Dramatica related: Impact Character Signposts

by Theresa
(New York)

Question: I'm writing a metaphysical thriller in which my main character, after a few hurdles, finds himself thrown into a new and twisted sort of world. The impact character exists in that new world. The overall problem will be resolved/not resolved in that world. The relationship to the Impact Character couldn't start until my Main Character is in that world. All of this said, the Main Character's signpost 2 IS the entrance to this new world (and because my MC's throughline is the story-mind I'm focusing on, the MC's Signpost 2 is the end of Act 1 and beginning of Act 2.

It may also be useful to add that although I am writing this in first-person / past-tense, the narrative is 100% from the MC's POV.

I've read that all of the other signpost 1's should be explored before the end of Act 1. How would you suggest that I introduce these signposts when I have yet to introduce the new world? The IC simply doesn't exist in the "original / real" world. How can I have his signpost (or their relationship signpost) explored before the characters have been introdcuced?

Please let me know if I'm not making sense with this question; I'll be happy to clarify. If you could offer me any suggestions that might get the gears in my head moving again, I'd greatly appreciate it.

All the best !!

Answer: First let me say: good qustion!

Here are some possibilities to consider...

1. In some stories, the impact character's influence in act one is not so obvious. For instance, if the impact character travels to the real world in disguise and intervenes in some small way in the main character's life, or intervenes in the world and the main character sees the intervention (not realizing until much later that it was the impact character).

(A small example: in the film, Hook we don't meet Captain Hook until act two, after Peter arrives in Neverland. However, Peter's children do see Hook at their 3rd-floor window, off-camera, in act one. We know because they tell Peter: "He said he was a window-washer." This creates a little foreboding, because the audience wonders who this mysterious and creepy stranger was.)

2. Bear in mind that when you are braiding the throughlines you are working out what happens in chronological order. You are free, however, to tell the story out of sequence. For instance, the impact character might do something at a point in time before you actually start telling the story. The main character may discover the impact character's first signpost later either by flashback, someone's account of the event, clues, etc. It still counts if it affects the course of events.

For example, in Harry Potter, Voldemort murders Harry's parents before the story begins. Harry only learns what happened later from others and from snatches of memory that arise.

In both these examples, the relationship between the main and impact characters begins well before the story starts. It's just that the audience and/or main character doesn't twig to it until later.

3. Let's say you just don't see any reason for the impact character to meet the main character until act two, or to enter the real world. You can still begin the impact character throughline in act one using a hand-off.

What you do is have another character, in the real world, stand in for the impact character in act one. This character will espouse the same approach, which is contradictory to the main character's. He or she will start the process of pressuring the main character to change, a process that will accelerate when he meets the real impact character in act two.

As memory serves, the storekeeper in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory seems to fulfill this role, acting as a kind of guardian to Charlie before he meets Willy Wonka. (I'm thinking of the original film and book here, not the more recent version where the storekeeper turns out to be Wonka.)

I hope that gives you some ideas to explore.

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