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Tips from Dramatica Users...
"Defining Main Characters in stories with multiple
From: Armando Salda�a Mora (tictic@DATA.NET.MX)
There seem to be some troubles
defining the Main Characters in stories with multiple narrators and I'd like to comment on
First, a brief discussion of the nature of the Main Character, and then some
practical tips to work in stories with multiple narrators:
The worst part of pitching a project for TV is when the Network Exec pulls
out a demographics chart and says: "Our public is made in 45% of farmers, 21% of
secretaries, 19% of housewives, 12% of hydraulic engineers and 3% miscellaneous", at
this point the Exec gives you back your project synopsis and says "The public has
to identify with the Main Character, so make her a farming secretary married to a
The other possible
mistake comes from thinking that the Main Character doesn't has to resemble the public,
but must act exactly as the public would act given the same situation. (Thank to George
Lucas, if I'm ever in a lasersword fight now I know what to do)
I believe that the
mistake of the Main Character identification with the public was first introduced
by Aristotle (or by someone who translated him badly from the original Greek) and was
coined by the 18th century critics. The mistake is basically this: You don't identify
with the Main Character, but rather involve with his troubles on an emotional level.
I mean, no one on
his right mind would say: "Gee, I'd love to be Oedipus!"
I know that we all
came out of the first Rocky walking like Sylvester Stallone, but none would trade his life
with a beat-up south Philly Italian boxer, we were only happy that Rocky was able to solve
his problems. Because we cared for the guy, but doesn't have to agree with him.
How we do this?
Because a complete story works a every psychological level of your brain.
Let's look at
Hamlet. He's what is called a "Tragic Hero", that means a character that we care
about, but who begins with the wrong idea. In the pure rational plain, Hamlet is a
complete idiot. He has something important to do, but instead wanders on the hallways,
hangs on on cemeteries and pretends he's crazy.
nobler for the soul..?"
"WOULD YOU DO
SOMETHING? YOU LITTLE JERK!!... AND CUT THAT HAIR TOO!"
But in the
emotional level we learn of his conflict, of his feeling of being powerless. We fear his
father and feel compelled to him at the same time. In the emotional level we understand
throughline, main character throughline, obstacle character throughline and subjective
throughline each works at a different level of the mind (I've seen that lot's of guys in
this discussion group are into psychology, so here it goes):
throughline goes to the rational parts and forces them to analyze and synthesize the story
problems, logic for a rational solution.
The Main Character
throughline is the view of the Ego (more in a Freudian term than in a "transactional
Character throughline has heavy Super Ego and/or Id issues (That is why is so easy to use
a Super Ego Guardian [like Obi-wan-Kenobi] or a Id Contagonist [Like Hannibal Lecter] as
an Obstacle Character) The Subjective throughline works like the
"Adult" in Transactional Analysis, struggling to find an balance between the
emotional parts of the mind.
So, the main character
identification, doesn't come from a character that resembles oneself, or one that acts
like oneself or about who is the narrator. The identification comes from learning the
emotional view the Main Character has on the problem.
That was a not-so-brief discussion about the Main Character, so, about the multiple
The first and easiest way
to work this would be to form one story, encode it and weave it using the multiple
narrators revealing in each view new information about the story, I believe Melanie
and Chris call this the "Building Size" or "Changing Scope" technique.
Some of the information could be Red Herrings (changing importance or giving false
information) or play with anyone of the spatial techniques of story weaving. You
can play giving your narrators archetypical traits and focus on the difference the traits
make on the narration: the same scene viewed by the skeptic and the sidekick would seem as
two different new scenes. Remember, using this techniques, you'd have to weave the Main
Character scenes colored with the narrator point of view, but all the information about
your Main Character emotional troubles should remain clear. An example I liked of this
techniques would be a movie called "To die for". Here the main character has all
the wrong ideas and acts in the worst of ways, so you need many points of view (the movie
has about ten narrators) to understand all the implications of the problem.
You may also want
to write subplots or parallel plots in your novel. Each of them should be treated as a
complete story with it's own Main Character even if in the weaving stage you give more
emphasis to one story over the others. Here you can play with the meaning of each story.
Try this: make the OS problem item in one story the OS solution in other story, if you
have a Domain of Physics, Concern of Obtaining, Range of Morality and Problem of Disbelief
in the Objective throughline in one story, give that same Domain, Concern, Range
and Problem on the Subjective throughline on another story. If you have a scene
order of "Learning-Understanding-Doing-Obtaining" in one story, try and get an
order of "Obtaining-Doing-Understanding-Learning" in another story. Have fun,
but a word of warning about this wacky techniques: they all must serve your novel. Do the
storyforming and do some encoding to see if this works as a subplot, if it doesn't, throw
it away. Remember that each of the subplots could be told by multiple narrators.
Hope this works for you. As usual, post any doubt you have about this derangement.
By the way, I was
quoting Hamlet from memory and from a cheap Spanish Translation, so forgive me if I'm not
too accurate. Incidentally, here is how the famous monologue looks in Spanish:
Ser, o no ser, �esa es la pregunta! �Qu� es m�s elevado para el
inerte los dardos y flechas de la fortuna infamante o oponer el brazo contra ese torrente
de injusticias y luchar?...
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