Who is the Obstacle Character?

Obstacle Characters are powerful tools for the storyteller, but it's important to remember that stories are for the audience, not for the characters.

The Obstacle Character is a powerful addition to the storyteller's craft. A perspective often conflated with the Antagonist of a story, the Obstacle Character is the point-of-view responsible for challenging the Main Character to face their personal justifications.

But what are you to do if the Main Character seems oblivious to such a test?

Just watched Storyforming Forrest Gump I wonder what degree of influence the Influence (Obstacle) Characters have on him. They “feed” the story; but I don’t see him establishing the relationship with any of them, even Jenny who is supposed to be the love of his life. If she didn’t keep running into him, he wouldn’t have sought her. I can see degrees of influence: She causes him to react/respond to her delemmae. And his compatriots allow him to act unselfishly, but they don’t cause him. They, themselves, are not heroic.

Heroism is a concept best left for comic books and junior-high level appreciations of story structure. The sooner one abandons characters being "heroic," the sooner they free themselves from the chains of limited storytelling.

In Forrest Gump both Jenny and Lt. Dan present dysfunctional ways of thinking that challenge Forrest to grow. Jenny has her co-dependency issues and Lt. Dan has his family history to contend with. Both act as a barrier towards Forrest continuing to just “run”—to just do without much thinking. 

While Forrest may not be cognizant of this challenge as a character, we the Audience see the juxtaposition and understand intuitively the meaning of Forrest remaining Steadfast against these challenges. 

Now that you have changed nomenclature to Obstacle, I further cannot see how they obscured (blocked) his intentions. As such, I don’t know who’s side the Obstacle Character is on. Does the Obstacle Character represent the Antagonist? Is Obiwan Kenobi Obstacle Character or Influence Character?

It’s important to note that Obstacle Characters do not take “sides.”  The perspective that acts as an obstacle to the Main Character’s justifications is neither aligned with the “good guys” or the “bad guys.” They just are. 

In the end, stories are for the Audience, not for the characters. Characters are just placeholders for meaning. 

Originally published 09-14-2022

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