The Obstacle Character is Not a Character

De-personalizing the personal in order to achieve balance

Too many writers new to Dramatica and Subtxt write the Obstacle Character Throughline as if the Main Character in their story. Part of this misunderstanding lies in how Subtxt used to present Storybeats; the other is the tendency for writers to look at the structure from the point-of-view of the characters.

Story structure is for the Author. Timespace and Spacetime set the progression of time and space for the writer, Concerns, and Transits signal areas of thematic exploration. The work done in Subtxt is work transparent to the characters in your story.

Consider this example of an Obstacle Character Transit in Conscious:

If the IC is an activist - someone who advocates for, let's say, climate change. Then "Conscious" sounds at first something like creating awareness for the problem. Now, I assume that "creating awareness for climate change" is heavy OS. So, as the IC SP it would be something like - "the IC feels like being ignored (Not in the consciousness of people), he feels too small to change something; the powers that be write the rules and they ignore the problem, because it inconveniences them. In order to change something, he must no longer be ignored. People have to listen to him, have to take him seriously. So, he plans to stage a huge event that people just can't ignore."

Creating awareness for climate change works as an Obstacle Character Transit of Conscious—as long as it impacts, or challenges the Main Character's point-of-view.

With the Obstacle Character, the origin of the POV supersedes the direction of its influence. In other words, it's OK that the Obstacle Character directs their efforts towards making others more conscious because that's an aspect of his or her specific point-of-view.

The second example falls into the Main Obstacle Character trap, where you attribute feelings and personal perspective to the Obstacle Character. The IC Throughline is a perspective that impacts others, whether directly or indirectly. Illustrating a Conscious Obstacle Character Transit originating from how they "think" or because they feel people ignore them deviates the perspective into the personal.

Writers tend to blend the Obstacle Character into Main Character territory because this is their comfort zone. The Author applies narrative structure to a story; the characters do not experience form within their subjective point-of-view. Neither should you when writing with Subtxt.

Originally published 09-14-2020

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