Archetypal Characters

Protagonist or Antagonist? I can’t decide.

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

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

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

Must you maintain the relative position of a character throughout the Build Characters window?

Must you maintain the relative position of a character throughout the sequence of motivation, method, evaluation, and purpose? (A review of some of the examples would suggest otherwise, however, there appear to be more than a few "hidden" relationships and limitations and thought the answer to this might save me time and effort.)

For Archetypal Characters, the answer is "Yes." For more complex, and generally more interesting, characters, the answer is "No." Archetypal characters are archetypal BECAUSE their motivations, methodologies, standards of evaluation, and purposes are completely supportive of each other. You can create very interesting characters by breaking the pattern between the "layers." For instance, an archetypal Protagonist "pursues" through a methodology of "Proaction." That is completely different than a complex character that "pursues" by using the methodology of "inaction" or "protection."

How do I interpret the objective character elements when forming complex characters?

How do I interpret the objective character elements when determining the formations of complex characters who do not respect the traditional archetypes?

Complex objective character interactions are similar to archetypal character interactions, just a little more . . . well, complex. What I mean is that you must interact the characteristics on a case by case basis using whichever characters they inhabit to make your point. Archetypal characters cluster non-conflicting characteristics together into each archetype, thereby simplifying the interactions. Complex characters might conflict in their methodology (e.g. Proaction vs. Reaction), for instance, yet be completely compatible in the motivations (e.g. Avoidance vs. Oppose -- little direct conflict here).

When using the suggested storyweaving methodologies, try thinking less in terms of the interactions of the "players" (i.e. you cast members), and think more in terms of the characteristics interactions. The players that have the characteristics will interact but potentially in different ways on different levels. Especially when you compare them to the rather simplistic interactions that archetypal characters have.

The bottom line is, the characteristics must be shown how they relate to one another. Characters (and players) are the means by which authors typically express those relationships/interactions. Our storybook worksheets are designed to show you how to work at presenting these interactions, but they favor the more simplified archetypal character relationships (to accommodate a more generalized audience). It may be time for you to use some of the concepts from the worksheets (introduction, interaction, etc.), but expand on them to fit your own needs.

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

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

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

Why does the application sometimes contradict the theory book?

I'm a new Dramatica user. I've read the manual and am working my way through the theory book as I practice using the software. I've hit a spot in the software where it does something that is completely stumping me, because it contradicts everything I've read so far. I hope you can help.

Start a new document, select novel template. Select the characters tile, then build characters. It generates the 8 archetypes, preplaced across 16 elements just like the documentation says. Protagonist is Main Character, Emotion is impact character. The elements are presented like this:

CONSIDER- Protagonist LOGIC- Reason FEELING- Emotion RECONSIDER- Antagonist PURSUIT- Protagonist CONTROL-Reason UNCONTROLLED-Emotion AVOID-Antagonist

...and so on. This makes sense, then, looking at the diagonal, horizontal, and vertical relationships. Okay, so then I leave that and go to the tile on Main/Influence characters. I fill that out for my characters. Then I return to the build characters window, and it has reorganized the elements. This is not a matter of changing which character goes with which element. Protagonist/Main, for instance, is still attached to Consider, and Pursuit. However, the elements are listed in a completely different order within the quad

CONSIDER- Protagonist PURSUIT- Protagonist AVOID-Antagonist RECONSIDER- Antagonist LOGIC- Reason CONTROL-Reason UNCONTROLLED-Emotion FEELING- Emotion

This, however, would seem to render the horizontal and vertical relationships between the characters void. Plus, it violates the "rule" in the documentation that says don't put the character in the same quad more than once. Most importantly, it's completely reconstructing the quads, which I thought had a steady structure.

Anyhow, I'm probably missing something obvious, but it has stymied me completely, because it implies I'm misunderstanding something fundamental about the theory. I VERY MUCH appreciate any insight you can provide, because I feel like I can't move forward until I understand this.

First let me say that you're doing everything just fine.

Second let me say that the "rules" of Dramatica are guidelines, and there are exceptions to every Dramatica rule.

Third let me say that the Archetypes are like "Characters with training wheels." They are overly simplistic, yet also "pure." Rarely do characters show up as true Archetypes, but they are a great starting off point to developing characters.

OK. With that said, here's why your characters' elements shifted around on the Build Characters grid.

The Dramatica structure is made up of four levels--the largest (and topmost) is the Domain or Throughline level which is the most genre-like. Below that is the Concern level which is the most plot-like. Below that is the Issue level which is the most theme-like. And at the bottom is the Element or Problem level which is the most character-like.

Every item in the top three levels has its own unique label, such as Doing and Obtaining, and Activity and Fixed Attitude, and Worry and Confidence.

The bottom level is where the elements from which you build your Overall Story characters are found. Unlike the top three levels, however, each item does NOT have its own unique label (e.g. Pursuit and Consider). There is one set (or what we call a "chess set") of 64 unique labels which cover all of the elements for a single Domain/Throughline. Dramatica consists of four Domains and the elements appear within each of these Domains. The DIFFERENCE between the elements of one Domain and another is the arrangement of the elements within the quads. Though a dynamic pair is never split (e.g. Pursuit and Avoidance), it will be paired with different dynamic pairs to make up each quad.

When you first built your characters, you had not chosen a storyform so Dramatica presented the character elements in its "default" arrangement (that of the Activity Domain).

While determining your storyform, the Overall Story throughline ended up being chosen as something other than "Activity." I suspect that your OS throughline is "Fixed Attitude."

This is the reason your character elements appear to have rearranged themselves.

Where do you go from here? You have some simple choices.

  • Keep your archetypal characters as is. This may be challenging depending on how simple or complex you wish the characters to appear. They will appear to be slightly more complex than archetypal characters in an Activity Overall Story throughline, and that may suit your interests.
  • Make your characters complex by mixing up their elements. This will make them more interesting but requires you to explore the character aspect of your story to a depth greater than a story using the character archetypes.