Identifying The Influence Character Of A Complete Story
The Influence Character is not a character, it is a perspective.
New ways of thinking conflict with the tried and true. Thought breaks up knowledge and rearranges the fallout into a new understanding. In turn, this newly formed bit of experience creates potential within the mind for even greater thoughts. And the cycle continues.
These are not characters in conflict, but rather, perspectives of conflict.
Writers arrive at the Dramatica theory of story expecting more of the same. Having read McKee’s Story, Snyder’s Save the Cat! they imagine something light and fun. Having read countless blogs on writing and screenwriting they imagine Dramatica: A Theory of Story to be a technical confirmation of what they already know. And why not? Since college, they’ve been told that every story is the same and that the only thing they need to read is Campbell’s Hero with a Thousand Faces.
This lie–and the many others told in support of this claim–leads many astray. Writers force fit Dramatica’s concepts into their understandings, breaking many of the theory’s revolutionary findings.
One of those is the idea of the Influence Character.
The Purpose of the Influence Character Throughline
The Influence Character is not the Main Character by any other name. Like the misconception that Protagonist means Good Guy and Antagonist means Bad Guy, the idea that the “Character” portion of Main Character refers to a fully realized three-dimensional person undermines the purpose of this important point-of-view.
Same with the “Character” portion in Influence Character.
When it comes to identifying the Influence Character of a particular narrative the emphasis is on the point-of-view of this Throughline, not the character. The You perspective–as in ”You have a strange way of seeing things, old man” or ”You put yourself in this position, not me” or ”You know, you’re a real pain in the butt” is the point-of-view held by the Influence Character Throughline as seen from the Main Character Perspective of I.
That connection is super important.
Without this regard between what I am going through and the impact or influence on those issues by what You are doing, the entire analogy of the Storymind breaks down.
The Storymind Concept
The Storymind concept of Dramatica states that every complete story is an analogy to a single human mind trying to solve a problem. Things like Character, Plot, Theme, and Genre–these are things we have made up over the years to help communicate what is going on in our mind. The various Throughlines found in a Dramatica storyform take the perspective of that mind, not of any one character.
This relationship is important when it comes to constructing a narrative because you want to tie those perspectives into that original inequity encountered by the Storymind.
A Challenge to Grow
The perspective of the Influence Character Throughline exists in a narrative to challenge the Main Character’s justifications–not as a means for the Influence Character to work through any of his or her issues.
The focus is always on the Main Character.
”You have a strange way of doing things, old man” is just the kind of problematic Fixed Attitude that Luke needs from Ben Kenobi in Star Wars. Without it, the kid would still be a whiny farm boy at the edge of the galaxy staring out at two impossible suns.
”You put yourself in this position, not me” describes the no-win Situation Rick needs to be influenced by in Casablanca. Without seeing Ilsa in this position and seeing how she sacrificed herself for love, Rick would never have come up with a plan to help them escape the Nazis. He would never have put himself in his no-win situation.
”You’re a pain in the butt” is just the kind of obstinance a man in Tony Stark’s position needs to see in Captain America: Civil War. Witnessing your stubbornness reflected back from not one, but two different people–Steve Rodgers and Peter Parker–is a sure fire way to spark rapid personal growth within the Futurist.
These Influence Characters are not characters–they’re points-of-view meant to challenge a personal point-of-view. The I perspective is important in gauging the location of the You perspective, as is the You perspective in determining where I sits within a complete narrative.
And the Main Character point-of-view is not reliant on who changes the most or which perspective develops to the greatest degree. Personal growth can shift to a different point-of-view, or it can entrench itself within the current perspective.
When Both Seem to Influence
Consider Braveheart and its two principal characters at odds over the future of their country. Which statement describes the Influence Character perspective: ”You can’t worm your way into the hearts of these men” or ”You can’t literally kill everyone who disagrees with you”? Are we witnessing Robert the Bruce’s attempt to influence William Wallace? Or does the film portray William Wallace’s impact on Robert the Bruce? The relationship appears balanced between the two.
Now consider Braveheart not as an account of Scotland’s history, but rather as an account of a single human mind trying to solve a problem. Whose perspective do we maintain during the crucial moment of resolve–the moment where the internal and external perspectives of the mind collide?
Whose mind do we possess?
Do we inhabit Robert the Bruce and all his considerations over the dysfunctional relationship and manipulations with his father? Are we positioned to experience his torment and to feel the struggle to rectify his justifications against all that is going on around him? Or are we with William Wallace and his considerations over whether or not his violent actions are worth the cost both personally and to those around him?
If we looked to who experiences the greatest shift in perspective to determine whose story, or Storymind, Braveheart belongs to, Robert the Bruce would win. As hard as he tries to fight it, Robert comes around to William’s point-of-view.
But if we looked to whose perspective is challenged to reconsider during the culminating moment where the subjective concerns of Main and Influence Character conflate with the objective concerns of the Objective Story Throughline the answer is easy.
The Storymind’s Decision
Resolution–the kind of personal resolution inherent to the Main Character perspective–plays out on-screen and on the page. It happens in the moment, providing a personal account of that determination of the Storymind to either Remain Steadfast in one’s justifications or to Change and adopt the justifications of another.
William Wallace’s disembowelment is not something that happens off-screen. It’s not something we hear You did; it’s something I experience personally. William’s resolution to stay steadfast within his justifications and to scream out with every last ounce of his fiber “Freedom” is not something we hear about–it’s something we see and witness and experience firsthand.
Robert the Bruce’s resolve, on the other hand, happens off-screen.
Yes, we see him take that final step and ask for everyone around him to join him. The actual shift in perspective it took to suit up, grab that sword, and lead that army to the edge of the battlefield–that resolve took place out of sight and from a You perspective.
This resolution moment is key to the entire meaning communicated within the storyform–which is why it happens front and center.
What Did You Do?
In Casablanca, Ilsa surprises us by arriving on-screen with a gun in hand, pointed at Rick. As we sit within Rick’s perspective, we look out and ask ”What are YOU doing?” Iowa’s resolve to Remain Steadfast in her Situation with Victor Laszlo happens without us knowing, and without us experiencing the struggle that goes into making that decision.
Same with Steve Rodgers in Captain America: Civil War.
Steve’s decision to keep the truth behind the murder of Tony’s parents a secret because he wanted to protect that personal decision to determine right from wrong is something that happens off-screen.
We don’t get to experience what it is like to learn what our best friend did, to wonder whether or not we should tell someone, or what kind of impact it would have on others. It’s communicated to us as if You did this. ”Did you know?” That’s a Main Character perspective of the Storymind looking out at an Influence Character Perspective of You.
The decision to break free of constraints to protect you from yourself and avenge? That momentary struggle between should I or shouldn’t I? We see Tony go through that decision-making process and experience that resolution moment from his perspective.
Tony’s decision to Change and adopt the Influence Character’s point-of-view that the decision to choose right from wrong should remain within the individual resolves the original inequity of the story by breaking up the Avengers. This moment is where subjective meets objective and where the entire meaning of the story presents itself to the Audience.
A Look Within the Mind
Dramatica theory functions with this idea that what we have been led to believe about a story is wrong.
A complete narrative is not an interesting and compelling account of something that happened–a full story is a cohesive analogy of a single human mind trying to solve a problem. Character, Plot, Theme, and Genre—these are not parts of a story—they’re parts of the human mind. The series of articles on Preparing to Write a Complete Story requires an understanding of this reality.
When determining the storyform of a narrative, it’s important to remember this core concept. The storyform is a snapshot of the human mind at work. When you see a Dramatica storyform broken down into Main Character and Influence Character and Relationship Story, don’t interpret these things as actual characters or relationships. See them as parts of the human mind, each with its unique purpose in depicting the process of problem-solving and justification.
Only then can you determine the one true storyform for the story you want to tell.