Dramatica Theory Book: Chapter 28

Dramatica: A New Theory Of Story

By Melanie Anne Phillips & Chris Huntley

Chapter 28

Encoding Subjective Characters

Although authors use Subjective Characters all the time they unfortunately view the Subjective functions simply as other aspects of Objective Characters. In fact, the two functions are most often blended into a single concept of character that does double-duty. This is dangerous since every aspect of the argument must be made twice: once Objectively and once Subjectively. If both roles are blended, this can appear redundant. As a result, important points in the separate arguments may be missing. In a temporal medium such as motion pictures, it is often the Subjective argument that suffers as the focus is on more objective action. In novels, the Objective Story is often flawed as the spatial nature of a book favors the Subjective view.

Just because a medium favors one view over the other does not mean anything can be neglected. All parts of both arguments must be present in order to create an effective synthesis in the mind of the audience regardless of the emphasis a medium may place on each view.

The Main Character is Not Necessarily the Protagonist

Many authors are not aware that a Protagonist does not have to be the Main Character. When we stop to think about it, many examples come to mind of stories in which we experience the story through the eyes of a character other than a Protagonist. Yet when it comes to writing our own stories, many of us never diverge from a Protagonist/Main combination.

There is nothing wrong with this combination. In fact, as long as both characters are represented in the single player, such a blend is a fine Archetypal Character. The point is: there are other ways.

Subjective Characters range from the Main Character with whom we identify to all the “other soldiers in the trenches” around us as we experience the battle together. They are friends and foes, mentors and acolytes. We see in them characteristics of Worry, Instinct, Experience and Doubt. Rather than functioning as approaches the way the Objective Characters appear to do, the Subjective Characters function as attitudes.

“We’re Both Alike, You and I…”

The Main and Obstacle Characters are counterparts. They represent the two principal sides to the argument of the story. Because they are dealing with the same issues a case can be made that they are not too far apart. This often results in such familiar lines as “We’re both alike,” “We’re just two sides of the same coin,” “I’m your shadow self,” and so on. In contrast, though they are concerned with the same things, they are coming at them from completely opposing views. This leads to common line such as “We’re nothing alike, you and I,” or “We used to be friends until you stepped over the line.”

Evil Twins?

Many authors picture the Obstacle Character as a negative or evil twin. Although this can be true, it has little to do with the Obstacle Character’s dramatic function. For example, if a Main Character is evil and needs to change, their Obstacle might be a virtuous steadfast character. Or both characters might be evil, with the resolve of one contrasting the change in the other. In any case, the function of the Main and Obstacle Characters is to show two opposing sides of the same issue. That is their story function: to show what happens when one changes and the other remains steadfast on a particular issue.

Encoding Mental Sex

Both Males and Females use the same techniques, but in different contexts. As a result, what is problem solving for one may actually be justification for the other. In fact, for the four perspectives in any given story, in one Domain both male and female mental sex characters will see a given approach as problem solving, while in another Domain both will see it as justification. The third Domain would be problem solving for one mental sex and justification for the other and the fourth just the reverse.

Men TEND to use linear problem solving as their first method of choice. In linear problem solving, they set a specific goal, determine the steps necessary to achieve that goal, and embark on the effort to accomplish those steps. Gathering facts, or successfully achieving requirements all deal with seeing a number of definable items that must be brought together to make the mechanism work in the desired manner.

This is a very spatial view of problem solving, as it sees all the parts that must be accomplished and/or brought together to resolve the problem or achieve the goal.

Women TEND to use holistic problem solving as their first method of choice. In holistic problem solving, steps are not important and there may not even be a specific goal to achieve but simply a new direction desired. As a result, the RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN things are what is measured and adjusted to create a change in the forces that determine that direction. Unlike male problem solving, there is no causal relationship stating that THIS leads to THAT. Instead, COMBINATIONS of changes in the way things are related alters the dynamics of the situation rather than the structure, and changes context rather than meaning.

This is a very temporal view of problem solving, as it looks at the way things are going and tries to alter relationships so that the direction of the forces that create the problem is deflected.

Now, men and women use both techniques. Also, women may become trained to use the linear method first, and men may develop a preference for the holistic method as their primary problem solving approach. These are preferences made through conscious choice, training, or experience. Underneath it all, the brain’s operating system for problem solving will either be linear or holistic. This is what sets men and women apart from each other. No matter how much common ground they come to from training, experience and conscious choice, there is always that underlying level in which they can never see eye to eye, because they have intrinsically different outlooks.

So, when choosing male or female mental sex, we are not concerned with the up front and obvious, we are concerned with that hidden level at the foundation of the Main Character’s psyche that dictates a linear or holistic approach to the problem regardless of what is done consciously.

That’s why the issue becomes vague – because it is not cut and dried in the Main Character nor is it up front. It is just their tendency at the lowest most basic part of their mind to go linear or holistic.
How can we illustrate this in a Main Character? The following point by point comparison can help:

As we can see, though both men and women will use both techniques depending on context, one kind comes first or takes priority. Which one is the principal technique is determined by mental sex. So, if you keep in mind that this all may be overshadowed by other learned techniques, you can illustrate male and female problem solving techniques as a TENDENCY to employ those listed above, all other things being equal.

Building a Mind for the Audience to Possess

When an audience looks at the Objective Characters, they see the Story Mind from the outside in. When an audience empathizes with the Main Character, they see the story from the inside out. In order for the audience to be able to step into the shoes of the Main Character and look through his eyes, he must possess a complete mind for the audience to possess. And that perhaps is the best way to look at it: the audience takes possession of the Main Character’s mind. That’s why you hear people in a movie yelling, “NO…. don’t do that!!!” to a Main Character who is about to enter the shed where the slasher is waiting.

However, the question arises: who is taking possession of whom? As authors we direct our Main Character to take control of the audience’s hearts and souls. We make them feel what the Main Character feels, experience what he experiences. It’s a pretty sinister occupation we engage in. But that is how a story stops being a spectacle and worms its way into the heart.

Leave a Reply