Archetypes and the Crucial Element

A writer recently asked:

Is it necessary to have the main character as one of the archetypes?
 
No. The Main Character point of view must be attached to one of the character elements, not necessarily to an archetype. A story can have no archetypes if it uses nothing but complex characters, each representing one or more elements. In a perfect structure, the Main Character (first-person point of view in the story) should be attached to the Crucial Element. Each element represents a human quality or attribute. You can combine them in many ways, just as they are in real people. But one of those attributes will be the subject of the story at large – the human quality that is under examination by the author. That element must be possessed by the Main Character so that the readers/audience can stand in the shoes of that character and feel what it is like to possess the attribute in question. Naturally, the Main Character can also possess other elements, but the Crucial Element is a must.
 
There is one exception to this, and that is if the Crucial Element is possessed by the Obstacle (Impact, or Influence) Character rather than the Main Character. In this case, the Main Character will possess the “opposite” quality to that of the Crucial Element. (Whether the Crucial Element is with the Main or Obstacle Character determine where you are positioning the readers/audience in regard to the attribute under study – do you want them to feel as if they have the quality or are simply observing the quality – do you want them to be on the side of the quality or on the opposite side of the argument?
 
A second question:
 
Do you think it could work having the main character as the skeptic, whose sidekick provides the conflict as well as the support?
 
Actually, If you are using archetypes, the Main Character can be any archetype – even the Antagonist. As you surmised the Skeptic and Sidekick archetypes are opposites. The Sidekick is the faithful supporter and the Skeptic is the doubting opposer. So, if the Main Character were the Skeptic, the issue at the heart of the story’s argument would be doubt or opposition. The Obstacle Character would then be the Sidekick and contain the opposite element (or the reverse, if the Crucial Element is given to the Obstacle).
 
One problem that occurs with pure archetypes – the Crucial Element Main/Obstacle relationship forces the Obstacle Character to be the opposite archetype to that of the Main Character. For example, if the Main Character is the Protagonist, then the Crucial Element function will require the Obstacle Character to the the Antagonist. This causes difficulties because the plot struggle over the goal will be between Protagonist and Antagonist, and the same to people will duke it out over the Crucial Element as Main Character and Obstacle Character. This is hard to follow for a reader/audience since they have trouble separating the plot argument about the best way to go about achieving the goal from the personal argument about the best human quality to possess.
 
This often leads to melodrama, which occurs because (with both arguments intertwined) the author lets the excitement and energy of one of the arguments bridge the gap over holes in the other argument. In fact, both arguments often end up with holes because the passionate moments of one of the arguments masks holes in the other. So, neither argument is full developed and it is only the strength of the storytelling that carries the story forward, not a full logical exploration of the subjects at hand. And the, by definition, is what creates the feeling of melodrama as opposed to true drama.
 
To avoid this, writer’s often remove the counterpoint to the Crucial Element from the archetype who is opposite to the Main Character and give that one element to some other archetype. This effectively moves the Obstacle Character point of view from the opposite archetype to the new one. In this manner, the Main Character now has two separate relationships – a plot based one with its archetype opposite and the human quality argument with the archetype who is the new Obstacle Character. In essence the single relationship that held both arguments is now split into two relationships creating the classic “Dramatic Triangle”.
 
In this more refined arrangement, the Main Character and its associate archetype have it out with its opposite archetype in the plot and the Main Character point of view comes into conflict with the other archetype who now has added that opposite of the Crucial Element. That other character is often the “Love Interest” or some other personally connected character who argues with the Main Character about the proper way to comport itself, even as the Main Character is battling its archetypal opposite over the goal.

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