How To Build Your Main Character


Chris Huntley, one of the co-founders of Dramatica, spoke about the key components of a MAIN CHARACTER. They are defined as the story from whose point of view the story is told. Often, this is the protagonist who drives the action in pursuit of the main character’s goal, but not always.

Main characters typically engage audiences through EMPATHY, the audience truly travels emotionally and grows with the main character. If the audience hasn’t been targeted properly or the main character is weak, audiences may simply SYMPATHIZE with the main character. This means they understand their perspective, but don’t fully engage with them.

Main characters are traditionally likeable, or more recently, relatable and interesting if not the former. Give them fatal flaws and personal issues that they must grapple with. Apart from generating story fodder for the subplot, this creates a psychic imbalance and subsequent conflict.

Introduce an IMPACT CHARACTER, which forces the main character to address their internal issues. Often this is the antagonist, but it doesn’t have to be. However, they must challenge the prevailing wisdom of the main character. They are the light that shines into the darkness of the main character. Th antagonist simply thwarts the main character’s progress towards reaching a goal.

The main character can’t easily solve their personal issues because they lack the awareness or are in denial. There is a disconnect between the perceived problem (leading to the external goal) and the actual problem (leading to the internal goal). Main characters are often distracted and can’t focus on the real issue. This is the purpose of the story.

PROBLEM SOLVING STYLE

Dramatica uses a gender-relating term called story mind. It refers to the LINEAR, logical, cause and effect style typically displayed in male behavior and story choices made by the main character.

The HOLISTIC style of problem solving is typically displayed in female behavior and story choices. It relies more on the matrix structure of relationships. One is not better than the other, nor are linear styles exclusive to males and holistic styles to females. The beauty of humanity is that each gender carries elements of both problem-solving styles.

Hopefully these terms will help you hone in your main character’s dramatic function and how they will most likely overcome their obstacles.

 

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