Main Character, Obstacle Character – Problem & Solution

The following  excerpt is taken from

The Dramatica Class Transcripts

Dramatica: As you know, there are two types of characters we see in Dramatica Theory. Subjective and Objective. Objective characters are seen from the position of a general on a hill, overlooking a battle. The general identifies the soldiers by their functions and positions, not by their names or personalities. In stories, most characters can be looked at by their dramatic function. But then, there is the point of view of the soldier in the trenches. The audience experiences the battle first hand through their eyes. This is the Main Character.

And coming toward them through the smoke of the battle is another soldier. The smoke is too thick to see if they are friend or foe, So the Main Character cannot tell if they are coming with a bayonet to kill them, or a friend coming to warn them they are about to walk into a mine field. Obstacle characters can be friend or foe, trying to help or hurt, but the M.C. only knows one thing: the Obstacle is standing in their path. The choice then becomes to keep going that way anyway, and run over the Obstacle character, or to veer off and heed the obstacle’s “warning”.

Now, that “warning” is about a particular issue in stories. There is a central issue that is the source of the Main Character’s drive. In Dramatica, this is the “crucial” element. The software calls it the “problem” element, because it is this drive that makes the story’s problem an issue. Now, it might be best for the M.C. to change paths OR it might be best for them to keep on the way they were going. The general can tell from up above, but the soldier cannot. The soldier is like us in real life: they haven’t got a clue! So, there is a relationship between what the general sees is the best thing to do and what the soldier thinks is the best thing to do, because both are using different standards of measurement but about the same battle. Success or failure hinges on the soldier’s choice for the general. Personal fulfillment or continued angst are the stakes for the Main Character.

It turns out, that there is a relationship between the nature of the Main Characters Drive (Main Character problem element) and the cause of the story’s difficulties at large – (the Objective Story problem element). If the soldier decides to stick with their drive and it leads to success and fulfillment, then they made a pretty good choice, but any combination of Success or Failure and Good or Bad can result from Change or Steadfast depending upon what the author is trying to prove.

Now, this soldier not only has their internal personal drive (or problem element) but they also have a function in the battle plan, as seen by the general. So, in a sense, they do double duty. All the functions of all the soldiers in the battle are represented by the elements in the Build Characters window. This is where you build your Objective Characters. But the “player” or “body” that you choose as your Main Character must also have an objective element attached to them as well. So that the “player” has both an objective and subjective role within them. It turns out, that in some cases both the objective story and the Main Character are “driven” by the same element in other cases, the Main and Objective story are related so that the Main Character is driven by one thing personally, but represents the opposite element (solution element) objectively, or vice versa.

But problem and solution are not all. The “quad” of elements that contains the problem and solution also contains two other elements. The Focus and Direction.

Think of it this way: If Problem is seen as the disease, Solution is the Cure but Focus is the primary Symptom of the disease, and Direction, the treatment for that symptom. Sometimes a body (the story as a whole) can only be cured by finding the exact cure to the disease. But sometimes, no direct cure really exists. In that case, you might be able to treat the symptom until the body regains enough strength to heal itself. Often, the body (story) can heal itself if you just take the pressure of the symptom off long enough.

So, that is the choice of Change or Steadfast for the Main Character. Do they remain steadfast trying to treat the symptom or change and try to find the cure? This will affect Build Characters as follows: In a change story, the Main Character and Obstacle Character will each represent objectively, either the problem or solution element in the objective story as well. In a steadfast story, the Main and Obstacle will be on either the Focus or Direction, in Build Characters. This means that as characters, they are diametrically opposed in either case, but in one kind of story, the audience attention is on what is driving the Main Character and in the other kind, it is on the Main Character’s response to the problem. Or in other words, what the Main Character’s drive cause them to do, by means of approach.

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