself or even each other). Regardless of their personal levels of awareness, each of these Characters seen Objectively acts with a unique drive that represents a basic Motivation of the Story Mind.
For example, if the Protagonist wants to build a shopping center, the Antagonist will not want it built. The Contagonist might get an injunction delaying construction so it can profit from a stock deal, even though it may like to see the center built eventually, and the Guardian might find a legal loophole to overturn the injunction, perhaps just as a by-product of another matter it is representing in court.
Remember, these Objective Characters are not judged by how THEY see the story, but how WE see them affecting the story.
The Passenger Quad
Quad Two: The Passenger Characters
Unlike the first quad, these four Characters are not the prime movers of the story, but rather ride the coattails of the Driver Characters. If not for the Drivers, the Passengers would not even be involved with the problem. Each represents an approach or attitude in the story: Sidekick is forever faithful while Skeptic is forever doubting; Reason acts on the basis of logic and Emotion responds from feelings. Of course, each of these Characters also has its own motivations, but seen Objectively as part of the Story Mind they represent different approaches and attitudes toward solving the problem.
Before we sub-divide the Archetypal Characters into their basic Elements, let’s get a better feel for them by examining the Drivers and Passengers in several well known stories.
Drivers and Passengers in Star Wars
Archetypes in Star Wars
Most people would agree that Luke Skywalker is the Protagonist in Star Wars and Dramatica sees it the same way. The Empire itself, embodied in the Gran Mof Tarkin and his troops, is the force diametrically opposed to the story’s goal of destroying the Death Star, and is therefore the Antagonist. Obi Wan Kenobi is the Guardian, protecting Luke and company and providing “moral” guidance, whereas Darth Vader is the Contagonist, representing the temptation of the “Dark side of the Force” and hindering progress at every turn.
Han Solo functions as the Skeptic, arguing his disbelief in the Force as well as his opposition to just about every course of action anyone tries to take. R2D2 and C3PO jointly fill the role of Sidekick, forever faithful to whomever they are assigned. Princess Leia is Reason, coldly calculating (although this is tempered in the storytelling), calm-headed and the real planner of the group. Chewbacca, in contrast, responds frequently with little or no thought and acts solely on the basis of his feelings, which clearly defines him as Emotion.
(It should be noted that R2D2 and C3PO have a well developed sub-plot between them, that is forefront as the movie opens. This gives them much more personality and versatility, and spells out differences between them that would not occur if they both simply shared the sidekick function. Sub-plots are dealt with later in the Storyweaving section of this book.)
Drivers and Passengers in Star Wars
Having delineated our eight characters in Star Wars, let us organize them into Drivers and Passengers.
Drivers and Passengers in The Wizard of Oz
Archetypes in The Wizard of Oz
We can label Dorothy as the Protagonist in The Wizard of Oz with some confidence. Certainly the Scarecrow seems to be Reason since he is the planner of the group (“I’ll show you how to get apples!”), but he is not very calm or collected. In fact, he is quite the opposite. Similarly, the Tin Man looks like Emotion as he cries in the poppy field, yet he is anything but frenetic when he rusts himself from the tears. Clearly, our original Archetypes don’t seem quite as true-to-form as they did in Star Wars.
Let’s file that away for later and press on. The Cowardly Lion fills the role of Skeptic and Toto performs as the Sidekick. Glinda is an unabashed Guardian and the Wicked Witch of the West balances her as the Contagonist. But just a moment here… Doesn’t the Wicked Witch act more like an Antagonist? Indeed she does, yet she seems to also fill the same role compared to Glinda as Darth Vader fills compared to Obi Wan. Assuming for a moment that the Wicked Witch IS the Antagonist, then who is the Contagonist?
There is only one major character yet unaccounted for—the Wizard himself.
The Wizard as Contagonist? Somehow it doesn’t sound quite right. At this point it becomes apparent that the characters in Oz are not all exactly Archetypal. Something is going on with the Scarecrow and Tin Man and the Witch and the Wizard that doesn’t quite fit. Exploring these shortcomings of the Archetypal Character model as applied to Oz will ultimately offer some insight into the essential character Elements.
For the time being, however, let’s pencil in the Witch as Antagonist and the Wizard as the Contagonist so we have a place to start. Here are the Eight Simple Characters of The Wizard of Oz in Quad format, ignoring any inconsistencies for the moment.
Drivers and Passengers in The Wizard of Oz
Drivers and Passengers in Jaws
Archetypes in Jaws
Chief Brody fills the Protagonist’s shoes in Jaws, and few would doubt that the Shark is the Antagonist. Hooper, with all his gizmos, takes the Reasonable stand, while Quint, who simply hates sharks, functions as Emotion. The Mayor is a strong Contagonist and Brody’s wife is a weak Sidekick although it almost seems as if Hooper fills that role sometimes as well. Once again, more versatility is needed than the Archetypal Characters provide.
We still need a Guardian—someone to protect Brody as well as stress the proper moral course. Simply put, Jaws has no character that performs BOTH functions. Rather, the moral half of the Guardian’s role is played by Hooper who reminds Brody of his duty and urges him into taking action against the shark problem, while the protective role is filled in turn by the land itself, Hooper’s boat, and ultimately Quint’s boat.
Non-Archetypal Roles in Jaws
There is no reason why a character must be a person. A boat can be a player as well as a person, as long as it can demonstrate its function to the audience. Again, in Dramatica, the point of a story is to illustrate all aspects of the Story Mind dealing with a problem. As long as each aspect is accounted for, the specific carrier of that Element is structurally irrelevant and may only have storytelling ramifications.
So far we have not determined the Skeptic in Jaws. Who refuses to believe evidence of the shark problem or the need for taking action against it? Clearly the Mayor embodies that characteristic well, and yet was previously identified as the Contagonist. Obviously some “doubling up” is going on here. If we look at who is across from whom in quad form, we can see some of the basic dramatic Character conflicts in Jaws.
Drivers and Passengers in Jaws
From this breakdown, we see a good example in both the Mayor and Hooper of single players who actually portray two distinct Archetypal characters. The Mayor functions as Contagonist and Skeptic, whereas Hooper portrays both Guardian and Reason. Some of these broad labels fit better than others, which is why there are actually some Complex Character arrangements in Jaws as well, that do not quite fall into the strict Archetypal mold.
Recap of Archetypal Characters
Now that we have become familiar with Archetypal characters and some of their limitations, let us recap our list of the eight Archetypal Characters as a prelude to resolving the inconsistencies we saw in The Wizard of Oz and Jaws:
- PROTAGONIST: The traditional Protagonist is the driver of the story: the one who forces the action. We root for it and hope for its success.
- ANTAGONIST: The Antagonist is the character directly opposed to the Protagonist. It represents the problem that must be solved or overcome for the Protagonist to succeed.
- REASON: This character makes its decisions and takes action on the basis of logic, never letting feelings get in the way of a rational course.
- EMOTION: The Emotion character responds with its feelings without thinking, whether it is angry or kind, with disregard for practicality.
- SKEPTIC: Skeptic doubts everything—courses of action, sincerity, truth—whatever.
- SIDEKICK: The Sidekick is unfailing in its loyalty and support. The Sidekick is often aligned with the Protagonist though may also be attached to the Antagonist.
- GUARDIAN: The Guardian is a teacher or helper who aids the Protagonist in its quest and offers a moral standard.
- CONTAGONIST: The Contagonist hinders and deludes the Protagonist, tempting it to take the wrong course or approach.
Splitting Archetypes Into Action and Decision Characteristics
Re-examining the list, we can learn something new that will help us in analyzing The Wizard of Oz and Jaws: each of the Eight Archetypal Characters contains one characteristic pertaining to actions and another characteristic pertaining to decisions.
Action Characteristic: Pursues the goal. The traditional Protagonist is the driver of the story: the one who forces the action.
Decision Characteristic: Urges the other characters to consider the necessity of achieving the goal.
Action Characteristic: The Antagonist physically tries to prevent or avoid the successful achievement of the goal by the Protagonist.
Decision Characteristic: The Antagonist urges the other characters to reconsider the attempt to achieve the goal.
Action Characteristic: The Guardian is a helper who aids the efforts to achieve the story goal.
Decision Characteristic: It represents conscience in the mind, based upon the Author’s view of morality.
Action Characteristic: The Contagonist hinders the efforts to achieve the story goal.
Decision Characteristic: It represents temptation to take the wrong course or approach.
Action Characteristic: This character is very calm or controlled in its actions.
Decision Characteristic: It makes its decisions on the basis of logic, never letting emotion get in the way of a rational course.
Action Characteristic: The Emotional character is frenzied or uncontrolled in its actions.
Decision Characteristic: It responds with its feelings with disregard for practicality.
Action Characteristic: The Sidekick supports, playing a kind of cheering section.
Decision Characteristic: It is almost gullible in the extent of its faith—in the goal, in the Protagonist, in success, etc.
Action Characteristic: The Skeptic opposes—everything.
Decision Characteristic: It disbelieves everything, doubting courses of action, sincerity, truth—whatever.
Split Archetypes in Quads
Having split them in two, we can see that each of the Archetypal Characters has an attitude or Decision characteristic and an approach or Action characteristic. When we arrange both characteristics under each of the eight Archetypes in our Driver and Passenger Quad format, we get a graphic feel for the Archetypal Objective Characters and the Elements they represent.
In Dramatica, we refer to these 16 characteristics as the Motivation Elements because they describe what drives the Archetypal Characters.
The 16 Motivation Elements in Star Wars
Elements of Star Wars Characters
Let’s see how well these sixteen Motivation Elements line up with the characters we have examined so far. As Protagonist, Luke does indeed seem to be both the pursuing character and the one who urges all to consider the need to achieve the goal (“We’ve got to help the Princess!”). The Empire definitely wants to prevent Luke from succeeding, and urges him and all others to reconsider the propriety of his actions - reconsider or you will die. Obi Wan provides a sense of conscience, at the same time helping Luke when he gets into trouble. Darth, on the other hand, clearly represents the tempting “Dark side of the Force,” as well as hindering Luke’s progress, the Rebel’s progress, and even hindering progress by the Empire itself!
R2D2 and C3PO are ever faithful and supportive, and Han is the perennial disbeliever and opposer. Chewbacca acts on his feelings and behaves in an uncontrolled way, and Leia is extremely controlled and driven by logic.
Charted out, the assignment of characteristics to the various characters has a good feel to it.
The 16 Motivation Elements in The Wizard of Oz
Archetypal Elements of “Oz” Characters
Returning to Oz, Dorothy is both pursue and consideration. Toto is faith and support. The Cowardly Lion is clearly disbelief and oppose, and Glinda is conscience and help. But here is where breaking the Eight Archetypal Characters into 16 characteristics solves our previous problems.
Tin Man and Scarecrow Swap Meet
When we look at the Scarecrow he appears to exemplify logic but his approach, rather than being in control, is quite uncontrolled. Similarly, although the Tin Man is undoubtedly feeling, his demeanor is just as surely described by control.
Apparently, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man have swapped characteristics: logic goes with uncontrolled and feeling goes with control. In a sense, both of these Characters now contain two Elements that are at odds with each other. The Action Element does not reflect the Decision Element. This creates two very interesting Characters who have an additional degree of depth to them: an internal friction, inconsistency, or conflict. This is the kind of arrangement that begins to make characters more complex.
Witch and Wizard Ways
But what about the Witch and the Wizard? What is it that makes them diverge from the Archetypal molds? Could it be a similar “swapping” of Elements? As it turns out, it is a similar swapping, but not exactly the same. To be the Archetypal Contagonist, the Wizard would have to be temptation and hinder. To be the Antagonist, the Witch would have to be reconsideration and prevent. But rather than swapping an Action Element for another Action Element, the Witch ends up with both Action Elements and the Wizard with both Decision ones!
“Oz” Elements in Quads
When we put this information into our Quad formation, the Elements do not line up in a simple way.
Everyone still has two characteristics; however, the arrangements are not Archetypal for all the Characters in The Wizard of Oz. As a result, the Archetypal role names have been removed where they do not apply.
The 16 Motivation Elements in Jaws
Elements of Jaws Characters
Brody, as Protagonist, is very nicely pursue, and certainly with his bell-ringing and whistle-blowing Brody is consideration as well. Hooper does provide the sense of conscience and helps Brody. The Mayor definitely hinders our Protagonist and dishes out plenty of temptation to give up the quest. Certainly the shark forces reconsideration of the propriety of the goal and goes out of its way to prevent Brody from accomplishing his goal of adjusting its feeding habits. Brody’s wife is his faithful supporter. Hooper adds to his functions by filling the role of logic as well, yet he is very uncontrolled in his approach, as made evident by the variety of devices he employs to no apparent success. Quint is clearly operating from his feelings, but his approach is very simple and in control. The Mayor, in addition, supplies us with disbelief and oppose.
A Better Way to Group Elements
A better way to organize these characteristics is to separate the Action Elements from the Decision Elements. Of course, since the Eight Archetypal Character Types describe a specific pairing of Action characteristic to Decision characteristic, when we separate the sets, we cannot keep the Archetypal Character names as their contents are split. Nevertheless, it is much more useful to arrange the Elements by their similar natures rather than by the simple arrangement contained in the Archetypal Characters.
With 16 characteristics, we can create four quads of four characteristics each. This grows from having a Driver Character Quad and a Passenger Character Quad, then splitting each in two (Action Quad and Decision Quad), giving us four Quads: the Action Driver Quad, the Decision Driver Quad, the Action Passenger Quad, and the Decision Passenger Quad.
Using the Quads to Gain Meaning
In Dramatica, a group of four Quads is called a Set. Note how the set above provides additional meaning. For example, when dealing with a problem of Action in terms of Drivers, one would have the choice to Pursue, Prevent, Help, or Hinder. When a Character represents the Drive to Pursue, it applies itself to achieving the goal. Although it may also want the goal to be achieved, a Help Character focuses its efforts on being useful to the Pursuit of the goal rather than instigating its own effort. This explains the functions of and relationship between the Protagonist’s Drive (Pursue) and the Guardian’s Drive (Help).
Similarly, when a Protagonist’s Drive is Pursue, an Antagonist’s Drive is Prevent. And, of course, the Contagonist Hinders the Protagonist’s Pursuit. In fact, when we consider all four Quads, we can obtain a very precise understanding of why the Eight Archetypal Characters are created as they are and exactly how they relate.
Complex Arrangements of Character Elements
So far we have only explored sixteen different character Elements. One way to create complex characters is by assigning these sixteen Elements to characters in non-archetypal patterns. However, as great as the number of potential characters that can be created is, this limited set of sixteen Elements is still not sufficient to describe all the rich complexities of the Objective Characters we see in sophisticated stories. This is because these sixteen Elements only represent character Motivations. In fact, we call them the Sixteen Motivation Elements.
Characters Do Not Live By Motivations Alone
Like real people, characters are driven by Motivations, but they also aspire to different Purposes, employ different Methodologies in the effort to achieve those purposes, and use different Means of Evaluation to determine the effectiveness of their efforts. The old adage that one should create three
dimensional characters falls short by one dimension. Fully realized characters are four dimensional possessing an Action and Decision Element in each dimension.
In the following sections we will explore two kinds of character complexity. First we will look at ways to rearrange the Motivation Elements, and second, we will outline how to bring the other three character dimensions into play.
Star Wars Characters in Four Motivation Quads
Once again, to enhance our “feel” for these relationships, let’s add the names of the Characters in Star Wars to the Quads.
As before, the amazingly pure Archetypal Characters of Star Wars translate into a completely symmetrical pattern. Each Character has an Action Quad characteristic and a Decision Quad characteristic. Each pair of Characters is in direct opposition, both internally and externally. Further, Driver Archetypes are represented exclusively in the Driver Quads, and Passenger Archetypes are found entirely within the Passenger Quads.
“Oz” Characters in Four Motivation Quads
In looking at these patterns, the Passenger Characters in The Wizard of Oz seem very much like the Passenger Characters in Star Wars, with that one notable exception of the “flipping” of Logic and Feeling in relation to Control and Uncontrolled. In other words, the two Characters simply traded places on one Dynamic Pair of Elements in a single Quad. It makes sense that a stereotypical Reason Character would be logical AND controlled, and a stereotypical Emotion Character would be feeling AND uncontrolled. But if you simply flip the Action Characteristics in relation to the Decision Characteristics, far more versatile Characters are created—characters whose approach is no longer in complement to their attitude, but in conflict with it. In a sense, these Characters are made more interesting by creating an inequity within them even as they continue to represent methods of problem solving within the Story Mind.
Looking at the Wizard and the Wicked Witch we see that the other kind of swapping of characteristics also creates much less stereotypical Characters. Rather than a tempter, the Wicked Witch becomes a completely action-oriented pest not only trying to prevent Dorothy from achieving her goal, but hindering her every step on the way as well. The Wizard becomes a purely decision-oriented tempter who represents taking the apparent easy way out while also (through his fearsome reputation, embodiment, and requests) urging Dorothy and her friends to reconsider their decisions. This lack of action characteristics may help explain why the Wizard is so obviously absent during most of the story, although his influence is felt throughout. Obviously, the nature of the combinations of characteristics has a great impact on which decisions and actions the audience will expect and accept from a Character.
Jaws Characters in Four Motivation Quads
Clearly, the Driver Character characteristics in Jaws are as simple as those in Star Wars. In fact, they are identical in terms of which characteristics are combined into a single Character. However, when we look at the Passenger Character characteristics, we see a new phenomenon: some of those Elements are present in the Driver Characters, two of whom are doing multiple duty.
The Mayor represents Temptation and Hinder as a Driver Character but also represents the Passenger characteristics of Disbelief and Oppose. Hooper, a Driver in Conscience and Help, also represents Logic and Uncontrolled, putting him in conflict with Quint. It is clear that these “multi-characteristic” Characters are much more complex in their make-up and therefore in their interactions than Archetypes. For this reason we refer to them as Complex Characters.
Rules for Building Characters?
The question now becomes, “Is there a definitive set of rules that govern how characteristics may or may not be combined without violating the analogy of the Story Mind?” Let’s find out.
A Character Cannot Serve Two Masters
The first thing we notice when examining the Motivation Characters is that there is never an instance where a Character contains both characteristics in a Dynamic Pair. This makes common sense: “One cannot serve two masters.” Essentially, how can you be AGAINST something at the same time you are FOR it? So, our first rule of combining characteristics is: Characters should never represent more than one characteristic in a Dynamic Pair.
Can’t Serve Two Masters at the Same Time….
Sounds good, but what if you want to create a Character who represents one view and then the other. For example, if you had a one-woman show, you would need to combine ALL 16 Motivation characteristics into one person. This is accommodated by the difference between a character and a player. In a one-woman show, even if it is a single story argument, there might be a multitude of characters but only one player. The key to keeping them separate is that the player changes from one character to another, never simultaneously portraying more than one, such as by donning different apparel or adopting a different voice.
In light of this additional information we add a second rule of thumb to our first: Players should never represent more than one character at a time.
The Meaning of Objective Character Elements
In truth, there are many valid reasons for combining opposing characteristics in one body. An example is Doctor Jekyll and Mister Hyde. As Jekyll and Hyde, this player has a split personality representing, in effect, two Characters in the same body.
Dramatica sees a player as a shopper filling a grocery sack full of characteristics. You can select whatever you want, as long as you don’t put in both Elements of a Dynamic Pair. You can also carry as many bags as you can handle.
But wouldn’t a fixed grouping of characteristics prevent a Character from growing? For the answer, look back at what these characteristics really are. They are the problem-solving processes within the Story Mind seen Objectively. They are Objective Characters. Objectively, characters remain the same; it is Subjectively that they grow as points of view change. In a sense, the Objective nature of characters describes their innate disposition, in which no changes can be made. The Subjective nature of characters describes their learned behavior, which is what can be evolve in the course of a story.
What does all this mean in a practical sense to us as Authors? First, Dramatica tells us there are only 16 Motivations to spread among our players. If we use the same characteristic twice, it clutters our story. If we neglect to employ one, there will be a hole in our story’s argument. Finally, we have a great deal of flexibility to create unique and memorable characters while fulfilling all the requirements an audience will look for in a Story Mind.
Complex Characters in Gone With the Wind
Simply “Gone With The Wind”
As an exercise, let’s take a look at how the Motivation characteristics are represented and combined in some familiar well-written stories. Why don’t we tackle something simple like Gone With the Wind.
“Simple?” you say. In terms of thematics, Gone With the Wind is an extremely rich and complex story. But in terms of the characters, GWTW is no more complex than any of the other stories we have analyzed so far. Let’s see how.
Scarlett and Rhett
A list of the most notable Characters might include: Scarlett O’Hara, Rhett Butler, Ashley Wilkes, Melanie Wilkes, Scarlett’s sister Suellen, Frank Kennedy, Scarlett’s father Gerald O’Hara, and Prissy. Taking them one at a time, we can see the stuff they are made of.
Intuitively, we sense that Scarlett and Rhett are the two most important characters. Looking at the 16 characteristics, Scarlett is clearly Pursue. She pursues Rhett, she pursues Ashley, she pursues the tax money, she pursues a fortune. She is motivated to get people to consider things they normally would not. Based on this analysis we will call Scarlett PURSUE and CONSIDERATION.
Rhett, on the other hand, spends most of his time avoiding. He avoids getting involved in the war, and by his contraband dealings he avoids financial hardship. He avoids Scarlett’s advances, avoids the firing squad, avoids paying her the tax money, and on and on. Nonetheless, it is Rhett that continually urges Scarlett (and everyone else) to reconsider their actions. So Rhett comes down as AVOID and RECONSIDERATION.
Comparing Scarlett to Rhett, each contains one action characteristic and one decision characteristic. Solely in terms of Motivations, Scarlett and Rhett are Archetypal Protagonist and Antagonist.
Melanie and Ashley
There is little to disguise Ashley’s effect as TEMPTATION upon Scarlett. Just because he never actively tempts her does not diminish his actual temptation value. And this is a good point to file away for later: A character does not have to actively or even consciously employ a characteristic to represent it.
Looking for Ashley’s physical characteristic, although it is not strongly drawn, we find him to be HINDER. Now since his physical self is designed to be the source of Scarlett’s temptation, Hinder has been down-played to make him more attractive. Nevertheless, he repeatedly jeopardizes Scarlett’s situation. Temptation and Hinder make Ashley a Contagonist.
Melanie, in complement to Ashley, is CONSCIENCE and HELP. She continually tutors Scarlett in the “correct” morality, simultaneously cleaning up the real world messes that Scarlett leaves in her wake. Melanie is forever smoothing ruffled feathers and it is she who handles the hiding of the Yankee renegade soldier that Scarlett shoots. Conscience and Help make Melanie the Guardian.
It is interesting to note the Character pairings designed into this story. Scarlett (Pursue and Consideration) is paired with Rhett (Avoid and Reconsideration). Ashley (Temptation and Hinder) is paired with Melanie (Conscience and Help). Obviously, Margaret Mitchell had an amazingly intuitive sense of where the dramatic potentials lie. (But then, we knew that already, didn’t we?) Let’s see if this pattern continues.
Frank Kennedy, Suellen O’Hara, Gerald O’Hara, and Prissy
Scarlett’s screaming sister Suellen plays nicely as FEELING and UNCONTROLLED, making her the Emotion Character. Her choice of husband, Frank Kennedy (who is snatched by Scarlett) is again, an opposite. Kennedy, by virtue of his steadfast business development and religion of practicality defines LOGIC. And also by virtue of his steadfast business development and resistance to diverging from his plans demonstrates that he represents CONTROL (restraint). Kennedy fits nicely as the Reason Character, again, in a complementary posture to his intended bride.
Finally, we reach a most telling pair. First, we perceive Scarlett’s father Gerald O’Hara has FAITH. He believes that a war will never happen, then believes the South will win. Even when they have already lost he won’t give up his faith. He goes into a fantasy world rather than admit his faith is in error. On the flip side, he constantly OPPOSES Scarlett’s wishes. In the opening scene, Scarlett wants love but her father is pushing real estate. After the fall, he keeps jumping in with inane comments about the way Scarlett is handling the house. Consistently (albeit gently) he opposes her.
Prissy, on the other hand, has no faith at all. She is absolutely convinced that no matter what the situation, the worst will happen. She is a DISBELIEVER pure and true. And yet, she SUPPORTS Scarlett in every self-serving endeavor she instigates. As with other characters we have examined, Mr. O’Hara and Prissy have swapped characteristics, this time between the Skeptic and Sidekick. They are a complementary pair. This is a wonderful twist from a thematic standpoint, pairing and swapping characteristics between a rich white landholder and a poor black slave.
Complex Characters in Rear Window
Principal Characters in Rear Window
If there is anything that can be seen as “typical” about a Hitchcock film it would be his forefront use of thematics. Rear Window is no exception. As with Gone With the Wind, the enjoyment of the story comes largely from what happens between the lines. But unlike GWTW, the characters in Rear Window are relatively complex.
At first glance, it may seem that there are quite a few characters, what with the neighbors and all. There’s the Composer, trying to sell his first hit song. There’s Miss Lonely Heart, who can’t get a date. We see a lot of Miss Torso who exercises in front of her open window. Upstairs is the Couple With the Dog, downstairs, the Sunbather. And, of course, Thornton the murderer.
More prominent, of course, is Jeffries and the characters we see in his apartment: his girlfriend Lisa; Doyle, the detective; and his Nurse. (It is important to note that Thornton also shows up in Jeffries’ apartment near the end of the story and is the only neighbor to do so.)
The Top Five
The purpose of characters is to show how aspects of the Story Mind deal with a problem. And this is what determines that the neighbors are not Objective Characters. Aside from Thornton, they all have their own little stories, but only interact with each other peripherally, if at all. Their private stories enhance the thematic atmosphere of the overall story but neither advance nor clarify the plot.
If we eliminate all the neighbors who do not interact, we pare our list down to five actual characters: Jeffries, Lisa, Doyle, Nurse, and Thornton. If Rear Window is well written, we would expect all sixteen motivation Elements to be distributed among these five. Let’s see if they are.
Elements of the Top Five
Who represents FAITH? Unquestionably Jeffries. He maintains his belief that a murder has been committed in the face of objections by each of the other characters. Lisa can’t talk him out of it and neither can his Nurse. Thornton denies it by his actions and Doyle is not convinced until after the proof is irrefutable. In fact, Doyle personifies DISBELIEF, even while HELPING Jeffries gain information to which he would not otherwise have access. Lisa comes around to accepting the possibility and so does Nurse. Thornton already knows the truth, but Doyle is never convinced until he sees the proof with his own eyes.
In addition, Doyle relies on LOGIC to support his disbelief. He will not accept Jeffries’ contentions without logical arguments. Then is Jeffries FEELING? No. Jeffries does not disregard Logic in his considerations; he merely can’t supply it. Jeffries urges the others to CONSIDER what he knows and what he suspects. Lisa, on the other hand, continually acts on impulse without regard for logic, illustrating nicely the characteristic of FEELING.
If Jeffries is CONSIDERATION, we would expect his nemesis, Thornton, to cause RECONSIDERATION, and he does. Thornton’s apparently guilt-free actions are a constant force that urges Jeffries (and the others) to RECONSIDER. All we ever see of him is that he acts methodically to carry out his plan, whatever that might be. It is his methodical approach that makes Thornton the CONTROL Character as well. He wastes no time or energy on anything but the task at hand, whereas Jeffries dabbles at whatever fills his view, even when it interferes with his goal of getting the goods on Thornton. Jeffries plainly illustrates the Element of being UNCONTROLLED.
Even though Lisa SUPPORTS Jeffries in his quest, she manages to HINDER his efforts through distraction and re-direction of their conversations. She clearly TEMPTS him to give up PURSUING this crazy scheme. In contrast, Jeffries’ Nurse OPPOSES his efforts, even while providing a moralistic philosophy or CONSCIENCE to his every comment. And, of course, Thornton would prefer to AVOID the whole thing.
If we take a slightly different form, we can arrange the five Characters as column headings and list their characteristics beneath them.
Rear Window Characters in the Motivation Set
Assigning the Character names of Rear Window to the Motivation Characteristic Quads we get:
Using the grid above we can predict the principal conflicts of Rear Window simply by noting which characters are in Dynamic (diagonal) positions and the issues (Elements) over which each pair will diverge.
In summary, the set of sixteen Motivation Elements offers a valuable tool for understanding some of the essential building blocks of Objective Characters and how they can be distributed to create both Archetypal and Complex characters.
Other Character Dimensions
What's the Purpose?
When authors describe their characters, they are often asked to state a characters' motivations. A common reply might be, "The character Jane wants to be president." Often that is accepted as a valid motivation. In fact, becoming president is Jane's Purpose, not her motivation. Her motivation may be that she felt no control over her life as a child. Or she might be motivated by a love of the natural world, hoping to instigate a national conservation plan. She might be motivated by a desire for an equal rights amendment.
Just knowing what her purpose is does not tell us anything about what Jane is driven by but only what she is driven toward. Any of the stated motivations would be sufficient to explain Jane's purpose of becoming president. Conversely, if Jane's motivation were the first example - a lack of control over her life as a child - several different purposes might satisfy that motivation. She might become a school teacher, a drill sergeant, or a religious leader. Clearly, motivations do not specifically dictate purposes, nor are purposes indicative of any particular motivations.
Step Into the Fourth Dimension...
In Dramatica, we refer to Motivation as a Character Dimension. Often it is said that characters must be three-dimensional to seem like real people. Dramatica sees four dimensions as necessary to flesh out a character. Motivations and Purposes are the first and last dimensions, but that is not enough. Motivation gives a character the force to move, Purpose gives a character a direction in which to move. But how is he actually going to get to where he wants to go? For this, he needs a Methodology, which is the third dimension of character. Methodologies describe the kinds of approaches a character might use in its efforts to achieve its purposes.
This might seem like enough dimensions. After all, we have a beginning (motivation), a middle (methodology), and an end (purpose). Still, there is one remaining dimension lacking: Evaluations. Evaluations are the standards by which characters measure their progress.
All right, Buddy...Where's the conflict?!
As an example of the concept of Evaluation, imagine two business partners who share motivations, methodologies and purposes. They might agree on what drives them (a motivation to be independent), what they want to achieve (a purpose of creating a thriving business), and how to achieve that (word-of-mouth advertising as a methodology). Still, they might argue if sales are up but satisfaction is low because one evaluates based on gross sales and the other evaluates based on customer satisfaction. Their word-of-mouth methodology brings in more business because their prices are good, but repeat business is non-existent because of poor customer satisfaction. As a result, the two partners argue all the time, even though they agree in all three dimensions of Motivation, Methodology, and Purpose.
Difficulties can arise between characters in any one of the four dimensions, even though they might agree completely in one or more of the other dimensions. In short, characters are never fully developed unless they are represented in all four dimensions, and they may come into conflict over any combination of Motivations, Methodologies, Means of Evaluation, or Purposes.
The Sixty-Four Element Question
Each of the character dimensions contains sixteen Elements, as we have already seen with Motivations. Each character dimension is referred to as a Set of Elements. All four Sets come together to create what is called a Chess Set (due to its eight by eight grid) as illustrated below:
A good way to get a feel for the content of and relationships between character dimensions is through the Archetypal Characters. Beginning with the Motivation Set, when we superimpose the Archetypal Characters onto the character Elements, an "archetypal pattern" appears as follows:
Mapping the Archetypal Pattern
The archetypal pattern formed in the Motivation Set clearly illustrates the consistency and balance of the character Elements. In each quad of four Elements, the items that are diagonal from one another hold the greatest potential for conflict because they are exact opposites.
For example, Pursuit is the opposite of Avoid. As a result, when we place the Protagonist on the Motivation of Pursuit, we would expect the Antagonist to represent Avoid. As we have illustrated in the previous section, that is exactly the case. Similarly, when we place the Reason Archetype on Logic, it comes as no surprise to find Emotion residing on Feeling, since it is diagonal from Logic. In fact, every pair of Archetypes that are in a diagonal relationship will generate the greatest dynamics between them. This is why we call two Elements in diagonal opposition a Dynamic Pair.
Shifting our attention to the Methodology Set, a very useful thing becomes evident. Because the Methodology Elements are also arranged in Dynamic Pairs, we can simply duplicate the Archetypal pattern from the Motivation Set and the Archetypal Characters will cover the Methods they represent in stories as well.
For example, a Protagonist who is Motivated by Pursuit employs a Methodology of Pro-action, and a Skeptic who is Motivated to Oppose employs a Methodology of Non-Acceptance.
This Archetypal Pattern continues through all four character dimensions such that a Protagonist will be motivated by Pursuit, employ a Methodology of Pro-action, Evaluate its progress by the Effect it has, and strive toward achieving Actuality as its Purpose. Each of the Archetypal Characters follows the same pattern for both its External and Internal characteristics, resulting in an alignment of character Elements in four dimensions.
Complex Dimensional Patterns
Most stories emphasize one dimension over the others. Character Motivations are often most prominent. Still, many stories compare the methods used by characters, question their purposes, or carry a message that a means of evaluation is actually the cause of the problem. Some characters become famous for characteristics other than Motivations, such as a notable detective who employs a methodology of Deduction.
Being aware of all four character dimensions adds versatility in creating complex characters as well. Characters might be Archetypal in one dimension, but fall into complex patterns in another. Also, a character may have three Motivations that drive it, yet strive toward a single Purpose that it hopes will satisfy all three. Some characters may not be represented at all in one or more dimensions, making them both more complex and less well rounded at the same time. To make the argument of any story fully, however, all sixty-four Elements must be represented in one character or another. In addition, a key point to remember is: Unless a character represents at least one Element, it is not fulfilling a dramatic function and is there for storytelling only.
What's In a Pair?
Finally, we can use our Chess Set of Elements to learn something more about our character's relationships. In each quad of Elements, we find not only Dynamic (diagonal) Pairs, but horizontal and vertical pairs as well. Horizontal Elements are called Companion Pairs, and vertical Elements are Dependent Pairs. Each pair describes a different relationship between the Elements, and therefore between the characters that represent them.
Besides the three types of pairs, we can look at each Element as a separate part and compare it to the overall nature of the quad itself. This Component approach describes the difference between any given Element and the family of Elements in which it resides (quad). Therefore, the degree of individuality the characters represent within the "group" can be explored.
Dynamic Pairs describe Elements with the greatest opposition to each other. Whenever two opposing forces come together they will create either a positive or negative relationship. They can form a synthesis and create something greater than the sum of the parts or they can simply tear away at each other until nothing remains (destructive). Within a quad, one of the Dynamic Pairs is a positive relationship, the other a negative one. Which is which depends on other story dynamics.
Companion Pairs contain the Elements that are most compatible. However, just being compatible does not preclude a negative relationship. In a positive Companion Pair, characters will continue along their own paths, side by side. What one does not need they will offer to the other (positive impact). In a negative Companion Pair, one character may use up what the other needs. They are not against each other as in a negative Dynamic Pair, but still manage to interfere with each other's efforts (negative impact).
Dependent Pairs are most complementary. In a positive sense, each character provides strengths to compensate for the other's weaknesses (cooperation). Together they make a powerful team. In its negative incarnation, the Dependent Pair Relationship has each character needing the other to survive (codependency).
Components describe the nature of the Elements in relationship to the overall quad. On the one hand, the individual characters in a quad can be a group that works together (interdependency). The group is seen to be greater than the individual characters that comprise it, at the risk of overwhelming the individuality of its members. This is contrasted by identifying the disparate nature of each character in the quad (independency). Seen this way, the characters are noted for their distinguishing characteristics at the risk of losing sight of shared interests.
Dynamic Relationships are the most familiar to writers, simply because they create the most obvious forms of conflict. Companion and Dependent Pairs are used all the time without fanfare, as there has previously been no terminology to describe them. Components are useful to writers because they allow characters in groups to be evaluated in and out of context.
By building characters with thought and foresight, an author can use the position of Elements in the Chess Set to forge relationships that are Dynamic in one dimension while being Companion and Dependent in others. Characters created with Dramatica can represent both the structural Elements of the Story Mind's problem solving techniques and the dynamic interchange between those techniques.
Altogether we have outlined four dimensions of characteristics, each fostering an aspect of the eight Archetypes. We can subdivide each of the Archetypes into internal and external Elements resulting in sixteen Elements in each dimension—a total of sixty-four characteristics from all four dimensions with which to build characters. Stepping out of the archetypal patterns and relationships can create complex characters.
In The Elements of Structure: Foundations we described four throughlines in a story—the Overall Story Throughline, Main Character Throughline, Influence Character Throughline, and Relationship Story Throughline. The Overall Story Throughline describes the relative value of the approaches of the Overall Story Characters. The Main Character Throughline describes the point of view and growth of the Main Character. The Influence Character Throughline describes the alternative point of view and growing impact of the Influence Character. The Relationship Story Throughline describes the growing relationship between the Main and Influence Characters.
A good way to think of these four throughlines is as four different points of view through which the audience relates to the Story Mind—the same four points of view we use in all of our relationships. The Main Character represents the "I" point of view. The Influence Character represents the "you" perspective. The Relationship Story Throughline covers the "we" perspective, and the Overall Story Throughline explores the "they" perspective. Taken together, the four points of view range from the most personal to the most impersonal, and provide all the angles we use to examine the nature of our problems and the relative value of alternative solutions.
We have previously looked at the Elements of Character from a purely objective perspective. When we stand in the shoes of a character, however, we get an entirely different perspective. Rather than seeing how the events of a story relate to one another, we become more concerned with how events affect us personally. Providing this experience is the purpose of the Main Character.
The Main Character: One of a Kind
There is only one Main Character in a story. Why is this? Because each complete story is a model of the Story Mind that reflects our own minds, and in our minds we can only be one person at a time. At any given moment, we have a position in our own thoughts. Our state of mind on a particular problem reflects the biases of the position on which we stand. If a story is to involve an audience fully, it must reflect this point of view.
What Is the Story Mind?
Dramatica is built on the idea that the structure and dynamics of a story are not random, but represent an analogy to a single human mind dealing with a problem. We call this idea the Story Mind. A Story Mind is not a character, the author, or even the audience, but the story itself. It's as if the audience's experience of a complete story were like looking inside someone's head. Every act and scene, the thematic progression and message, the climax, plus all the characters and all they do represent the parts and functions (or thoughts if you will) of the Story Mind.
A complete story successfully argues all possible sides of its message, thus it will address all the possible human perspectives on that specific issue. That is how the structure and dynamics of a single story create a single Story Mind. This is also why characters are common elements in all stories, along with theme, plot, acts and scenes. Each of these represent the way in which essential human psychology is recreated in stories so we can view our own thought processes more objectively from the outside looking in.
Now before we go on, we'll note that there can be many Main Characters in a completed work, but there will be only one Main Character in a completed story. This is because a work is the finished product an author puts before an audience. It may contain a single story, several stories, or several partial and complete stories all woven together or at least nestled in the same fabric of storytelling. This means that a book or a movie, a stage play or teleplay, may have no Main Character at all, or it may have many. But for any single story in that work, there will be only one Main Character. [NOTE: It is permissible to have several players act as one Main Character. For this to work, each of the players must represent the same worldview, the same view of the story's inequity.]
A Grand Argument Story does not allow the audience to stand in the shoes of every character, every Element, and see what the story looks like from there. Such a work would simply be too big to handle. Rather, the purpose of a Grand Argument Story is to discover if the Main Character is looking at the problem from the right place, or if he should change his bias and adopt another point of view instead.
An Alternative Point of View
There is also one other special character that represents the argument for an alternative point of view. The character who spends the entire story making the case for change is called the Influence Character, for he acts as an obstacle to the direction the Main Character would go if left on his own.
As with each of us, the last thing we question when examining a problem is our part in it. We look for all kinds of solutions both external and internal before we finally (if ever) get around to wondering if maybe we have to change ourselves and learn to see the problem differently. We can learn to like what we currently hate, but it takes convincing for us to make that leap.
When a Main Character makes the traditional leap of faith just before the climax, he has explored all possible means of resolving a problem short of changing who he is. The Influence Character has spent the entire story trying to sell the Main Character on the idea that change is good, and in fact, pointing out exactly how the Main Character ought to change. The clock is ticking, options are running out. If the Main Character doesn't choose one way or the other, then failure is certain. But which way to go? There's no clear-cut answer from the Main Character's perspective.
A History of Success
The Main Character came into the story with a tried-and-true method for dealing with the problem featured in the story. That method has always worked for the Main Character before: it has a long history. Suddenly, a situation arises where that standard approach doesn't work, perhaps for the first time ever. This marks the beginning of the story's argument. As the story develops, the Main Character tries everything to find a way to make it work anyway. He holds out in the hope the problem will eventually go away, or work itself out, or is resolved by the tried-and-true method.
Along the way, the Influence Character comes into the picture. He tells the Main Character there is a better way, a more effective approach that not only solves the same problems the Main Character's tried-and-true method did, but solves this new one as well. It sounds a lot like pie in the sky, and the Main Character sees it that way. Why give up the old standby just because of a little flak?
As the story develops, the Influence Character makes his case. Slowly, an alternative paradigm builds up that becomes rather convincing. By the climax, the long-term success of the old view is perfectly balanced by the larger, but untried, new view. There is no clear winner, and that is why it is a leap of faith for the Main Character to choose one over the other.
Please note that the Influence Character need not even know he is having an effect on the Main Character. He may know, but he may easily not even be aware. Main Characters are defined by the point of view, Influence Characters by the impact on that point of view.
A Leap or a Creep?
As a final thought in this brief introduction to Subjective Characters, the "leap of faith" story is not the only kind that occurs. Equally reflective of our own mind's processes is the slow change or non-leap of faith story. The Main Character gradually shifts his perspective until, by the end of the story, he has already adopted the alternative paradigm with little or no fanfare (for example, Hamlet in Shakespeare's Hamlet).
Usually, in such stories, a particular dramatic scenario occurs near the beginning of the story and repeats (in some similar manner) near the end. The Main Character reacted one way in the first scenario and the audience gets a chance to see if he responds the same way again or not. In the Slow Change story, the Main Character may never even realize he has changed. We, the audience, are able to evaluate the worth of the journey the Main Character has been through by seeing whether the Main Character has been changed and whether that is for better or worse.
In our current Western culture, the leap of faith story is favored, especially in Hollywood-style motion pictures. In other media and cultures, however, the Slow Change story predominates. In theory, each reflects the way our minds shift belief systems: Sometimes in a binary sense as a single decisive alternation, and other times in an analog sense as a progressive realignment.
Main Character Resolve:
Does the Main Character eventually Change or Remain Steadfast?
In empathizing with the Main Character of a story, we nearly become this person. There are certain dynamics we expect to be able to find out about a Main Character as part of experiencing conflicts from his point of view. One of these is called Main Character Resolve.
Main Character Resolve answers the question "Does the Main Character ultimately Change or Remain Steadfast?" At the beginning of the story the Main Character is driven by a particular motivation. When the story ends, he will either still be driven by the same motivation (Steadfast) or have a new motivation (Change).
Main Character Resolve describes the relationship between the Main Character and the Influence Character. The impact of the Influence Character is what forces the Main Character to even consider changing. If the Main Character eventually does change, it is the result of the Influence Character's affect on the Main Character's perspective. If, on the other hand, the Main Character remains steadfast, then his impact on the Influence Character will force the Influence Character to change.
Main Character: Luke Skywalker (Change); Influence Character: Obi Wan Kenobi (Steadfast)
The Story of Job:
Main Character: Job (Steadfast); Influence Character: The Devil (Change)
To Kill A Mockingbird:
Main Character: Scout (Change); Influence Character: Boo Radley (Steadfast)
Main Character: Dr. Richard Kimble (Steadfast); Influence Character: Agent Gerard (Change)
and the Overall Story
One of the most common mistakes made by authors of every experience level is to create a problem for their Main Character that has nothing to do with the story at large. This usually occurs because an author works out a story and then realizes that he has not made it personal enough. Because the whole work is already completed, it is nearly impossible to tie the Main Character's personal problem into the larger story without a major rewrite. To improve the work, the author tacks on a personal issue for the Main Character.
Of course, this leads to a finished piece in which removing either the story's issues or the Main Character's issues still leaves a sound tale behind. In other words, to an audience it feels like one of the issues is out of place and shouldn't be in the work.
Now, if one of the two different problems were removed, it wouldn't leave a complete story, yet the remaining part would still feel like a complete tale. Dramatica distinguishes between a "tale" and a "story". If a story is an argument, a tale is a statement. A story explores an issue from all sides to discover what is better or worse overall, a tale explores an issue down a single path and shows how it turns out. Most fairy tales are just that, tales.
There is nothing wrong with a tale. You can write a tale about a group of people facing a problem without having a Main Character. Or, you could write a personal tale about a Main Character without needing to explore a larger story. If you simply put an Overall Story-tale and a Main Character tale into the same work, one will often seem incidental to the real thrust of the work. But, if the Main Character tale and the Overall Story-tale both hinge on the same issue, then suddenly they are tied together intimately. What happens in one influences what happens in the other.
This, by definition, forms a Grand Argument Story, and opens the door to all kinds of dramatic power and variety not present in a tale. For example, although the story at large may end in success, the Main Character might be left miserable. Conversely, even though the big picture ended in failure, the Main Character might find personal satisfaction and solace. We'll discuss these choices at great length in The Art Of Storytelling section. For now, let us use this as a foundation to examine the relationship between the Subjective Characters and the Overall Story.
The Crucial Element
One point at which the Overall Story and the Main Character hinge is called the Crucial Element. In fact, the Crucial Element is one of the sixty-four Overall Story Character Elements we have already explored. When we look at the Objective Character Elements as the soldiers on the field (from our earlier example), there is one special Element from which the audience experiences an internal perspective on the story. This is the Main Character position in the Overall Story, and the Element at that point is the Crucial Element. As a result, whichever Overall Story Character represents the Crucial Element should be placed in the same player as the Main Character. In that way, what happens during the Main Character's growth will have an impact on his Overall Story function. Similarly, pressures on his Overall Story function caused by the story's situations will influence his decision to change or remain steadfast.
We can see that a Protagonist will only be a Main Character if the Crucial Element is one of the Elements that make up a Protagonist. In other words, a Protagonist has eight different Elements, two from each dimension of character. If one of them is the Crucial Element, then the player containing the Protagonist must also contain the Main Character. This means we can create eight different kinds of heroes. An action hero might have a Crucial Element of Pursue, while a thinking hero might have a Crucial Element of Consider. Clearly, the opportunities to create Main Characters who are NOT Protagonists are also extensive. Main Characters are often complex Objective Characters.
The Influence Character has a special place in the Overall Story (Objective) Character Elements as well. We have already discussed Dynamic Pairs. As it turns out, the point at which an Influence Character will have the greatest dramatic leverage to try to change the Main Character is the other Element in the Dynamic Pair with the Crucial Element. In simpler terms, the Main and Influence Characters are opposites on this important issue. Often one will contain the story's problem, the other the story's solution.
If the Main Character (and Crucial Element) stands on Pursue, the Influence Character will occupy Avoid. If the Main Character is Logic, the Influence Character is Feeling. In this manner, we explore the essential differences between the two opposite points of view in an objective sense, looking from the outside in, and in a subjective sense, from the inside looking out. All four throughlines come into play (Overall Story, Main Character, Influence Character, and Relationship Story). By the end of the story, the audience will feel the central issue of concern to the Story Mind has been examined fully from all relevant angles.
To summarize, a complete story requires that both the Overall Story and Subjective views are provided to an audience, and that they are hinged together around the same central issue. We do this by assigning the Main and Influence Characters to the Overall Story Characters who contain either the story's problem or solution Elements. The Element held by the Main Character becomes the Crucial Element, as both the Objective and Subjective Stories revolve around it.
The Crucial Element: Where Subjective meets Objective
The Crucial Element is an item that is at the heart of a story from both the Overall Story and Subjective points of view. How this happens depends on the Main Character. The Crucial Element is the one of the connections between the Main Character and the Overall story and makes the Main Character special enough to be "Main." This issue at the heart of the Main Character is thematically the same issue that is at the heart of the Overall Story.
To Kill A Mockingbird Crucial Element is INEQUITY
Inequity is the problem that is causing all the conflict around the town of Maycomb. The trial of Tom Robinson brings all the townspeople into squabbles about inequity in the treatment of different races, inequity among the social classes of people, their levels of income, and their educations.
Scout, as the Main Character, is driven by her personal problem of inequity. This is symbolized most clearly in her fear of Boo Radley. Kept at the margins of the Overall Story dealings with the problem of inequity, Scout however comes to see her prejudice against Boo Radley as being every bit as wrong.
Don't Sweat Over The Crucial Element
Despite the name, proper assignment of the Crucial Element isn't critical. Your story is stronger if you assign the Crucial element to the player that is also the Main Character, but it is only one of many connections between the throughlines.
The following section delves deeply into the inner workings of a Main Character and how that character grows over the course of a story. The material covered will address the following questions: How does a Main Character come to have a particular problem? How does that problem relate to the Overall Story as well? If the Main Character has a problem, why doesn't he just solve it? How can an Influence Character bring a Main Character to the point of change?
This discussion can get theoretical at times, and we present it more for those interested in details, rather than as essential reading. If you have an interest in theory, read on! If not, you may wish to skip to the next chapter on Theme, or jump ahead to The Art Of Storytelling for a more practical approach.
Problem Solving and Justification
What are Justifications?
At the moment we act in response to a problem, each of us sees our approach as justifiable. If we later regret our actions or are called to task, we have reasons we should not be blamed or at least not held accountable. We call these reasons "Justifications." To us, these justifications legitimize our actions. To others who find our actions unwarranted, our reasons seem more like excuses, and our actions unjustified.
Sometimes, we may be unsure if our actions are justified because there is a conflict between what our reason and our feelings are telling us. When we see no clear-cut response, we go with the side of ourselves that makes the stronger case.
To convince ourselves (and others) that our actions are justified, we make excuses like, "This is going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you," "It's for your own good," "I had to teach him a lesson," "She had it coming," "I had no other choice," "I couldn't help myself," "There was nothing I could do," "It was the right thing to do," and "The end justifies the means." Each of these statements implies that even though feeling says this is wrong, reason makes a stronger case that it is right (or the reverse).
Whenever the "proper" response is unclear, the legitimacy of our actions is open to interpretation. If there were a way to stand outside it all and take an objective view, we could see which actions were justifiable and which were not. Unfortunately, we are not granted this objective view in real life. So, we create stories to try to estimate the objective truth.
The Author Giveth; the Audience Taketh Away
An author builds an argument that the Main Character's actions are either justified or not. He then "proves" the point by ending the story with an outcome of success or failure and a judgment of good or bad. In this way, the author hopes to convince an audience that actions taken in a particular context are appropriate or inappropriate. The audience members hope to become convinced that when the proper course of action is unclear, they can rely on a more "objective" truth to guide them.
In real life, only time reveals if our actions achieve what we want and if that will bring us more happiness than hurt. In stories, it is the author who decides what is justified and what is not. Within the story, the author's view IS objective truth.
The author's ability to decide the truth of actions "objectively" changes the meaning of justification from how we have been using it. In life, when actions are seen as justified, it means that everyone agrees with the reasons behind the actions. In stories, reasons don't count. Even if all the characters agree with the reasons, the author might show that all the characters were wrong. Reasons just explain why characters act as they do. Consensus on the reasons does not determine correctness.
What is Problem Solving?
All characters are driven by their justifications, but only some of the actions they take will end up solving a problem. From the author's "objective" view, approaches that lead to solutions are "problem solving." Approaches that do not are simply justifications.
The process of "problem solving" describes the paths an author promotes as being the most suitable approaches to the story's problem. The process of justification describes all paths that are not as suitable.
In a binary sense, the best path of all will be represented by either the Main or Influence Character. The remaining character of the two will represent the worst path. Of Main and Impact, one will be problem solving, the other justifying. All the remaining characters represent alternative approaches between the two extremes.
From an author's perspective, it is just as important to know how things got started as it is to know how everything turns out. How is it that people can become so misguided? How is it that characters can become so justified?
Problems Start Innocently Enough....
It is the nature of people and characters as well, to try to find a source of joy and a resolution to that which hurts them. This hurt might be physical suffering or mental torment. The resolution may be to rearrange one's environment or to accept the environment as it is. Regardless of the source of the inequity or the means employed to resolve it, all thinking creatures try to maximize their pleasure and minimize their pain. That is the primal force that drives us in our lives, and the dramatic force that drives a story.
If our environments would instantly respond to our desires, and if our feelings would immediately adjust to new attitudes, all inequities between our environments and us would equalize at once. Unfortunately, this is not the case. Rather, to solve external problems we must apply effort to rearrange the material that surrounds us, and to solve internal problems we must adopt a series of paradigm shifts to arrive at a perspective that minimizes our anguish.
Getting to the Heart of the Problem
Because it takes time to resolve inequities, we define problem solving as a process we engage in over time. Step by step we chip away at pieces of a problem until we arrive at a solution. We meet prerequisites that give us the resources to fulfill the requirements that must be completed to clear the way to our goal. Or, we change the nature of the forces at work that determine the processes that preserve the inequity, so it dissolves when its foundation erodes.
Problem solving requires identifying the source of the inequity and the nature of the effort that will end it. Each of these requirements depends on an accurate assessment of the mechanism that produces the inequity, and there lies the opportunity for error.
Characters, Problems, and Justification
Stories are about one character who is problem solving and a second character who believes they are problem solving but are in error. One will be the Main Character and the other the Influence Character. In terms of the Story Mind, these two characters represent our own inability to know in advance if the method we have chosen to apply to a problem will lead to success or failure. When our approach leads to failure Dramatica does not refer to the process as problem solving, but calls that process Justification.
Why We Justify
No one justifies because they are stupid or mean. They simply adopt the best approach they can imagine, based on their life experience. Neither justification nor problem solving are intrinsically good or bad. In fact, they are the same process, the main difference being how things eventually turn out. With the value of hindsight we can judge if the decisions made and actions taken were correct, but we cannot judge this as the effort is happening since none of us can see the future. So, no character or person can be certain whether their approach to an inequity will resolve it, not effect it, aggravate it, or create another inequity somewhere else that might be even more disturbing. All any of us can do—all any of us EVER do is to make the decisions and take the actions our experience dictates as the best choices toward resolving our inequities.
Poor, Misguided Souls....
From this perspective, no character is bad, merely misguided. However, that is not the only perspective. If we step into the story and see a misguided character hurting others and us, from OUR life experience we decide that character must be stopped. Perhaps we argue with them, try to educate them, fight with or kill them. Maybe we write them off, severing our emotional ties and letting them spiral down into self-destruction because it is the only way to avoid them dragging us down.
Or, we might argue with them and find ourselves convinced of their point of view. We might try to educate them but learn something instead, fight with them and lose or be killed. We might be written off BY them or hold on to them and be dragged down as well, or drag them down with us.
The point is, both Main and Influence Characters will feel they are right, believe in what they do, try to convince or thwart their counterpart and eventually prove to be correct or misguided.
Uniqueness Means Never Having to Say, "I Agree"
As we are driven by life experiences and since the experiences of each of us are unique, it is no wonder we come into conflict and confrontation over most everything we can think of. Stories are about the incompatibility of two life experiences and the best ways to resolve an inequity.
If a character stands by his life experience, then his approach served him well in other scenarios. Similarly, his counterpart has had different life experiences that served him equally well. For the current inequity in question, each life experience creates an approach incompatible with the other. In one context, each set of experiences was problem solving. In the current context, one will be seen to be problem solving, the other justification.
Tell Me A Message, Mommy....
This is the purpose and function of story: To show when something that has previously served you well one hundred percent of the time may not continue to hold true, or conversely, that it will always hold true. Either message is equally valid and depends on the author's personal bias on the issue which arbitrarily controls the slant of the message. Obviously, the outcome is not arbitrary to the author, but it is arbitrary to the story.
Several factors determine the audience's position in relationship to the correct and incorrect approaches to the problem. For example, whether the Main Character is change or steadfast, the outcome is success or failure, and the judgment is good or bad. These choices, and others, therefore control the impact of the story message on the audience.
Step By Step, Slowly We Argued....
So far we have only identified the difference between problem solving and justification in terms of the results they create. From this point of view, no character can tell for sure if he is on the right or the wrong track until he sees the results. This is fine for the characters, but an author will want to fashion a story so judgment is passed on each action and decision as it is taken. This is what forms the theme of the story and builds the emotional side of the story's argument event by event until (hopefully) the audience is buried under overwhelming evidence to support the author's message and positions.
Note the difference between the result-oriented rational argument and the more holistic passionate argument. In a story, the author hopes to convince the audience of his point of view both in terms of its reasonable nature and that it simply feels good as well. In this manner, the audience members adopt the author's bias on the issue and are moved to alter their behavior in their everyday life. In a broader sense, engaging in the story has added to the life experience of the audience and will affect their future choices for problem solving.
To carry an emotional appeal to an audience, a story must not only show the results of a method of problem solving, but must document the appropriateness of each step as well. To do this an author requires an understanding of the process of problem solving and its justification counterpart. Let us examine both.
A Simple Example of Problem Solving
Imagine a waitress coming through the one-way door from the kitchen into the restaurant. Her nose begins to itch. She cannot scratch her nose because her hands are full of plates. She looks for a place to lay down the plates, but all the counter space is cluttered. She tries to call to a waiter, but he cannot hear her across the noisy room. She hollers to a busboy who gets the waiter who takes her plates so she can scratch her nose. Problem solved! Or was it justification?
What if she could have solved the problem just by shrugging her shoulder and rubbing her nose? Then there were two possible solutions, but one was much more direct. Rationally, either one would serve as well in that particular context, yet one was much more efficient and therefore more emotionally satisfying because it required less unpleasant work than the other method.
There's a Problem In Your Solution!
If the waitress could not use her hand to scratch her nose, then using her shoulder was another potential solution to the same problem. However, trying to find a place to put down the plates is a generation removed from solving the original problem. Instead of trying to find another way to scratch her nose, she was using her problem solving efforts to try to solve a problem with the first solution. In other words, there was an obstacle to using her hand to scratch her nose, and rather than evaluating other means of scratching she was looking for a place to get rid of her plates. When there was a problem with that, she compounded the inefficiency by trying to solve the plate problem with the solution devised to solve the problem with the first solution to the problem: she tried to flag down the waiter. In fact, when she got her nose scratched, she had to take a roundabout path that took up all kinds of time and was several generations removed from the original problem. She made one big circle to get to where she could have gone directly.
But, what if there was a limit: her itching nose was about to make her sneeze and drop everything. Then, going on that long circular path might mean she would sneeze and fail, whereas the only suitable path would be to use her shoulder to scratch before she sneezes. But what if her stiff uniform prevents her shoulder from reaching her nose? AND what if the extra time it took to try the shoulder delayed trying the roundabout method just long enough to make her sneeze before the waiter arrived? If she had only taken the great circle route first, she would have had just enough time to solve the problem.
Paying the Price For a Solution
Clearly, problem solving turns into justification and vice versa, depending on the context. So how is it that achieving results in the rational sense is not the only deciding factor? Simply because sometimes the costs paid in suffering in a long, indirect path to a goal far outweigh the benefits of achieving the goal itself. When we try to overcome obstacles that stand between a goal and us (prerequisites and requirements) we pay a price in effort, resources, physical and emotional hardship. We suffer unpleasant conditions now in the hope of a reward later. This is fine as long as the rewards justify the expenses. But if they do not, and yet we continue to persevere, we cannot possibly recoup enough to make up for our losses, much as a gambler goes into the hole after losing his intended stake.
My Kingdom for a Solution!
Why is it that we (as characters) throw good money after bad? This occurs because we are no longer evaluating what we originally hoped to achieve but are trying to solve the problems that have occurred with the solutions we have employed. With our waitress, she wasn't thinking about her nose when she was calling to the waiter or yelling to the busboy. She was thinking about the problem of getting their attention. Because she lost sight of her original objective, she could no longer tally up the accruing costs and compare them to the benefits of resolving the inequity. Rather, she compared each cost individually to the goal: putting down the plates, calling to the waiter, yelling at the busboy. And in each case, the individual costs were less than the benefits of resolving the individual sub-goals. However, if taken as a whole, the costs may far outweigh the benefits of resolving the original problem. And since the prerequisites and requirements have no meaning except as a means to resolving that original problem, any benefits she felt by achieving those sub-goals should have had no bearing on deciding if the effort was worth the benefits. But, as she had lost sight of the original problem, that measurement could not be made. In fact, it would never occur to her, until it was too late to recoup the costs even if the problem came to be resolved.
Does this mean the only danger lies in the roundabout path? Not at all. If it were to turn out there were NO direct paths that could work, ONLY an indirect one could resolve the problem at all. And if the existence of the problem is not just a onetime event but continues to cause friction that rubs one physically or mentally raw, then the inequity itself grows the longer the problem remains. This justifies ANY indirect method to resolving the issue as long as the rate at which the costs accrue is less than the rate at which the inequity worsens.
But let's complicate this even more... Suppose the inequity doesn't worsen at first, but only gets worse after a while. Then what may have been the most correct response for problem solving at one stage in the game becomes inappropriate later. In such a complex web of changing conditions and shifting context, how is an individual to know what choices are best? We can't. That is the point. We can never know which path is best because we cannot predict the future. We can only choose what our life experience has shown to be most often effective in similar situations and hope for the best. It does not matter how often we reevaluate. The situation can change in unpredictable ways at any time. This can put all of our plans and efforts into new contexts that change our evaluation of them from positive to negative or the vice versa.
Stories serve as collective truisms, much like the way insurance works. Through them we strive to contain the collective knowledge of human experience. Although we cannot predict what will happen to any specific individual (even ourselves), we can tell what is most likely the best approach to inequity, based on the mean average of all individual experience.
Strategy vs. Analysis
Although we have covered a lot of ground, we have only covered one of two kinds of problem solving/justification: the effort to resolve an inequity. In contrast, the second approach to problem solving/justification refers to efforts made to understand inequities so we might come to terms with them. In a sense, our first exploration has dealt with strategies of problem solving whereas this other area of exploration deals with defining the problem itself.
Defining the Problem
We cannot move to resolve a problem until we recognize the problem. Even if we feel the inequity, until we can pinpoint it or understand what creates it, we can neither arrive at an appropriate response nor act to nip it at its source.
If we had to evaluate each inequity that we face with an absolutely open mind, we could not learn from experience. Even if we had seen the same thing one hundred times before, we would not look to our memories to see what had turned out to be the source or what appropriate measures had been employed. We would be forced to consider every little friction that rubbed us the wrong way as if we have never seen it before. This is another form of inefficiency, as "those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it."
In such a scenario, we would not learn from our mistakes, much less our successes. But is that inefficiency? What if we meet an exception to the rules we have come to live by? If we rely completely on our life experience, when we face a new context in life, our whole paradigm may be inappropriate.
We know the truisms, "Where there's smoke, there's fire," "Guilt by association," "One bad apple spoils the bunch," "The only good (fill in the blank) is a dead (fill in the blank)." In each of these cases we assume a different causal relationship that is generally examined in our culture. Each of these phrases asserts that when you see one thing, another thing will be there also, or will follow. Why do we make these assumptions? Because, in context, they are often true. But as soon as we apply them out of context they are just as likely false.
Associations in Space and Time
When we see something occur enough times without exception, our mind accepts it as an absolute. After all, we have never seen it fail! This is like saying that every time you put a piece of paper on hot metal it will burst into flame. Fine, but not in a vacuum! You need oxygen as well to create the reaction you expect.
In fact, every time we believe THIS leads to THAT or whenever we see THIS, THAT will also be present, we make assumptions without regard to context. And that is where characters get into trouble. A character makes associations in their backstory. Because of the context in which they gather their experiences, these associations always hold true. But then the situation (context) changes, or they move into new areas in their lives. Suddenly some of these assumptions are untrue!
Hold on to Your Givens!
Why doesn't a character (or person) simply give up the old view for the new? There are two reasons one will hold on to an outmoded, inappropriate understanding of the relationships between things. We'll outline them one at a time.
First, there is the notion of how many times a character has seen things go one way, compared with the number of times they've gone another. If a character builds up years of experience with something being true and then faces one time it is not true, they will treat that single false time as an exception to the rule. It would take as many false responses as there had been true ones to counter the balance.
Context is a Sneaky Thing
Of course one is more sensitive to the most recent patterns so an equal number of false items (or alternative truths) are not required when one is aware he has entered a new situation. However, situations often change slowly and even in ways we are not aware. So context is in a constant state of flux. If something has always proven true in all contexts up to this point then one is not aware of entering a whole new context. Rather, as we move in and out of contexts, a truism that was ALWAYS true may now be true sometimes and not true at other times. It may have an increasing or decreasing frequency of proving true or may tend toward being false for a while, only to tend toward being true again later. This style of dynamic context requires that something be seen as false as often as it has been seen as true. This produces a neutral point where one perspective is held evenly with the other.
The second reason characters hold onto outmoded views is that they have built other views on the outmoded ones. In fact, this is how we learn. We see something as an unerring truth, stop considering it every time we see it and accept it as a given. Then, we assemble our givens, look for patterns and accept the relationships between givens as being givens in their own right. Layer on layer we weave an intricate web of interconnections, some based on the order in which things are expected to occur, some based on items or activities we associate as always occurring together.
Strength in Paradigms
When we encounter something at the top level of the most recently determined givens, it can be a small feat to rethink our conclusions. If one of our base assumptions is wrong, however, there may be no way to reconcile the instance with our understanding without completely dismantling the foundations of our whole belief system. Not an easy task! It is much easier to discount the variance as an exception. Even more important, because we have not added the unusual incident to our knowledge base, but simply let it bounce off, the next instance of the same "new" truth will meet with the same strength of resistance as the first. We can hold onto our old paradigm unless so many different new truths hit us all at once that it becomes easier to create a new paradigm than to try to dismiss them all.
The Justified Main Character
This is the nature of the Main Character's struggle in a story. He has either built up an understanding of how to try to solve problems that no longer fits, or he has built up an understanding of what causes problems that is no longer correct. The backstory builds on one of these scenarios. A context is set up that creates one form of problem solving about a specific problem. The story begins when the context changes and the problem solving technique is no longer appropriate. The question then becomes whether the Main Character should Change to conform to the new situation or remain Steadfast until things get back to "normal."
Dancing Toward Neutral Ground
The story unfolds as the Main and Influence Characters argue over direct vs. indirect, repetition vs. framework, strategy vs. analysis, and problem solving vs. justification. As the story progresses, it is the Influence Character's function to force the Main Character through all four of these conflicts. Each conflict represents a different "level" of justification (problem solving). Finally, they both stand at the neutral point where one means of problem solving/evaluation is as good as the next. This is the moment of the Leap of Faith, where life experience has been counterbalanced by what has been recently learned. This is the moment the Main Character must step into the void without personal experiences to guide him, and choose to continue with the path he has always taken or adopt a new one.
The story then resolves in Success/Good, Success/Bad, Failure/Good, or Failure/Bad. These four resolutions are the "Author's Proof," in which he states his personal bias about the most appropriate and inappropriate choices were.
Sequence and the Passionate Argument
From this perspective, we can see how the sequence in which dramatic events occur has tremendous impact on the meaning drawn from that structure. The "feel" of the passionate argument will be determined by the order in which the Main Character passes through the levels of justification to face the real source of the story's inequity.
This sequence not only affects character, but plot and theme as well, and is therefore a complex series of cycles within cycles that is unpredictable during viewing a work, but falls into understanding at the conclusion or denouement. Because it is so complex, this is the part of Dramatica best left to computer calculation or to the intuition of the author himself.