The Obstacle Character in a story never stands alone, but is always evaluated in terms of his impact on the Main Character. When encoding the Obstacle Character Domain Plot Progression, this is equally true. Unlike the Main Character Type Order which reflects the Main Character’s Growth from one concern to another, the Obstacle Character Type Order reflects the progression of the Obstacle Character’s impact on the Main Character. In other words, each of the four Obstacle Character Types describes a chink in the Main Character’s armor, a weakness that is exploited by the Obstacle Character. This forces the Main Character to consider issues that will ultimately bring him to Change or remain Steadfast.
For example, in our sample story, the Obstacle Character Domain is in the Mind Class. As a result, the Obstacle Character Domain Types are Memory, Preconscious, Conscious, and Subconscious. This means that the Obstacle Character will (in some order) force the Main Character to remember (Memory), to respond differently when there is no time for consideration (Preconscious), to become aware of something (Conscious), and to desire something (Subconscious).
Encode the Obstacle Character’s Types by the impact the Obstacle Character has in that area of concern on the Main Character. In this way, your Obstacle Character will force your Main Character to grow to a point of potential Change. That is the function and purpose of the Obstacle Character in a story.
Obstacle Character Domain Type Order Encoding
In this fictitious story example, the Obstacle Character Domain has been chosen as Mind. The Type order selected for the Obstacle Character is as follows: Preconscious, Conscious, Memory, and lastly Subconscious.
- Type 1. Preconscious
The Obstacle Character is a happy-go-lucky kind of guy. He sees justice and honor as being flexible, dependent upon the situation. His very attitude causes unthinking responses (Preconscious) in the Main Character, who reacts to every instance of the Obstacle Character’s sliding scale of values as if he were shocked with an electric prod. The Obstacle Character’s actions force the Main Character to lose his temper, make threats he later regrets, and smash things in a fit of self-righteous rage.
- Type 1. Preconscious ——> Type 2. Conscious
As the Main Character becomes more obsessed with infiltrating the Consortium and edges toward putting himself under cover, the Obstacle Character’s flexible ways infuriate him more and more. Eventually, the Obstacle Character has had enough of this, and begins to intentionally exhibit his easy attitude in front of the Main Character, so he can make him aware of situations in which rigid views just won’t work.
Type 2. Conscious
The Obstacle Character carries the argument to the Main Character that no one is immune to temptation. Going under cover in the Consortium will surely cause the Main Character to break if he does not learn to bend. Prophetically, the Obstacle Character makes the Main Character aware (Conscious) that there are some situations in which a fixed code of ethics creates a paradox where one must re-examine one’s ideals.
Type 2. Conscious ——> Type 3. Memory
Coming to see that even though the Main Character is now aware of the issues involved, he still does not relent in his plans, The Obstacle Character begins to bring up “the old days” when they were both beat cops together, fresh out of growing up in the same neighborhood. The Obstacle Character uses the Main Character’s memories to drive home the point that the Main Character was also flexible in those days, and they laughed at the stiffs who usually ended up getting killed or going crazy.
Type 3. Memory
The Main Character has gone so deeply under cover that no one at the agency has heard from him in days. The Obstacle Character contacts and meets with the Main Character, finding him caught in a web of self-doubt, unable to choose between sticking with his code or helping the children’s hospital. The Obstacle Character forces the Main Character to remember their days growing up together in the same neighborhood. Recalling how the Main Character’s thinking was not always so black and white, he urges the Main Character to learn a lesson from those memories and bend with the wind, rather than snap under the pressures that are upon him.
Type 3. Memory ——> Type 4. Subconscious
Unable to be in further contact with the Main Character who remains under cover, the Obstacle Character gets a few old friends from the early days to cross paths with the Main Character in the attempt to loosen him up. Each has been told by the Obstacle Character to remind the Main Character about “the old days” and how much fun they used to have, how many dreams they shared before they got “locked in” to the system.
(Note to authors: The Obstacle Character need not be physically present in order for his impact to be felt!)
Type 4. Subconscious
Now that the Main Character is back in the agency, the Obstacle Character passes judgment upon him. He tells the Main Character to look to his heart – look to all the noble things the Main Character had hoped to do in the political realm. The Obstacle Character asks the Main Character how he feels now, knowing that he has violated the very ideals he had intended to run on. “What does your heart tell you now?” he asks of the Main Character, then walks out leaving the dejected Main Character alone.
From the Dramatica Theory Book