Rules for Building Characters

From the Dramatica Theory Book:

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.