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.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.

search this site the web
search engine by freefind

Celebrating our 2nd year as one of the...

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero