Can Two Characters Share the Same Traits?

A Dramatica user recently wrote:
Hello Melanie
I need help, I’m trying to assign characteristics to my characters, I have a multitude of characters, and many share the same characteristics but the software seems to only allow one character a set characteristic, example ‘temptation’ if I try to assign it to more than one character, it gets eliminated from the second.  This is a severe limitation as my characters are not simple archtypes, but complex beings, is there a way around this?
All the best
My reply:
Hi, Alice
Here’s some information to about characters and Dramatica that should solve your problem.

First of all, Dramatica has 64 elements from which to make up characters – they are kind of a like a spectrum of human qualities such as “logic” or “avoidance”

Stories are partly about making an argument to the audience that a particular trait is a good one or a bad one to have. To make that argument, only one character should have that trait at a time. Otherwise, the message gets confusing.

But, a character may have one trait, then drop out of the store such as traveling away for a while or dying, and another character may show up to represent that trait. This is called a “hand-off” because the original character illustrating the value of a given trait is replaced by another who carries on the “argument.”

Archetypes, on the other hand, are collections of 8 traits that all belong to the same “family” – that is to say they are all similar, just like you might group colors like Scarlet, Crimson, and Cardinal together in a family called “Red.”

So, archetypes are like primary colors, and as such, they do no need to explore each element independently because your readers or audience will accept that you aren’t going into more detail on characters for this particular story. This is useful in action stories or epic romance stories where the characters are no so important as the things that happens to them.

But if you want to fully explore the individual traits and get down to that level of human qualities, then you build each character one element at a time.

A character need have only one element to be a functional character in the story’s structure. And, you should never put an element and its opposite in the same character as it become very hard for a person to represent, for example, both “order” and “chaos.” It makes it hard for the audience to understand and rather grid-locks the character as they cannon fully embrace either of the conflicting traits without the other hobbling them.

If you do want conflicting traits in a character, keep in mind the difference between a character and a player. A player is just the “host” for a character – essentially a person, place or thing that can potentially exhibit (illustrate) the traits (elements) in action, so as to make the story’s argument about those qualities.

Normally, there is one character per player, but in stories such as Doctor Jeckyl and Mister Hyde, there are two different personalities inhabiting the same player. In such cases, each will have its own collection of traits, some or all of which may be in conflict with the other. But, they didn’t inhabit the same body at the same time (being the controlling personality, as it were).

And that is how elements work among characters as well. You may have a mob that is a “collective character” in which it is treated as a single individual player and therefore the individual members of the mob may all share the same traits, but single individual characters should never share traits at the same time as it splits the argument and muddies the message.

Let me know if you have any other questions and I hope this helps.