Dramatica Theory Book: Chapter 6

Dramatica: A New Theory Of Story

By Melanie Anne Phillips  & Chris Huntley

Chapter 6

Action and Decision Elements
of Driver and Passenger Characters

Recap of Archetypal Characters

Now that we have become familiar with Archetypal characters and some of their limitations, let us recap our list of the eight Archetypal Characters as a prelude to resolving the inconsistencies we saw in The Wizard of Oz and Jaws:

PROTAGONIST: The traditional Protagonist is the driver of the story: the one who forces the action. We root for it and hope for its success.

ANTAGONIST: The Antagonist is the character directly opposed to the Protagonist. It represents the problem that must be solved or overcome for the Protagonist to succeed.

REASON: This character makes its decisions and takes action on the basis of logic, never letting feelings get in the way of a rational course.

EMOTION: The Emotion character responds with its feelings without thinking, whether it is angry or kind, with disregard for practicality.

SKEPTIC: Skeptic doubts everything — courses of action, sincerity, truth — whatever.

SIDEKICK: The Sidekick is unfailing in its loyalty and support. The Sidekick is often aligned with the Protagonist though may also be attached to the Antagonist.

GUARDIAN: The Guardian is a teacher or helper who aids the Protagonist in its quest and offers a moral standard.

CONTAGONIST: The Contagonist hinders and deludes the Protagonist, tempting it to take the wrong course or approach.

Splitting Archetypes Into
Action and Decision Characteristics

Re-examining the list, we can learn something new that will help us in analyzing The Wizard of Oz and Jaws: each of the Eight Archetypal Characters contains one characteristic pertaining to actions and another characteristic pertaining to decisions.


Action Characteristic: Pursues the goal. The traditional Protagonist is the driver of the story: the one who forces the action.

Decision Characteristic: Urges the other characters to consider the necessity of achieving the goal.


Action Characteristic: The Antagonist physically tries to prevent or avoid the successful achievement of the goal by the Protagonist.

Decision Characteristic: The Antagonist urges the other characters to reconsider the attempt to achieve the goal.


Action Characteristic: The Guardian is a helper who aids the efforts to achieve the story goal.

Decision Characteristic: It represents conscience in the mind, based upon the Author’s view of morality.


Action Characteristic: The Contagonist hinders the efforts to achieve the story goal.

Decision Characteristic: It represents temptation to take the wrong course or approach.


Action Characteristic: This character is very calm or controlled in its actions.

Decision Characteristic: It makes its decisions on the basis of logic, never letting emotion get in the way of a rational course.


Action Characteristic: The Emotional character is frenzied or uncontrolled in its actions.

Decision Characteristic: It responds with its feelings with disregard for practicality.


Action Characteristic: The Sidekick supports, playing a kind of cheering section.

Decision Characteristic: It is almost gullible in the extent of its faith — in the goal, in the Protagonist, in success, etc.


Action Characteristic: The Skeptic opposes — everything.

Decision Characteristic: It disbelieves everything, doubting courses of action, sincerity, truth — whatever.

Split Archetypes in Quads

Having split them in two, we can see that each of the Archetypal Characters has an attitude or Decision characteristic and an approach or Action characteristic. When we arrange both characteristics under each of the eight Archetypes in our Driver and Passenger Quad format, we get a graphic feel for the Archetypal Objective Characters and the Elements they represent.

Driver Quad

Passenger Quad

In Dramatica, we refer to these 16 characteristics as the Motivation Elements because they describe what drives the Archetypal Characters.

The 16 Motivation Elements
in Star Wars

Elements of Star Wars Characters

Let’s see how well these sixteen Motivation Elements line up with the characters we have examined so far. As Protagonist, Luke does indeed seem to be both the pursuing character and the one who urges all to consider the need to achieve the goal (“We’ve got to help the Princess!”). The Empire definitely wants to prevent Luke from succeeding, and urges him and all others to reconsider the propriety of his actions – reconsider or you will die. Obi Wan provides a sense of conscience, at the same time helping Luke when he gets into trouble. Darth, on the other hand, clearly represents the tempting “Dark side of the Force,” as well as hindering Luke’s progress, the Rebel’s progress, and even hindering progress by the Empire itself!

R2D2 and C3PO are ever faithful and supportive, and Han is the perennial disbeliever and opposer. Chewbacca acts on his feelings and behaves in an uncontrolled way, and Leia is extremely controlled and driven by logic.

Charted out, the assignment of characteristics to the various characters has a good feel to it.

Character Quads with Elements

Driver Quad

Passenger Quad

The 16 Motivation Elements
in The Wizard of Oz

Archetypal Elements
of “Oz” Characters

Returning to Oz, Dorothy is both pursue and consideration. Toto is faith and support. The Cowardly Lion is clearly disbelief and oppose, and Glinda is conscience and help. But here is where breaking the Eight Archetypal Characters into 16 characteristics solves our previous problems.

Tin Man and Scarecrow Swap Meet

When we look at the Scarecrow he appears to exemplify logic but his approach, rather than being in control, is quite uncontrolled. Similarly, although the Tin Man is undoubtedly feeling, his demeanor is just as surely described by control.

Apparently, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man have swapped characteristics: logic goes with uncontrolled and feeling goes with control. In a sense, both of these Characters now contain two Elements that are at odds with each other. The Action Element does not reflect the Decision Element. This creates two very interesting Characters who have an additional degree of depth to them: an internal friction, inconsistency, or conflict. This is the kind of arrangement that begins to make characters more complex.

Witch and Wizard Ways

But what about the Witch and the Wizard? What is it that makes them diverge from the Archetypal molds? Could it be a similar “swapping” of Elements? As it turns out, it is a similar swapping, but not exactly the same. To be the Archetypal Contagonist, the Wizard would have to be temptation and hinder. To be the Antagonist, the Witch would have to be reconsideration and prevent. But rather than swapping an Action Element for another Action Element, the Witch ends up with both Action Elements and the Wizard with both Decision ones!

“Oz” Elements in Quads

When we put this information into our Quad formation, the Elements do not line up in a simple way.

Driver Quad

Passenger Quad

Everyone still has two characteristics; however, the arrangements are not Archetypal for all the Characters in The Wizard of Oz. As a result, the Archetypal role names have been removed where they do not apply.

The 16 Motivation Elements in Jaws

Elements of Jaws Characters

Brody, as Protagonist, is very nicely pursue, and certainly with his bell-ringing and whistle-blowing Brody is consideration as well. Hooper does provide the sense of conscience and helps Brody. The Mayor definitely hinders our Protagonist and dishes out plenty of temptation to give up the quest. Certainly the shark forces reconsideration of the propriety of the goal and goes out of its way to prevent Brody from accomplishing his goal of adjusting its feeding habits. Brody’s wife is his faithful supporter. Hooper adds to his functions by filling the role of logic as well, yet he is very uncontrolled in his approach, as made evident by the variety of devices he employs to no apparent success. Quint is clearly operating from his feelings, but his approach is very simple and in control. The Mayor, in addition, supplies us with disbelief and oppose.

Driver Quad

Passenger Quad

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