Connecting the Main Character to the Objective Story
The key to writing a story that resonates at a higher level
Season 3 Episode 59
In this episode, I cover the importance of connecting the Main Character's problem with the Objective Story problem & a method for constructing the Narrative Argument of your story. The former explains the difference between an OK story and an amazing story; all the great narratives of the past take this approach of pitting subjective vs. objec tive. The latter is helpful in determining the narrative drive of a story and keeping you on track with your story's purpose.
Show Notes & Links
- Seth Godin's new podcast Akimbo inspiring new podcast from the guy who tends to inspire
- Problems of Character Reflected in Story read how to find resonance between the Main Character and the Objective Story throughlines
- Enough Said storyform
- Mother storyform
- Lady Bird storyform
- The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel storyform
- Dramatica Makes Things Harder it really does
- Building a Narrative Argument read how to construct one of your own using key storypoints from a Dramatica storyform
Hello, and welcome to the narrative first podcast the only podcast where story is King. I am your host Jim Hull, the voice of narrative first, and this is episode 59 connecting the main character to the Objective Story.
Welcome back everyone to another week of story structure and story analysis. This week you'll notice that the format for the podcast is different. After editing and Publishing last week's episode and listening to Seth Godin's new podcast Kimbo it became quite clear to me that I could be delivering more of a succinct message with each podcast. And if you notice that I am speaking with a more distinct voice that is because of the transcription service that I now use which is actually a software-as-a-service called Descript Descript com. Where I Import in the audio that I record here and instantly receive back a transcription of the entire podcast.
This makes the editing process much easier. I can go in select phrases or sentences or complete detours conversation and delete them. Just by selecting the actual words. But I did notice going back over last week's podcast that I occasionally used the word like I occasionally use the words and so. And I occasionally drift off. Into all kinds. of non sequiturs that don't really add up to much.
It's really important to me that this podcast the Articles and the analysis that I write on Narrative First provide you with some kind of meaning some kind of help when it comes to actually writing a story. And eventually as I become more comfortable with it. I'm sure the humor. And the relaxed nature of the previous podcast will come back.
So the new format will consist of two sections two topics separated by an update in the middle, which is essentially an update to the narrative First Sight and the narrative first atomizer, if you're not connected with those this will be a way to catch up with what has been added over the last week. And with that let's get started.
This week I want to talk about connecting the main character through line to the Objective Story throughline. The biggest problem I see with stories today with the stories that I consult on or ones that I see is this failure to connect the main characters problem with the overall stories problem.
Essentially if you're familiar with the dramatica theory of story, it's the crucial element the connective tissue between the main characters through line and the Objective Story through. Now with a changed main character where the main character actually changes their resolve this crucial element lies along the problem and solution elements with the steadfast character the main character that remains steadfast and maintains their worldview throughout the entire story this crucial element lies along the focus and direction of their through line and the Objective Story through line. In other words the main character focus and Direction and the Objective Story focus and direction will be the same in a steadfast story in a change Story the main characters problem in solution will match the overall stories problem and solution.
This has the added benefit of actually providing great meaning to the story. In essence what you're getting is both an objective account and a subjective account of what that inequity feels like so you get to see it from a distance and you get to experience what that feels like from within . This is something that we can't get in our regular lives, and why all of us are drawn to Great stories.
Recently I discussed how I saw the twin disasters of the Emoji Movie. And the Lego Ninjago movie of last year the reason why I refer to them as disasters is because both of them. Failed to provide meaning they failed to provide an actual story. And the core problem in each is this failure of connecting the main character through line with the Objective Story through line
for instance in the Emoji Movie you have. Gene who is the meh Emoji and he has the problem where he doesn't feel like he can be himself he has all these attitudes all these different expressions, and he can't express himself the way he would like to because he is set in a particular role that he has to play.
The Objective Story through line is all about killing him. These don't connect very well. At least with something like aliens where you have Ripley as the main character and the Objective Story through line of the bug hunt of killing the aliens. There is a connective tissue between the element of Desire she yearns to be with her daughter and the aliens yearn to live.
It's the same kind of problem that exists in the recent Blade Runner 2049. the reason those two films. Are successful and the reason why the Emoji Movie made two dollars over its opening weekend is because the latter failed. To connect the main characters problem with the Objective Story problem.
consider Lady Bird, which I believe has a 99% Rotten Tomatoes rating and a film that I saw over the weekend. There you have a main character who completely rejects everything to do with their Hometown including her mother everywhere. She goes. She's completely done with it wants. Nothing to do with the small town and wants to move on to the east coast where there is at least a little bit of culture.
the Objective Story through line. also explores rejection but from a dispassionate point of view. Her father who was recently fired from his job. Goes to look for more work and finds rejection in the workplace. He finds ageism. her temporary boyfriend. played by Lucas hedges. also struggles with rejection. And the fact that he's gay in an Irish Catholic Family. Here you can see that rejection is reflected both in the main character through line and the Objective Story through line, what you get is a dissonance between the two you get to see what it looks like to feel rejected and also to see others be rejected and therefore it makes sense when she finally accepts. Her name, and who she is. and why that results in an Objective Story outcome of success.
There's actually meaning that is being communicated there. Stop rejecting everything around you and you can learn to appreciate where you came from. That is the message or the argument of ladybird and that works because it connects the main character through line problem with the Objective Story through line problem.
Consider Professor Marston and the Wonder Woman here's another recent film that also does a great job of connecting the main character through line with the Objective Story throughline. Elizabeth's problem of control where she feels like she has to be in control of everything and dominate pretty much everyone around her is also reflected in the Objective Story through line problem of trying to control the kind of material that Marston puts into his Wonder Woman comics.
there you have Control operating both in the main character subjective through lines and the Objective Story through line. by connecting the main character in the Objective Story through line at this element level. The writer creates a story with narrative Integrity the story means something it communicates a message. It's not just there to entertain. It's an opportunity to experience something and to witness something that we can't get in our own lives.
here are the updates for the narrative First Sight and the narrative first atomizer in the atomizer last week. We saw the story forms for ladybird mother and enough said added to the site. In addition the second complete story form for an entire series of Television was added to the atomizer the marvelous mrs. Maisel. Which won a Golden Globe this year? The first season of that show has a complete story form and it's now available for you to see
in addition the atomizer had updates. in the way, it's presented on mobile devices and updates to the character and plot Dynamics. This is something that I alluded to in last week's episode, and I'm starting to do for all story forms currently. You have images for the main character and influence character of ladybird. And more descriptive ways of understanding. The character Dynamics and plot dynamic.
In addition to the analysis of Lady Bird you'll find connective tissue between the analysis on the narrative First Sight and the narrative first atomizer now when you click on a story Point for instance story goal of learning it's not separated into two separate links for either story goal and learning you actually find all the films that possess a story point with the story goal of learning
similarly main character problem of non-acceptance, which apparently is a trend in storytelling recently if you click on that you'll find. All the different narratives with the main character problem of non-acceptance, and I'll be going back through all the analyses on Narrative First. And connecting them to the atomizer.
lastly Steven Greenfield the chief software architect of dramatic Astoria expert and dramatica Theory. Had a comment published in the New York Times an article entitled The Tyranny of convenience. I'll link to my blog post about that in the show notes essentially. Steven talks about how reporters had come out to interview them about dramatica in 1994 and about. how it essentially allowed writers to cheat their way into finishing their screenplay.
But of course before the cameras rolled Melanie spoke up and said dramatic. It doesn't make things easier it actually makes things harder. Which is exactly something Melanie would say and I find it funny because I spend a lot of time talking about how dramatic a speeds up the development process
my context of course is the animation industry. Where several years are spent trying to figure out what it is the essence of the story that you're actually trying to tell and how an understanding of the dramatic a theory of story can shorten that time span drastically?
But it is true that something like dramatica makes the development process more complicated and more difficult because you actually have to think through a lot of your storypoints. Something like save the cat or the hero's journey. grabs more popularity. because of its ease of use.
Now features like the narrative argument, which I'll get into in a second. Are my attempts to bridge the gap between that east of use and the complexity and sophistication of the dramatic theory of story? But it is true that dramatica actually makes things more difficult, and it should because writing a great story should be something thought-provoking.
Recently I received a letter that asked. I noticed that with the narrative first atomizer. You've Incorporated this notion of narrative argument which on the surface appears to be essential narrative drive for the story. I haven't seen this in dramatica so is it a new innovation of your own. In the answer is yes, this is an innovation of my own.
after several years of Consulting and mentoring dramatica students the one thing I notice. More than anything else is this failure to understand what the story form actually is what value it provides the writer so much time is spent figuring out the different story points and figuring out whether or not a story is driven by actions or decisions. Or whether or not the story outcome is a success or a failure? That writers failed to see the forest for the trees. They don't see that the story form there is to provide an argument. It's basically a highly complex and sophisticated way of looking at a thematic argument or a narrative argument.
Those individual story points like the main character problem the story judgment the main character growth all those combined to create the narrative argument of a story.
For instance in the previous section. I was speaking about Ladybird The Narrative argument in that film. Stop rejecting everything around you and you can learn to appreciate where you came from. That's a combination of Christine. That's ladybird moving away from non-acceptance. That's her problem. Element as a main character and into acceptance of her true name her solution element of acceptance. And as I've mentioned in previous podcasts that problem element of non-acceptance should really be rejection.
As she moves into acceptance she finally learns, that's the Story Goal of learning how to find peace story Judgment of good and to appreciate where she came from which is another way of saying that she appreciates her mother and her mother's attention. That's why the film is so beautiful. It's actually saying something. It's promoting something. It's arguing a certain point of view and it's doing it in a very emotional and touching way. But at the core of it is this idea of the narrative argument.
The Narrative argument of a story is integral to the Integrity of a narrative. Understanding how this Central argument works and the purpose behind a story form makes it easier for the author to imagine scenes and situations that support. Their intent.
if you've read Robert McKee's Story You've likely run into this idea of the controlling idea, which is McKee's way of rephrasing lajos agrees concept. Of the thematic statement the greed leads to self-destruction, and I remember when I was a student in college how revelatory this idea was of course. I'm going to write a story about how greed leads to self-destruction. But how exactly am I going to do that.
Now Melanie and Chris and the theory book. Prescribe a way of using the different issues. In the different through lines. The issues and counterpoints to argue this message. you show how self-interests? Led to self-destruction, you'd show how morality led to a better life perhaps give little hints were is not all that bad, and we're morality is a little bad, but in the end self-interest outweighs morality. And therefore you make the argument greed leads to self-destruction.
I prefer to look at the entire story form as. arguing the message of greed leads to self-destruction. And with the narrative argument. I've identified six key story points. To make up the author's message the main character resolve the main character growth the story goal the story outcome the story judgment. And the main character crucial element, which I spoke about in the previous section.
For a change characters this would be the problem or solution and for steadfast characters this would either be the focus or Direction. If the narrative calls for a tragedy or some kind of failure in the Objective Story through line. The animator swaps out the goal for the story. And if the narrative features a main character with a steadfast resolve it switches out problem and solution for focus and direction.
The problem with the method described in the theory book is it leads down the path of overthinking the narrative argument. If it is true that greed leads to self-destruction, and you're using self-interest and morality to prove that what about the issue and CounterPoint in the other three through lines.
This approach pulls the throughlines apart as if they operate on their own they don't. The main character doesn't exist without the influence character the protagonist doesn't exist without the antagonist the Objective Story doesn't exist without the relationship story through line all the elements within a story form work together one doesn't exist without the other they all work together to prove a singular narrative argument.
So when it comes to Greed leading to self-destruction? What exactly do you want to say about greed? Is it a matter of moving away from avoiding things like Simba in The Lion King or David Grant in Nebraska. Or is it more about moving towards avoiding things like edx lie in LA Confidential or Elliott in ET the Extra-Terrestrial?
All four of these films feature avoidance or avoid as the main character crucial element. In The Lion King and Nebraska, it's about moving away from avoiding stop avoiding your responsibilities. In LA Confidential and ET it's about moving towards avoiding. or preventing rather than pursuing.
Here you can see that you can create all kinds of nuances when it comes to Greed leads to self-destruction, and this is only one element avoid is only one element. There are 63 other elements that could come into conflict when it comes to the center of the main characters personal throughline.
By connecting the main character with the Objective Story and appreciating all the story points within a dramatica story form. the writers solidifies their narrative argument. They give meaning to the story. They're writing.
It's my hope that this idea of the narrative argument the bigger picture greater understanding of what that story form is is the kind of connective tissue that draws more artists to the theory. and in turn creates greater stories.
Dramatica is not all that complicated when you understand the reason for the different through lines the different story points the character Dynamics, and the plot Dynamics once you see how they all work together to form a singular argument. The process of encoding those different story points and bringing them to your story becomes an enjoyable and creative process.
in the end dramatica makes better stories. And it's my hope through Concepts like the narrative argument. That writers find a better way to tell better stories.
That's it for this week's podcast if you have any questions about these two ideas of connecting the main character to the Objective Story through line or the narrative argument in general. Please write to me at narrative first com slash contact. I hope you have a great week of writing, and I'll see you next time.
Narrative First theme by Alex Hull. Hear more on his Soundcloud, Operation Solace.