Main Character Resolve

Why do the Position of Throughlines Determine Main Character Growth?

I have a somewhat technical question: why, when MC and OS throughline are aligned horizontally (external - Situation and Activity--or internal - Manipulation and Fixed Attitude), the story engine proposes Growth: Stop, and when they are aligned vertically (internal/external - Situation and Manipulation or Activity and Fixed Attitude) it proposes Growth: Start? Why, when the OS is in a domain opposite to the MC Throughline, we should expect from him something to start? Why, when the OS is in the same domain than the MC Throughline, we should expect from him as something stops? I mean what does that really mean dramaturgically?

Serious MC personal problems cannot be solved by adopting the MC Solution because the MC is blind to the problem, the solution, and for Change MCs both the problem and the solution. In order to get to the point where a MC has the option to change or remain steadfast, he must grow past the blinders or pressures that prevent him from recognizing both options open to him: the path he has always followed (represented by the MC Symptom and MC Response), and the path not chosen (represented by the MC Problem and MC Solution).

The IC embodies that alternative path, which is why the IC has influence/impact on the MC as the MC struggles with his personal problems. In a simple sense, when the MC and OS are in a horizontal (companion pair) relationship, their perspectives on the inequity at the heart of the story are more similar than not. Since conflict exists in that relative spatial relationship, the MC's personal problems are alike to the bigger issue and the MC's grows by learning to step away, step back, or just stop his bad behavior before he may seriously consider the IC's approach as a possible solution to his own problems.

Conversely, when the MC and OS are in a vertical (dependent pair) relationship, their perspectives on the inequity at the heart of the story are about as dissimilar as they can be. For this reason, the MC¹s growth requires him to step forward, step up, or just start doing what he knows should be done before he may seriously consider the IC's approach as a possible solution to his own problems. As the story unwinds over time, the relative positions and/or tensions move.

Melanie and I recognized these patterns once we created the Dramatica quad structure and mapped the story points onto the structure, both spatially and temporally. A storyform represents a process and a set of states. The state of the storyform pattern at the beginning of the story is different than at the end, and the comparison of the MC Resolve indicates the relative positions of those to states: Change or Steadfast. The MC growth represents the process that the MC goes through from the beginning state to the end state. I hope that sufficiently explains what it is and why we describe it the way we did.

Where does the “You and I are alike” concept come from?

I'm looking for articles that help explain the two sides of the same coin concept, but can't find anything.

I don't know where there are specific articles on the "You and I are alike" dichotomy, but the concept is simple:


In the back story (for a Change Main Character**) or at the beginning of the story (for a Steadfast Man Character**), there comes a point where the Main Character must choose a path to take because of some PERSONAL inequity or imbalance introduced by an event of some sort. The Main Character then goes down that path attempting to resolve the personal problem. The Influence Character represents the path not chosen -- the path that is intimately tied to that original choice consciously or unconsciously made by the Main Character at the point when and where the original inequity was addressed.


The part of the argument that ties the two perspectives together, those of the Main Character and Influence Character, is the point of origin -- the event that introduced the original inequity. They both have some relationship to the core inequity that is both the source of personal conflict for the Main Character, but also is the source of the Main Character's drive. This is what gives them a basis in similarity.


The part of the argument where the Main Character and Influence Character diverge is the path taken/chosen to address the original inequity. The Main Character represents the path taken. The Influence Character represents the path NOT taken by the Main Character and is the alternative to the Main Character's path. That is WHY the Influence Character cannot be ignored by the Main Character. The Influence Character represents a legitimate means to addressing the original inequity. However, legitimate does not mean it is the "right" (effective) means to address the "problem."

This divergence in paths/approaches to resolving the Main Character's inequity creates a tug-of-war between the two characters. There is no way for the Main Character to know if it is on the right path toward resolving it's personal problems, or if the Influence Character's path is the better of the two.


So, with the Main Character representing one path and the Influence Character representing the alternative path, a storytelling convention has emerged where the Main Character and Influence Character have a conversation that establishes this relationship. It often goes something like this:

IC: We're the same.
MC: No, we're not the same. You [insert an example of the different path]...
IC: True, but you [insert an example of the shared attention to the inequity], just like me.

... or an interchange that effectively communicates the same information.

In short order, the author has informed the audience about:

  • The Main Character's position on addressing the Main Character's personal problem
  • The Influence Character's alternative position on addressing the Main Character's personal problem
  • How the Main Character and Influence Character are similar in their approaches
  • How the Main Character and Influence Character are dissimilar in their approaches


In the storyform, the most visible expression of the Main Character/Influence Character approach divergence is seen at the Class level of the structure. One character searches for the solution externally (Situation or Activities), while the other uses an internal approach to resolving the inequity (Fixed Attitude or Manipulation/Psychology). That explains the "not alike" part of the argument.

The part that explains the similarity of their approaches relates to the axis of their dynamic (diagonal) pair relationship in the structure. Both characters will have throughlines in EITHER domains that explore processes (i.e. Activity and Manipulation) OR domains that explore the state of things (i.e. Situation and Fixed Attitude).

In this way the two have a basis in common ground (state or process) as well as a divergence in approach (internal or external).


A grand argument story does not begin until all four throughlines are present. [NOTE: This is not the same as how the story is presented to the audience through storyweaving. The AUDIENCE may not be aware of the presence of all four throughlines at the beginning of the work, but each of the four throughlines must be evident BEFORE the first act turn, and preferably much earlier than that point in the story.] A key part of the Main Character's purpose in the story is to explore the path it has taken in its attempt to resolve its personal issues. That exploration is unlikely to occur without the irritating effects on the Main Character's complacency (if any) by the Influence Character exploration (or embodiment) of the path NOT taken by the Main Character.

The inciting event sets into motion the collision (and cohesion) of the four throughlines that form the underlying basis of the story and the drive towards its resolution (or non-resolution).

- - - - - - - - - - - -

** As a general rule, the Main Character's personal inequity is established in the back story for Change Main Characters and at the beginning of the story for Steadfast Main Characters, but there are many exceptions to this rule, especially in stories that don't end well for the Main Character (Judgment: Bad).  

The Influence Character’s Impact on a Steadfast Main Character

I was wondering that in knowing the existence of an Influence Character and how they challenge the Main Character emotionally -- get them to face their personal issues, and so on -- my question is:

"If the Main Character is steadfast, is the Influence Character still challenging the Main Character as if the Main Character were a change character?  Or is it that the Main Character challenges the Influence Character throughout the story to change the Influence Character's approach?

Both, though the frame of reference is always the Main Character.

The Influence Character's behavior creates greater and greater pressure* for the Main Character to change, which forces the Main Character to EITHER build up greater and greater resistance to the pressure, or slowly have the Main Character's resolve eroded.  By the end, the Main Character stays the course, either through conscious choice or perseverance. 

MEANWHILE, the Main Character's steadfastness challenges the Influence Character's determination, which either erodes the Influence Character's adherence to its paradigm, or makes the cost of maintaining the Influence Character's paradigm too challenging to hold.  By the end, the Influence Character gives in or gives up and changes by adopting the Main Character's perspective (in the context of the inequity).

* NOTE: The pressure increases in part because the Influence Character adapts as the Main Character adopts new approaches to resisting the Influence Character's alternative world view.  The changing approaches occur act-by-act, and are visible in the changing frames of reference represented in the four Signposts in the Main Character throughline, the Influence Character throughline, and the MC/IC Relationship throughline.

Can the Main Character decide both he and the Influence Character are wrong?

In my story, he MC (in the case of a Change MC) is on the wrong track and the IC character is trying to influence or persuade him otherwise. SO, my question is: will a story still be as solid and "Complete" if the MC changes, but finds Faith (again, in my story's case) in something else than what the IC was arguing or what the Main character believed before? In other words, is it possible to keep a solid story structure if two arguments are being made throughout the story from the IC and the MC, but at the end the MC discovers both their arguments were wrong and discovers some new path to take (in terms of his character change)? So is it okay to introduce a new argument at the end of the story as a big twist to the audience? 

For lack of a better example, let's say the IC is arguing that the blue pill is the best pill, and the MC is arguing that the red pill is the best pill, but in the climax of the story the MC realizes that there is something better than the blue AND red pill - and I introduce the green pill, so he chooses that and his Problem is resolved through that path. Or is that not something I should really be doing?

The IC argument is FAITH, not any particular incarnation of faith.  For example, Obi-wan tells Luke he needs to trust the Force, when really all Luke needs to do is to TRUST SOMETHING... ANYTHING -- himself, the Force, doesn't matter.  So your MC  has to have faith in something even if the IC is saying have faith in something else.  The point is that the conversation is no longer about Disbelief, which was the source of his personal conflict.  The 'conversation' has moved on and the MC Problem becomes a moot point -- it is of no consequence any longer because that story (argument) is over.  THAT IS THE MOST SIGNIFICANT PART OF THE CHANGE.  It may turn out that Faith isn't the answer either, but the fact that the MC has  released himself from the black hole created by the blind spot associated with the MC Problem is what allows the MC to move on with his life.

Blue pill vs. Red pill isn't the right kind of comparison.  The real issue is perceived world versus reality (perception v. actuality), but the pill representation is only meaningful to the MC (Neo) if he can conceive of the difference between the two, which he can't because he's not ready.  What the pills represent at that point in the story is the first step TOWARD being able to know the difference between the two. Just like your character, Neo has to get past the distractions of the pills so that he can let go of his disbelief and have faith that he could be the ONE.  It just so happens that he is so we have a happy ending, but you could have had an ambiguous ending like that of Inception where the MC has changed but the audience doesn't know if he ended up in reality or perception land.  For the MC it doesn't matter because that was not his personal problem.

What is the difference between the Domain and the Problem?

Using the gists my Relationship Story Domain comes up as "Considering Something Unacceptable". When I look at the Theory information is says "the heart of the problem" and "this describes how the MC and IC relate to each other in the story". When I look in All Topics to the left and click on Relationship, this Considering something unacceptable shows up in RS Domain, not RS Problem. When I click on RS Problem, the only choice is Equity.

Would that mean they start off thinking each other's attitude/response is unacceptable, then the IC changes? Does the IC change if the MC is steadfast, or does he just fade away? Would it make sense for the IC at the end to consider himself kind of equal with the MC, giving him a tip that saves him, before fading out?

It's a matter of scale. As a domain, the main conflict in their relationship will be a clash of attitudes in terms of considering something as unacceptable. A RS Problem of Equity means that the heart of the conflict in the relationship grows out of equity (fairness; balance). For example, a married couple come into conflict in their marriage when everything has to be completely even (if one set of inlaws stays for two weeks, the other set of inlaws must stay with them for two weeks (even though neither of them can stand spending time with one set of inlaws) in an effort to be fair.

If the IC is change, the MC is steadfast, and vice versa.

How do I apply the concept of Justification Levels to my story?

I am thrilled with Melanie and Chris having come up with a way to define steadfast and change character growth instead of just making them be one-note. In a tape cassette lecture series, they explained the four levels of justification... which are different between steadfast and change. However, I'm foggy on how to sync what they said about shifting paradigms with my IC and MC

I'm not sure which part of which cassette you have referred to, but here are some general thoughts.


Steadfast justification is the process of building up internal walls (barriers) in an attempt to resolve a resistant inequity. The effort to try new ways to resolve the "problems" require greater and greater effort to stay the course. Ultimately, a steadfast character remains steadfast and their inequity (drive) is left unaltered -- even though the apparent internal/external inequity may appear to be in balance.


A change character begins with a back story where it was a steadfast character who built up justifications in order to hide the inequity to create the appearance of balance. The change character comes preloaded with these justifications and the character growth comes in the form of having those justifications (internal barriers) torn down, act by act. Ultimately, the change character has all justifications removed and addresses the original inequity (established in the back story) by choosing the alternate approach to resolving the inequity.


One area I think you are getting into trouble is treating the Change and Steadfast characters independently in your story. That is not the way it works. The Main Character is the center of the personal thread (whether change or steadfast) and the Influence Character is only important in its capacity to impact the main character.

In Star Wars, Obi Wan goes from having Luke think about the Force, to getting Luke to let the Force run through him, to being remembered by Luke, to instructing Luke to follow his feelings and use the Force. The IC throughline is not so much about the IC but how the IC influences the MC so that the MC GROWS.

Is there always a Leap of Faith moment for the Main Character where he is conscious of the choice?

Most understandings of story stress this moment for the Main Character. What does Dramatica have to say about it?

No, there does not always need to be a leap of faith.

Another way for a character to change is one where the character changes gradually over the course of the story without awareness of the change. We call it a creep instead of a leap.

One of the best examples I can think of is Hamlet in Shakespeare's "Hamlet." Hamlet starts the story as someone who thinks too much (Thought as MC Problem). When given knowledge (MC Solution and OS Solution) of his father's murder by his father's ghost, Hamlet's reaction is to think it away ("Maybe the ghost is really a demon from hell sent to trick me" [paraphrased]). Hamlet is supposed to reveal his uncle, the new king, as the murderer.

Fast forward to the end of the play. The last scene has Hamlet in a duel with Laertes. Hamlet is acting as the King Claudius's proxy (!) in the duel. When the Queen, Hamlet's mother, drinks wine poisoned by King Claudius, Hamlet does not give a moment's thought, acts on the knowledge and kills the king on the spot.

At no point does Hamlet make a conscious choice to change, though he is changed over the course of the story.

Case in point: One big debate through the years is whether or not Hamlet was crazy. When the ghost tells Hamlet about the murder, Hamlet's approach as a Be-er is to pretend to be crazy. Since he is changed over the course of the story in a 'creep', not a leap of faith, it is unclear if part of the change includes going from pretending to be crazy to becoming a nutcase. My vote is the former, primarily because of my understanding of the storyform for the story.

Why can’t the Main and Influence Characters both grow and change?

I don't understand why the Main Character and the Influence Character can't *both* grow and change in a story, for instance in a story of a marriage. In order for the marriage to be successful, chances are that both characters need to change.

Both the Main Character and the Influence Character do grow over the course of the story. However, character growth is different than fundamentally changing your outlook on an issue. The change/steadfast issue concerns the characters' resolve. The growth issue concerns the direction of the growth: out of something or away from something (stop), or into something or toward something (start). Besides, a "marriage" can have, figuratively speaking, a life of its own complete with its own central issues -- issues that are related to but different from those of the Main Character and Influence Character. In Dramatica, we call this relationship between the MC and the IC the Relationship Story Throughline.

Why can’t the Main and Influence Characters both change?

I don’t understand why the Main Character and the Impact Character can’t both grow and change in a story, for instance in a story of a marriage. In order for the marriage to be successful, chances are that both characters need to change.

Both the Main Character and the Impact Character do grow over the course of the story. However, character growth is different than fundamentally changing your outlook on an issue. The Change/Steadfast issue concerns the characters’ resolve. The growth issue concerns the direction of the growth: out of something or away from something (stop), or into something or toward something (start). Besides, a “marriage” can have, figuratively speaking, a life of its own complete with its own central issues—issues that are related to but different from those of the Main Character and Impact Character. In Dramatica, we call this relationship between the MC and the OC the Relationship Story throughline.

What is the Main Character Resolve?

Does your Main Character Change his way of dealing with the problem at the heart of the story (such as Ebeneezer Scrooge’s switch to generosity in A Christmas Carol) or remain Steadfast in his convictions (such as the innocent Dr. Richard Kimble in The Fugitive)?

Change can be good if the character is on the wrong track to begin with. It can also be bad if the character was on the right track. Similarly, remaining Steadfast is good if the character is on the right track, but bad if he is misguided or mistaken.

Think about the message you want to send to your audience, and whether the Main Character’s path should represent the proper or improper way of dealing with the story’s central issue. Then select a changing or steadfast Main Character accordingly.

Do you want your story to bring your audience to a point of change or to reinforce its current view? Oddly enough, choosing a Steadfast Main Character may bring an audience to change and choosing a Change character may influence the audience to remain steadfast. Why? It depends upon whether or not your audience shares the Main Character’s point of view to begin with.

Suppose your audience and your Main Character do NOT agree in attitudes about the central issue of the story. Even so, the audience will still identify with the Main Character because he represents the audience’s position in the story. So, if the Main Character grows in resolve to remain steadfast and succeeds, then the message to your audience is, “Change and adopt the Main Character’s view if you wish to succeed in similar situations.”

Clearly, since either change or steadfast can lead to either success or failure in a story, when you factor in where the audience stands a great number of different kinds of audience impact can be created by your choice. In answering this question, therefore, consider not only what you want your Main Character to do as an individual, but also how that influences your story’s message and where your audience stands in regard to that issue to begin with.


  • Scrooge, A Christmas Carol
  • William Munny, Unforgiven
  • Luke Skywalker, Star Wars
  • Judah Rosenthal, Crimes story in Crimes & Misdemeanors
  • James Bond, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Casino Royale
  • Frank Galvin, The Verdict


  • Job, The Bible
  • Dr. Richard Kimble, The Fugitive
  • Laura, The Glass Menagerie
  • Cliff Stearn, Misdemeanors in Crimes & Misdemeanors
  • James Bond, most other James Bond films
  • David Moscow, Big

How does the Main Character Solution work with a Steadfast Main Character?

I am currently working on my first storyform with a Steadfast Main Character and I don't understand one thing: If my Main Character is steadfast what does Solution mean for him??

When you have a Steadfast Main Character (MC), it's best to see his "Problem" as the source of his drive—his motivation. The Solution is the thing that saps him of his drive by removing the motivation. Since he’s a steadfast character, the solution is not adopted by the Main Character and his “Problem” continues to drive him.

A Steadfast Main Character Symptom is the thing the Main Character THINKS is the source of conflict in his personal life. The MC Response is what he thinks is necessary to address conflict created by the MC Response. A steadfast main character works to resolve conflict in his personal life by treating the symptoms, not the problem. Though he may be tempted to address the problem by adopting the solution he never does—not doing so is what makes him steadfast.

Here’s a Main Character Problem/Symptom analogy: Imagine the MC Problem is a disease and the MC Solution is the cure for the disease. As deadly or dangerous as the disease may be, it might also be hidden from detection. However, imagine the MC Symptom as the symptom of the disease and the MC Response as the treatment for that symptom. In some cases, treating the symptoms will not prevent the problem from getting worse and only curing the disease removes the problem (Change Main Character). In other diseases, there is no cure but treating the symptoms can be sufficient enough to survive (Steadfast Main Character).

Whether the Main Character makes the right or wrong move by treating the symptom instead of the problem is determined by the Story Judgment (Good or Bad).

There is a short discussion of this topic towards the end of the podcast of this April 2006's Dramatica User's Group meeting In the Heat of the Night that goes into a little more detail. I've marked the podcast with chapters so that you can forward to the various topics faster.

What does Dramatica consider a Story Dilemma?

In Dramatica, a Dilemma is an unsolvable problem. A solvable problem is called Work. When you combine the Main Character's Resolve to Change or remain Steadfast with the Story Outcome of Success or Failure, you get the Dramatica story point called Nature. This story point describes what the core problem looks like from the AUDIENCE's perspective, not the author's. It is one of Dramatica's four "audience appreciations" found in the Dramatica Pro Story Points window, and influences how your story is received by an audience.

Use this special audience appreciation story point as a way to approach your story from the audience's perspective. Nature has four possible settings:

  • Actual Dilemma
  • Apparent Dilemma
  • Actual Work
  • Apparent Work

ACTUAL DILEMMA = CHANGE + SUCCESS When a Main Character changes and the Overall Story Outcome is successful, the audience believes the Main Character had a real unsolvable problem and had to change for things to work out for everyone.

APPARENT DILEMMA = CHANGE + FAILURE When a Main Character changes and the Overall Story Outcome is a failure, the audience believes that it only seemed like the Main Character should change, when in reality he shouldn't have.

ACTUAL WORK = STEADFAST + SUCCESS When a Main Character remains steadfast and the Overall Story Outcome is successful, the audience believes the Main Character had the right idea and just needed to work at it long enough for things to fall into place for everyone else.

APPARENT WORK = STEADFAST + FAILURE When a Main Character remains steadfast and the Overall Story Outcome is a failure, the audience believes that the Main Character should have changed instead of "staying the course" because working at the problem in the same way would not lead to a successful outcome.

Can a Main Character begin a story unjustified?

I've been listening to the plot tape you had transferred to MP3 and I had a question: Seems like at the point where the Backstory moves to the Forestory that the [Main Character] can either be Fully Justified or Unjustified. Can a Change MC start out Unjustified? This would fit one of my story ideas better, but it doesn't seem right to me for a Change character.

A Fully Justified MC who has all his walls torn down and then has to decide between one way or the other makes more sense to me than an Unjustified character who has his justifications built up and then has to decide?? Even writing that sentence didn't feel right.

The problem is that on the tape you describe the two different ways with a Steadfast character, but not for a Change character! Thanks.

My answer is a qualified "yes." What I mean by that is that it may seem that the Change character starts out unjustified within the context of the story, but in reality the justification is hidden and pops up fully loaded due to some significant event that "starts" the story going.

All interesting characters (MCs) have ways of dealing with inequities they encounter. The question is how much does it "agitate" them.

Let's look at the movie Big for example. First let's look at the movie as it is--a Steadfast MC. Here is this kid, Josh, who wants to be "big." He obviously has some problems he's dealing with and feels that changing himself would solve them. Suddenly he gets his wish and wakes up one morning in an adult body. This radical event forces him to determine a course of action so he decides that he wants to be a kid again. This requires him to adopt a fully justified (no consideration) position in very short order. Over the course of the story, events wear down his resolve, undermining the foundations for his initial justified position. By the end of the story, he has almost lost sight of his initial position. He's at that teeter-totter stage where it seems as though he could go either way. It only takes a little budge from the kid pal Billy to remind him of his choice (essentially, reminding him of the story limit) and Josh sticks with his original position to go back to being a 12 year old. Thus Josh is seen as a Steadfast MC.

You COULD use the same kind of setup and have the Change MC completely loose sight of the initial position. BUT, in order for it to feel natural, you would need to have some clear-cut rationale for his strength of conviction for his initial position. This implies that there is some deep-seated justification somewhere that supplies the motivation to make that initial commitment seem credible. It could be something obvious like big where something so extreme is introduced that trying to get things back to the way they were doesn't seem like a big jump or require a lot of complex justification.

You know, the more I think about it, I think the nature of Change and Steadfast stories is very different. Steadfast stories are about being Steadfast in an environment of (great) Change. Change stories are about being Changed in an environment of (great) Steadfastness. Whether it's about building up or tearing down probably has more to do with MC Growth. Building up would be START--the need to fill in the gap that is missing (Change) or shoring up a resolve that is being met with greater and greater challenges (Steadfast). Tearing down would be STOP--the need to get rid of the chip on the shoulder (Change) or the process of being worn down by greater and greater challenges (Steadfast).

All About Eve is a Start story in which the MC Changes. Though things appear "normal" at the beginning, the cracks in the "peace" are there from the beginning (Margot is too old to play ingenue roles). Eve's introduction into the equation speeds up the inevitable.

In a way, you could say that Change characters deal with conflicts growing from themselves, while Steadfast characters cope with conflicts introduced by others. Both deal with problem solving and justifications. The difference between problem solving and justification is the difference between dealing with an inequity directly or indirectly.

A story that fits your "unjustified main character building up to justified character and changing" might be Hamlet. Hamlet starts out problem solving. His dad is dead, his mom's remarried, everyone else wants to move on and forget about King Hamlet's mysterious death and the rapid succession of his brother to the throne. Hamlet, on the other hand, dwells on it without any justifications to mitigate his grief. Then along comes the Ghost of King Hamlet who tells Jr. about his murder. Now Hamlet has a LOT of conflict to deal with and he begins the process of justification in order to manage it. He decides that he will pretend to be crazy in order to expose his uncle's treachery. The greater his efforts to expose his uncle and deal with his own grief, the more it tears down his sanity until finally, at the end, he has completely hidden his grief for his father and, in fact, acts as his uncle's representative in a duel against Laertes. He has changed utterly to his great detriment and loss.

How does the Main Character’s Resolve interact with the Influence Character’s Resolve?

Choosing your Main Character's Resolve, Change or Steadfast, also determines the resolve of your Influence Character, and vice versa. A Main Character that Changes her world view does so as a result of the Influence Character's steadfastness (e.g. Change MC Will and Steadfast IC Sean McGuire in Good Will Hunting). A Main Character that remains Steadfast in her world view forces the Influence Character to Change (e.g. Steadfast MC Dr. Kimble and Change IC Sam Gerard in The Fugitive). Who changes and who remains steadfast is one aspect of your story's overall "meaning."