Mixing Character Archetypes

by Seth


I'm reading Dramatica and trying to get the hang of characters. Specifically, I'm wondering whether it's possible for the antagonist to also be the contagonist, or for the protagonist to be his own sidekick!

Example 1: Darth Vader might be seen as both the antagonist and contagonist in Empire Strikes Back. He tempts Luke to the Dark Side (contagonist) but also acts as his greatest and final adversary, trying to keep him from his goal of saving his friends (antagonist). I think it's a lot clearer in RotJ that the Emperor is the antagonist (leaving Darth the contagonist), but the Emperor's role in Empire is very small.

My antagonist is trying to steer my protagonist to think differently and join him. This makes him seem like contagonist and the influence character and the antagonist at the same time. There IS an "unseen" bigger-bad than my antagonist, but he gets zero screentime in this book, making him a weak antagonist. Right?

Example 2: these may be shows you don't know, but in both Hunter x Hunter (an anime) and Steven Universe (a kid's cartoon), the protagonist is characteristically VERY positive, faithful, and credulous, always believing in the best outcome. Although they have side characters who support them as well, they have all the characteristics of being their own sidekick. If nothing else, that element of faith/belief
is overrepresented between the protagonist and his ACTUAL sidekicks. What do you think of this?

Thank you for the clarification!

Answer: Hi Seth,

First, I would say that the antagonist in the Star Wars Trilogy is Emperor Palpatine, and the goal is to free the galaxy of his rule. Darth is contagonist because he is pursuing a different agenda (taking over the galaxy and ruling it with Luke), and so Darth interferes with everyone by tempting and hindering.

However, it is certainly possible to mix and match elements. The only guidelines are that you don't have a character playing two opposite roles. For example, a character shouldn't be both antagonist and protagonist at the same time because then he'd be fighting himself.

Keep in mind, a character doesn't necessarily need a lot of "screentime" so long as their force is felt in some way. And sometimes an antagonist can have a stand-in (e.g. Governor Tarkin in Star Wars).

Re: sidekicks as protagonists

Usually a sidekick is there to offer support to the protagonist (or whoever they are with) when it's needed. This allows you to have a protagonist feel disheartened and get cheered up, so they don't seem unrealistically confident.

Usually it is better to separate the roles rather than combine too many into one character, so they can have more interesting conversations.

Best of luck.

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