Blog Post

The Tendency of a Main Character to Drive a Story

Aug 2nd, 2016

Over on Discuss Dramatica, someone asked about the Tendency of a Main Character:

I'm having a bit of difficulty finding a way to illustrate my MC's "Unwilling" tendency in my story. My MC has made an amazing scientific discovery that he wants to share with the world, but meets with a lot of interference and many complications along the way. Since he WANTS to overcome these obstacles in order to accomplish his goal, I can't see how to make him Unwilling at the same time. Ultimately he fails (chooses not) to share the discovery with the world because he realizes the world isn't ready... but this Tendency question still perplexes me.

The problem here is a common one encountered when using Dramatica. The theory and its story points reveal an obejctive perspective on the story's structural and dynamic elements. Dramatica always gives us the Author's perspective of a narrative. Writers used to constantly imagining what it must feel like to be their character often confuse this point and thus, sever any meaningful connection between the story point in question and the story itself.

I responded with one way an Unwilling Main Character might behave:

I have no idea of the context of your Objective Story, but let's say a key plot point was a group of investors making a decision which project to back, with your MC's project being one of them.

You can imagine your MC, who is a go-getter Type A personality, building bigger and better demonstrations of what it is his project can do and how it's better than any of the others. The more he senses reticence on their part, he turns to flashier and more grandiose demonstrations, until he flat out blows everyone away...

...but they still decide to go with someone else. Why?

Because this is the world of angel investing where you're better off schmoozing and manipulating and generally showing what a great personality you are that people want to be with, rather than having an actual viable product. They want charisma, not results.

In this case, your MC was Unwilling to be what he needed to be in order to effect a positive decision. Perhaps someone counseled him earlier on it, and he disregarded their suggestion as silly and a waste of time.

That would be one way to do it.

Dramatica is an objective look at the elements of a story, not what it looks like from the character's point-of-view.