Story Outcome

How does the Main Character Problem work within Steadfast Characters?

As I understand it, the MC Problem is what's "wrong" with the MC.

In a story where the hero Changes and the outcome is Success/Good, this is the character flaw the MC has to overcome in order to solve the story problem. In a story where the hero is Steadfast and the outcome is Success/Good, this is what everybody else thinks the MC is doing wrong. In reality the MC Problem is what allowed him to overcome the story problem. (For example, I think Dirty Harry or Jack Bauer's MC Problem could be that they're willing to break the rules to get results.)

Is this right?

Not quite. You've confused a few different story points.

Success is tied to the Story Outcome and determines whether or not the story goal has been achieved.

Good has to do with the Story Judgment and is related to whether or not the story inequity was resolved, as opposed to the MC Problem.

Change has to do with the Main Character Resolve and indicates that the MC has adopted the MC Solution.

Each of these are independent, which means you can have any combination of Outcome, Judgment,and MC Resolve. The audience may infer connections between these because each has part of the meaning in the story, but the CAUSALITY is non-obvious and non-linear.

For Steadfast MCs, it's best to think of the MC Problem as the source of the MC's drive. What other characters think it is may not be relevant and is not relevant to its functionality in the story development.

How do I know if I have a Negative Goal?

I watched Transformers: Dark of the Moon again recently. The options were pretty clear. Getting the pillars was the step of Signpost 2 and protecting Sentinel Prime was the step of Signpost 3. However, it turns out Sentinel has actually been acting for the Decepticons. He turns against our Autobot protagonists as Megatron hoped. Then, with all the pillars and Sentinel Prime to help, the antagonists start their plan for transporting Cybertron to Earth in Signpost 4, which I take to be the crisis. It seems happy when the Autobots win in the end, but this seems a failure story if you think of the options as prerequisites or requirements in pursuit of the goal. It's the same conundrum as in Michael Clayton or Ghostbusters.

That brings up my question. Would these have been Prerequisites and transporting Cybertron to Earth have been the actual Requirement at the end of the story to accomplish a goal? The goal would've been the purpose of transporting Cybertron.

Since my guess is that the goal has something to do with STOPPING the invasion, I think it would qualify as a SUCCESS story. I don't see the Decepticons as being protagonists. IMO, this is one of those negative goals where the goal is to prevent something from happening instead of trying to achieve something.

It's a bit different from Michael Clayton in that the subjective characters where on UNorth's team (employment-wise), so the goal was related to what UNorth was attempting to achieve. This is different than the human forces battling the Decepticons.

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.

How does the Main Character’s Unique Ability interact with the Story Outcome?

For a story with a failed Story Goal (OS Outcome of Failure), is the MC's Unique Ability the thing that causes the failure? And what about stories where the MC is not the protagonist--not even remotely driving the story? Does this quote from the Dramatica software still apply???

Every Main Character has a special strength, even if she is not aware of it herself. Without such a strength, there would be no compelling reason why the story revolved around this particular character as Main instead of any other. With a Unique Ability, the Main Character becomes an essential participant in the story, as well as holding the ultimate key to resolving the story's difficulties.

The MC Critical Flaw is the quality that undermines the MC's Unique Ability. In Success stories, the MC Unique Ability is more effective than the MC Critical Flaw. In Failure stories, the MC Critical Flaw is more effective than the MC Unique Ability and therefore scuttles the MC's ability to help achieve the Story Goal.

The MC holds the key to achieving the Story Goal, but does not have to be the one to use it. You can easily imagine Dr, Watson (often the MC and almost ALWAYS the MC in the novels) making a casual observation or discovery which Sherlock Holmes (the protagonist) seizes upon and uses to solve the mystery. Since MCs are often Protagonists, it seems as though the MC Unique Ability is tied to the Protagonist. This is not the case and only appears to be connected because of the MC/Protagonist storytelling convention.

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 you explain the Story Outcome further?

A story's Outcome (Success or Failure) is simply a determination of whether or not the Story Goal is achieved. Do not place value judgments on the Outcome. Think of what happens, not what should happen. If the story goal is achieved, the outcome is Success. If the story goal is not achieved, the outcome is Failure.

What if you can’t decide on “Success” or “Failure”?

I have a hard time assigning a simple "Success" or "Failure" label to many stories, because the success is often tempered with failure, and vice versa, and sometimes it is hard to tell which one predominates. In Rob Roy, for example, Rob stays alive -- success -- but he fails to make life better for his people, which was his original goal. In fact, a tremendous number of his people are much worse off than they were when he first decided to try to change things for the better. I suppose it depends on whether the Story Goal is "Staying Alive" or "Making things better for all of MacGregor's people." (I'm sure you have some specific terminology that covers both of those goals, but I haven't learned it yet.)

Actually, you should treat the issue of Success/Failure in a completely non-judgmental way. If the goal was achieved: Success. If it was not: Failure.

There is another question in Dramatica which is where you make the judgmental call: the Story Judgment. If the MC resolves their personal angst, then the judgment is Good. If the MC is left having to cope with personal issues, then the judgment is Bad. The degree of Success, Failure, Good, or Bad is completely up to you. Combining the two questions gives you four different kinds of endings: Success/Good = Triumph (Star Wars). Failure/Bad = Tragedy (Hamlet). Failure/Good = Personal Triumph (Rain Man). Success/Bad = Personal Tragedy (Silence of the Lambs).

As far as Rob Roy goes, my take on it is that the general concern (for EVERYONE in the story) is to protect one's honor (abstracted as the honor of the Scottish) and one's own to prevent destruction of the family line. This is true of the peasants (tracking down and killing cattle robbers) as well as gentry (both English and Scottish). More specifically, it is the concern for Rob Roy and his friends and family (Story Goal). If that is the story goal, then it is a Success / Good story. HOWEVER, Dramatica also discusses a story point call the Story Costs. In Rob Roy, the costs are very high. This offsets the "triumph" feel of the story by bringing the value of the goal down