More Questions from Alice

A response and further questions from the Dramatica user who was answered in my last post: Can Two Characters Share the Same Traits?

Hi Melanie

Okay, that is understood, and makes sense, and I like the logic, but this makes the software somewhat limiting in my view. I think there should be a facility to show the character in conflict with themselves, so for instance, they have a trait, and then a conflicting trait, so they have inner conflict.

My question is though, how do I build a character with more than one trait, even where that trait is contradictory and not a neat amplifier, as in – 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 –

How do I do that using the actual software, I mean do I have to create a character with one trait and then build that same character again, (name, cartoon image etc) and give them another single trait?

If I want to build up more complexity within that character? How does the software cope with that? What do I need to do in actual step by step terms with the actual software?

Or is the software based on the assumption that most characters will be hosts to one individual trait or another, so that the storymind works as a whole? I understand this, and it’s a great concept, really, but it still falls short when you want to examine a character’s psychological nuances. My novel is a character based, it’s a novel about psychological journey to inner integrity, so conflicting elements are vital to the whole concept.

Sorry to be awkward, but I do think if the software could be near perfect. At the moment I feel rather hampered by the character build aspect.

All the best


My response:

Hi, Alice

Okay, if I were to condense your message down to two points:

1. How do you assign more than one element to a character?

2. Dramatica seems to lack psychological depth for characters.

In response to question one, go to the Build Characters area that has the grid of character elements. Then, when you create a character (and its character icon), simply click and drag the icon to the first element you wish that character to have. Then, click and drag the character icon again to the next element you wish it to have. The character’s icon will appear on the grid in the square representing each of the elements you drag it to. In this way you can add as many elements as you wish to each character. What’s more, as you drag other characters (icons) to the grid, the position in the gird of one character relative to another predicts the kind of relationship they will have. Diagonal positions are most contentious because diagonal elements are most opposite. Horizontal relationships are Companion because they go hand in hand, sometimes for good (a positive Companion relationship) or for bad (a negative Companion relationship). Vertical relationships are dependencies, including co-dependencies, which can also be positive or negative in nature. So, as you see, you can use the kind of relationship you want between characters to determine which elements they will have, or choose the elements you want them to have and let that determine their relationships. Clearly, relationships are determined by the traits of each character. And further, since complex characters may have many traits and come into conjunction with other characters in many squares in different ways, very complex relationships may be built and/or described since the characters may be contentious in regard to two of their traits, but positive companions when issues arise in regard to two other traits they possess.

As for question two about the psychological depth. Unlike life in which we all have a myriad of central problems, each becoming paramount in a different context and in which contexts are constantly changing, stories are about a single central problem (the message issue of the story) and how it is explored in a single fixed context (the thematic topic)

Since characters represent facets (traits or problems solving techniques) of our minds the elements they possess are fixed. But, as in our own minds, there are two special characters – the Main Character who represents our sense of self (“I think, therefore I am”) and that “devil’s advocate” voice within us that takes the contrary position on any issues so we weigh the pros and cons of going with our old tried and true method or trying something new the might be better but is unproven. In fact, it is this conflict over methods, attitudes, ethics, morals, word views or personal codes or paradigms that defines the Subjective Story while the Objective Story is defined by the attempt to achieve the logistic goal of the plot.

All of the Dramatica structure is divided into four large areas called Domains. One is about situations, one is about attitudes, one is about activities, and the other is about manners of thinking. The Objective Story will explore one of these in the effort to achieve the goal. The Subjective Story will explore another in the push and pull relationship over the message between the Main Character and its opposite. And the Main Character and its counter part will each get one of the remaining two parts of the structure.

So, Main and the other character (called the Obstacle, Impact, or Influence Character) each get a whole 1/4 of the structure to describe their inner growth, angst, or deliberations. Their psychologies are quite complex as a result, not to mention the special relationship between them that is far more complex than the simple Objective Characters who only represent traits.

Yet in stories, we see that many characters might be explored deeply, not just these two. That is a parallel for how we deal with more than one problem in real life. Since a story, by definition, will center on a single problem, to create complex psychological explorations around an Objective Character other than the Main or Obstacle character, you create sub-plots. In a sub-plot, one of the other Objective characters becomes the Main or Obstacle character in another story that hinges, plot-wise or subject matter-wise on the first story but is not actually part of the main story – just a side trip or a tributary.

In this way, as a Main or Obstacle character in a sub-plot or sub-story, you can greatly increase the psychological complexity of as many of the objective characters as you like with a separate sub-story for each of the characters you wish to deepen.

Ultimately, this creates a very rich set of characters and a very complex and subtle plot, while avoiding muddying the original story through the use of tributary sub-stories.

But, that’s pretty heady stuff – not what people are usually prepared to start out with when they first come to Dramatica which can be daunting enough even on a superficial first introduction to it. So, we hold that information back until people master the single story structure before immersing them in the web of multiple sub-stories and many complex internal explorations of characters.

Hope this helps.