Series Impact Character(s)

by Kyle
(Asheville, NC)

Hi! So glad I found your website. This might be the perfect place to turn to now and in the future.

I am writing a trilogy in the Dramatica software and I plan to make a series storyform as well as a storyform for each installment. I read on Dramatica's website that this approach is desirable and can cover a lot of ground.

I have three different Impact Characters planned for each of the three stories. My question is what do I do for the series storyform?

I have the series IC as a plural player with the three other characters' names. My overall vision is for the MC to be struggling with a Fixed Attitude over the course of the series. In each installment, the book's respective IC will be presenting the opposite Ideology. Each book will have its own MC/IC relationship with that character, but the overall series relationship is peppered in too, stretched out over the three books and ICs. Is there a better way to do this?

Answer: There's nothing wrong with how you envision the series so far, but here are some thoughts...

* Since each book will have its own storyform, in addition to the series storyform, you want to create the sense that the main plot is resolved in each of the first two books, and yet some things are left hanging (the series arcs). The Harry Potter books are a great example of how to do this. Each book has a complete story while advancing the series story as well.

One thing that can help is to have a separate IC for the series itself. Unlike the other ICs, this character's arc and relationship to the MC will be unresolved in the first two books. That way, the reader will want to keep reading the series to find out what happens with this character. (This works particularly well if the series IC is also the series antagonist.)

With that in mind, the other ICs can be used to explore other issues.

* Make sure
you know what the story goal for the series is, as well as the story goal for each installment. They can be quite different. I personally think the 8 elements are the best place to start when sketching a plot.

* You may find that the third book only needs to be about the series storyform. Or at least, the series story will be in the foreground in the third book, even though it has been more in the background in the first two books. By this point, you hope your reader should be anxious to see how the series will resolve.

* It's also helpful to plot out the drivers for the series. For instance, the first driver might be the prologue (perhaps told in flashback in the first book). The second driver might occur at the end of the first book, after that book's storyform has been resolved (sometimes as an epilogue). In this way, the second driver sets up the tension for the next book (what will happen as a result of this event?).

Of course, if you're a beginning novelist, you don't know if the first book will sell, so you may feel inclined to put the second driver at the start of the second book. (Another option these days is to stick the first chapter of the second book, featuring this driver, at the end of the first book as a way to tease readers, but you can only do this if you get a contract for the sequel.) Your editor may have some preferences here.

* Assuming you want your MC to be a change character (the change happening in the last book), that may imply he/she must be steadfast in the earlier books. If the MC changes, then he may not have the same appeal in the next book, so you risk disappointing some readers. For instance, if Katniss had given up her hard edge at the end of the first Hunger Games book, she would not have worked for the next two.

Best of luck.

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by: Kyle

Very helpful thoughts.

Now that you mention it, the third book really is just about wrapping up the series with the other two books hinting at things and setting them up.

Thanks for your help. I'm going to revisit the series and book plots with the 8 questions again.

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Impact Character

by Carolyn Walter-Burch
(London, UK)

Question: Can the impact character forcing the protagonist to question their habitual ways of solving problems be a sort of 'generalised other'? Eg an environment the protagonist finds herself in, where everybody else seems to be doing something a different way?

If so could this be exemplified through various different characters who all take the same approach but different to the protagonists?

Answer: Great question. Sounds like what you are describing is a "man vs. society" type of conflict where the main character finds himself at odds with society as a whole, where his dilemma is whether to conform to social norms or rebel.

Certainly, you can make society itself the impact character, though it is more typical to have a character who represents the attitude or approach taken by society (e.g. Number 2 in the television series The Prisoner or the Prime Minister in A Clockwork Orange).

It is also perfectly acceptable for the role of impact character to pass, like a baton, from one character to another. The main character could encounter several people at different points in the story who have the same attitude/approach and who challenge him in similar ways.

Another variation is stories that have two impact characters advocating opposite approaches. The main character in such stories is often very innocent or naive. He has no experience handling the type of problem before him, so he must choose which of the two impact characters to emulate.

Note that the impact character doesn't have to actually appear in the story, as long as his influence is felt. You could have a character like Big Brother in 1984 who is a mere symbol representing a particular attitude/approach taken by society at large.

Another sidebar: It is common in this kind of story for the impact character to be the antagonist as well, though this is not necessary. You could have a story in which society faces a particular villain and the main character must choose between society's way of tackling the problem or his own.

Lots of possibilities, but the short answer to your question is yes.

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Two Impact Characters?

by Jehrum
(Salt Lake City)

Question: After looking at my overall story outline, I discovered that my main impact character plays that role for most of the novel, but is absent from the first chapter and stops playing the impact character role just before the climax. To accommodate that, a character introduced in the first chapter sort of came to life and developed to have similar goals to those of the main character's, but he uses completely different methods to accomplish these goals. This makes him an ally to the main character in the first chapter, but because his methods and beliefs are so different from those of the main character, they end up clashing just before the climax. This makes him a good candidate for the impact character role, but I already have an impact character who works with the main character for most of the novel and is her polar opposite personality wise. They each present their own points of view to the main causing her to question how she should approach her job and life in general, but represent different ideas that neither compliment or clash each other and are almost never present at the same time in the story. Is it alright to approach the story this way, or should I just stick with one impact character?

Answer: Understand that one caveat here is that I haven't read your story, so I just have to infer from what you're telling me (which is necessarily incomplete).

The key to the impact character is the choice the main character ultimately makes: will she change, and adopt the impact character's approach, or will she grow in her conviction to remain steadfast?

So the first question is: what choice does the main character make? Is her crucial decision to adopt the approach of the first impact character (the one from chapter one) or the second?

From what I gather, your first impact character is present at the beginning (act one in a four-act structure) and near the climax (act three), which suggests that this character provides the example near the climax that has the greatest influence on the main character.

However, I gather the first impact character is missing from act two. Does this mean the main character's inner conflict is missing here (which would be a plot hole)? This would run the risk of deflating the tension regarding this conflict. Usually act two is where the pressure on the main character to change grows. On the other hand, if the second IC repressents the real innuer conflict (the one that must be decided at the climax) then having him just in act two could leave holes in this throughline.

It would be cleaner to have just one impact character. However there are other possibilities...

1. Hand-off the role of impact character to the second candidate in act two. But in this case, the second IC would represent the same approach as the first.

2. Sometimes you can have a main character who doesn't have a very strong conviction, so you can give her two impact characters with opposite approaches all through the story. She must then decide at the climax whose approach to adopt.

3. Sometimes a main character can try out an approach and waver on it before making a firm decision at the climax. For instance, maybe she adopts the first impact character's approach in act one. Then, in act two she is pressured to go in a different direction, perhaps by this second character, but then in act three she realizes the first IC was right all along and chooses to go back to his approach.

4. Sometimes you can have a sub-plot with a second impact character to illustrate why the main character resists the advice of the main impact character. However, in this case you still want the main impact character's arc to be complete. That is, he should appear in all four acts and his influence should be expressed as...

1. setup (establishing influence)
2. growing influence
3. maximum influence
4. impact character's resolution at end of story

Bottom line, I think you have to decide what the crucial inner conflict is for your main character and make sure that is fully developed. If that means reducing the role of another character, so be it.

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Option One
by: Jehrum

I think using option one would fit better into my story than the others. After re-evaluating this new impact character in chapter one, I realized I can make his conflict similar to that of the second impact character and have him appear infrequently through out the novel instead of just in act one and act three just before the climax. Both impact characters will present a similar conflict to the main character, but the first IC will present it in a more extreme way, causing her to adopt the second IC's less extreme version of the new approach.
Thanks for the timely response by the way. I think I would have had a lot of plot holes otherwise and might have had to do a lot more re-writing.

I have a similar question
by: Lessa

I found this post to be very insightful and helpful. In my story, the MC has an item that is with her very nearly all the time and it is used to influence if not outright control her thinking. There is also a character who I have termed the IC who is with her a lot of the time and is constantly trying to get the MC to change her point of view and look at things differently because he has a bad feeling about what is coming if she doesn't. The item has places where its influence is reduced but never completely negated. There are times when she and the IC are not together, never prolonged, just rational ones like him going to have dinner with his family or her attending a meeting. From this very loose description dies it sound like this could be a situation that will hold up?

To Lessa
by: Glen

I seem no problem with your idea. The main and impact characters don't have to be together all the time. As I say above, you might start with the crucial decision/action/insight the main character will make and whether that represents a leap of faith or a doubling down on the tried and true. That will tell you who your IC should be.

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Impact Character

by Kay
(Grand Rapids, MI, USA)

Question: In a story where the main character is the protagonist, does your impact character have to be the antagonist?

Answer: Absolutely not. Traditionally, it has been common in plot-based genre fiction for the impact character to be antagonist, because these stories placed less emphasis on the main character's inner conflict. Combining the protagonist/antagonist relationship with the main character/impact character relationship is a way to simplify things. (Think James Bond vs. Ernst Blofeld in the early bond films, Sherlock Holmes vs. Moriarity, or Batman vs. the Joker.)

However, stories are usually much richer, more emotionally profound when the impact character is someone else and the story of the main character's inner conflict is distinct from (though still connected to) the overall plot. In romances, for example, the impact character is usually the main character's love interest and often these two characters will join forces against the antagonist.

In recent decades, forms of fiction that used to be very simple (for example, comic books) have been putting more emphasis on emotional depth, so it has become common even in these forms for the impact character to not be the antagonist.

For example, in the recent Green Lantern film, the antagonist was Parallax, a rogue villain who fed on fear. The impact character was Sinestro, a character who represented the principles of willpower and courage. He believed one had to reject fear.

Hal Jordan, the main character, tries to follow the same principles as Sinestro, principles he learned earlier from his father. But Hal knows in his heart that his fears cannot be suppressed. Eventually, Hal learns to stop fighting this part of himself, accept his fears, and use them to advantage. So he sticks to his original nature.

This forces Sinestro to change, and we see him at the end giving up his old principles and embracing fear as his new principle.

If you consider the 8 classic archetypal characters, the impact character is often the Guardian (the hero's mentor). For example, Obi wan Kenobi is the impact character to Luke Skywalker. But any of the archetypal characters can be the impact character.

Imagine for instance...
A Contagonist who tempts the main character to change his approach.
An Emotion character who shows the main character how to look at the bigger picture.
A Reason character who shows the main character how to focus on the most important task.
A Skeptic who challenges the main character's illusions.
A Sidekick who is smarter than the hero.

Forgive me for going off-topic a little, but even the protagonist can be the impact character in stories where the main character is someone else. For instance, you could tell the story from the point of view of the sidekick whose hero (the protagonist) shows him a better way to live. This has been the case with several of Dr. Who's companions in recent years. Melanie Anne Phillips often cites the novel To Kill a Mockingbird as a good example of a novel where the protagonist, main character, impact character, and antagonist are all separate characters.

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Multiple or deceased Impact Characters?
by: Anonymous

Is it possible to have more than one impact character, people who represent two extremes of and the main characters chooses? Can the impact character be someone who dies before the story begins but their death and their choices effect and change the mindset of the main character as the story unfolds?

Yes - variations on impact characters are possible.
by: Glen

Yes to both questions.

1. Sometimes you have a main character who doesn't have a firm conviction or an established way of tackling a problem. (For some reason, I have seen a lot of British films with a main character like this who seems rather innocent or naive.)

In these cases, there has to be a reason why the main character doesn't just follow the impact character's example right away. So the writer provides a second impact character and the main character doesn't know who is right. He must wrestle with which of these examples to follow.

2. An impact character doesn't have to be physically present to influence the main character. There are plenty of stories where the impact character is dead, and perhaps exerts influence through a will, diary, dream, memory, etc. Sometimes the impact character can be a ghost or supernatural being.

In other cases, the impact character may be someone the main character doesn't know but studies/watches from afar. For instance, he could be a famous person and the main character tries to follow his example. Or he could be a historical person the main character is studying. For example, in the film Julie & Julia, the famous cooking teacher Julia Child influences the main character, Julie, even though they never meet. Julie simply studies her and follows in her footsteps.

A 'Good' Antagonist?
by: Amanda

There is a character in my story who is an antagonist, but is fighting his own battle of internal conflict and, eventually, ends up joining the protagonists. He's similar to Zuko from the Avatar: the Last Airbender series. I'm planning on writing a series, and he wouldn't 'change' until somewhere in the second book.
So, could he be an impact character by being a romantic interest? He doesn't become a romantic interest till later on for the main character, but he does help the main character when she's in some tough spots, even though he continues to fight against her.

by: Glen

Sounds like a rather complex character.

To be classified as the antagonist, the character should have two functions in the drama.

1. He should seek to avoid/prevent the story goal from being achieved.

2. He should encourage people to reconsider their need to achieve the goal.

It is possible to have other characters opposed to the goal, but the antagonist will be the main one.

To be the impact character, the character must offer the main character an example of a different way of doing things, so that the main character becomes torn as to whether changing or staying the same is the best approach to achieving the story goal.

A character can be the love interest and also be the antagonist and/or the impact character, or he might be neither.

If you are writing from this love interest's point of view, and portraying his inner conflict, then he essentially becomes the main character of his own story, even if it's not fully developed. He should probably have an impact character of his own that triggers his inner conflict (your other main character, for instance). When romances are told from both lovers' viewpoints, each is often the impact character to the other.

Hope that helps.

by: Anonymous

Can the antagonist be the impact character without losing the effect, as you said can happen in such cases, if he is ALSO the love interest (hiding his antagonistic intentions?)

Basically my Protagonist is taken to a very pleasant alien world but has the task of returning to save Earth from itself. She has a love interest on this new world, but though they are falling for each other, he wants her to abandon the goal and stay on the new planet and forget about Earth. He takes secret measures to try to convince her, including some lies, which she later finds out about. In the end, he redeems himself.

So... love interest, Impact Character, Antagonist.

Response to Anonymous
by: Glen

If the alien lover redeems himself in the end, he is probably not the antagonist. In the overall scheme of things, it sounds like he may be the contagonist - whose function is to delay or tempt the protagonist away from the story goal.

On the subjective level, he can also be the impact character. In this scenario, the main character remains steadfast (she doesn't give up her initial approach) which forces him to change in the end - to see things her way.

The antagonist would be the leader of the forces on earth that are creating its destruction.

Hope that helps.

Character Triangle
by: RJ

I have a main/impact character triangle going on and I don't know if I should change it or if it's ok to leave it. I have 3 characters: A, B, and C. A is the protagonist, B is the POV character and A's estranged younger brother, and C is the contagonist and B's best friend. The story has them all together the majority of the time. B is the impact character for A, and C is the impact character for B. C influences B's way of thinking which leads B to change A's way of thinking later on. If I have A and C act as main/impact directly it would leave B as a useless character, but he is the reason behind the entire plot (his happiness and safety is A's motivation) so having him as nothing but a POV character doesn't seem right.
Is there a way I can make this work or should I find a way to make this less complex?

I should also mention character B is the best fit for POV to me because C dies half way through the story and having A as POV would give too much away (a lot of the story's mystery stems from the protagonists identity, motive and goal).

by: Glen

I think you may have slightly misunderstood the theory. The POV character is automatically the main character.

B could only be the impact character to A if the story is being told from A's POV. In other words, you would have to make them both main characters and switch viewpoints at different times. That's the only way the reader gets access to the inner conflict in A's head. Otherwise, we can only infer it from external clues.

I don't think you need to change anything, except to make sure that B makes a crucial decision near the climax--whether to switch and adopt C's approach, or stick with his own--and that decision should determine the outcome (which may result from influencing A). This key decision is the other defining trait of the main character.

impact character and main character
by: Carly

Mom and I thought that the protagonist and MC were the same people, and I always thought that Watson was the main character as well, since, a lot of times, he goes with Sherlock and helps him solve the mystery, and starts to learn how to be a detective.

to Carly
by: Glen

Often the protagonist and main character are one and the same, so much so that many people use the terms interchangeably. Dramatica tries to be more precise about this, giving you a way to better describe stories written from one character's point of view, but in which a different character is leading the pursuit of the story goal.

Incidentally, another term you'll see used for the main character is the "primary point of view character." This term is helpful when describing stories written from multiple points of view.

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Impact Character(s) Throughlines/Domain Questions

by Terrell
(Columbia, MO)

Hello, I have another question regarding character plotting:

A.) Is it possible to to have two separate/opposite impact characters? If so, do each impact character need their own individual "Impact Character Throughline"? If so, would they each need their own "Relationship Throughline"?

B.) If all the answers to the above question is yes, would I then need two separate domains list (Situation,Activity,Manipulation, and Fixed Attitude) for both characters? Assuming that the Main character has a different starting and ending relationship with each Impact character?

P.S. Your help has been tremendous on my story. Thanks again and if you are confused in any way by my question, just point it out and I will correct accordingly.

Answer: Two separate and opposite impact characters are usually employed only if your main character has no established approach - for instance if he is very naive, like a newborn babe in the world.

In such a situation, when the impact character suggests an approach, the main character has no reason not to simply follow that that advice. Result: no inner conflict.

So to create inner conflict for the naive main character, writers will sometimes create two impact characters with opposite approaches so that the main character's inner conflict becomes, "Who do I believe? Who do I emulate?"

The risk you run with this approach is that you could make the main character a less distinct, more bland, because he will seem to switch sides at times, or to be on no side. You would be in effect creating a subplot in which the main character would seem to be in one domain when dealing with one IC and another domain when dealing with the other. He'd be forced into these domains in order to be in opposition to the IC. Very tricky.

You are correct that this implies two relationship throughlines, otherwise the IC who has no relationship with the MC would have a harder time influencing him. (Bear in mind that a relationship can be distant.) However, unless you want to create a second overall throughline as well, the relationship throughlines for both relationships would likely be in the same domain, which would be diagonal to the overall domain.

In a longer novel, it is possible to have more than one story, each with its own set of throughlines. Or you can have subplots that are less developed than the main story. Sometimes the various subplots can involve some of the same characters or share one overall throughline.

However, it is more common to see multiple impact characters who represent the same approach and have the same domain. They simply appear at different times in the story. They represent the same dramatic role, but the baton is passed from one to the other. It's like in The Prisoner TV series where each episode has a different person running the prison, and there's never more than one, but they all have the same approach and attitude.

You can also have a group be the impact character, as in a corporation or army where all the members take the same approach.

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Impact Characters in movies

by Terrell
(Columbia, MO)

Hello, I have a few questions to ask in regards to certain movies.

A.) First have you seen: Inception, Godfather part 1 and 2, The Matrix, as well as The Lord of the Rings Trilogy?

B.) Secondly, if you have seen any of the above movies, my friends and I have been arguing about who were the impact character in each movie. We already know that the main-protagonist in each movie are: Dom Cobb, Michael Corleone, Neo, and Frodo Baggins respectively. Who are each of their impact characters and why in your opinion?

I think in Inception it is either Mal Cobb or Ariadne; Godfather part 1 I think its Vito Corleone, but I have no idea for part 2 because it didn't that anyone influenced him; in the Matrix, it is between Morpheus or Agent Smith; and finally LOTR, I feel its either: Gandalf, Samwise, or Gollum. What do you think?

Your advice have truly been helpful.

Answer: This is a fun game isn't it - picking out the impact character?

Here's my contribution, for what it's worth...

1. The Godfather. I'm not overly familiar with this series, I must confess, but Melanie Anne Phillips pegs the impact character as Kaye Corleone, whose role is to influence Michael not to become part of the organized crime racket. He doesn't take the advice.

2. Inception. When I saw this film, I recall feeling that the impact character was Mal, in that she was trying to convince him that what he thought was real was actually another level of dream. If true, this would destroy his happy ending where he gets to be with his kids again. (In other words, he stays steadfast by not heeding her warning.) But don't take this as definitive.

3. The Matrix. This one is easy. Neo's problem is that he has a hard time believing he could be the One. He doesn't "know himself," as the Oracle points out. Morpheus is the impact character who keeps trying to convince Neo of his potential. The need to rescue Morpheus is what finally causes Neo to change by giving up his self-doubt, which leads to Success. I do understand the confusion, since Agent Smith seems to act as the impact character to Morpheus at one point (when the film switches to Morpheus's point of view). Also Smith keeps saying Neo is "only human." But he doesn't really influence Neo so much as play the role of antagonist, trying to prevent the Goal, which is for the rebels to find the One.

4. Lord of the Rings. I have pondered this one for some time after a student asked me a similar question. While I'm not convinced Tolkein's story structure is 100% sound, I believe the impact character is actually the ring itself. Throughout the film, the ring keeps trying to persuade Frodo to put it on rather than destroy it. Frodo is a change character who, at the climax, follows the ring's direction and puts it on. As a result, though the story's Outcome is Success (the ring is destroyed), the Judgement is Bad. Frodo is left permanently damaged by his mistake (lost finger, morgul wound) and unable to ever truly return to life in the Shire the way his friends do. This makes LOTR a comi-tragedy.

Hope that helps a little.

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by: Terrell

It does and thank you!!!

Impact Characters
by: Nathan

For LOTR. I would say everyone in the fellowship and beyond feels like an impact character. Gandalf especially. Everyone in the fellowship seems to be trying to lead Frodo into making certain decisions at certain points in the novel. From Boromir to taking the ring to Minas Tirith too Smeagol convincing Frodo Sam is not to be trusted. I love the idea of the ring being an impact character itself though. I think that's what makes Lord Of The Rings such an appreciated tale. The characters and how developed everyone is so you can empathise with everyones motive for how there trying to influence the ring and therefore Frodo. Gandalf,Sam and Aragorn seem to be the characters that Frodo innevitably follows however.

by: Glen

You are not incorrect, Nathan, in saying that other characters try to influence Frodo. But the key to the impact character is that he/she occupies the opposite side of the argument that creates the main character's inner conflict - the conflict that is resolved when he makes his crucial decision at the story's climax.

Frodo's personal climax is the moment when he chooses to keep the ring for himself rather than destroy it - a big change from his initial attitude. Which character influenced him most to make that choice? Which character pressured him in that direction? True, Boromir and Gollum would have kept the ring, but their examples actually demonstrate the dangers of keeping the ring. Only the ring itself pressures Frodo to keep it.

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Can multiple characters be impact characters to each other?

by JL

Question: Is it okay to have three characters be impact characters to each other? I've chosen my "main" character, as in, the character that'll be making THE choice in the climax, but my other two characters are also PoV characters and I'd like to develop them fully.

Answer: Yes, it is possible.

The key is to have each of your POV characters experience a different type of inner conflict, so they can impact or influence each other in different ways. Redundancy tends to be boring.

Bear in mind that to fully develop all three characters can make your novel feel like three stories in one, since all POV characters are the hero of their own stories. It may help unify the book if they can all share the same overall throughline, i.e. be involved or affected by the effort to solve the problem that concerns the story world.

Best of luck.

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Two main impact characters?

by Uchiha Sasuke

Question: So, my character is really damaged/depressed for the first part of the novel. From the start, he has this best friend that is the obvious impact character that is trying to help him through and heal him and stuff. Later in the story, the main character's brother comes into the story. His brother is also trying to help him through and stuff. Is it OK that the brother and friend are both impact characters?

Also, another thing that helps the main character heal is this girl he starts to like throughout the story

Answer: What you want to do is create a strong tension between two opposing approaches. The main character will have his approach and the impact character will have the opposite.

There are two ways you can do this in your situation.

1. Consider that story world, including all the minor characters, may have its own approach and values. But these may not touch on the main character's real conflict.

For instance, let's say you have a character who's depressed and wants to die. The world around him may be full of people who don't understand him and simply think he should buck up and stop feeling the way he does. But these people don't have any real impact on him.

Added to this, you might have one character who demonstrates a reason to live that no one else does -- someone who really does get under the main character's skin and makes him question his approach in a way no one else manages to do. That is the impact character.

2. It is possible for the impact character's function to be handed off from one character to another. This is usually done in cases where the original impact character dies or exits the story. For instance, let's say the main character had a grandmother he loved who demonstrated a reason to live when he was younger, but has now passed on. But then he meets a girl who has the same joie de vivre his grandmother did and causes him to reconnect with those old feelings and re-examine his current attitude.

Bear in mind that it is usually more effective to have one character at a time impact the main character in a personal way. To have several characters at once performing the impact character function at once is redundant and can feel artificial -- more like an intervention than a relationship.

A final tip... Often -- though not always -- the impact character is the main character's love interest, because few relationships touch us as deeply as a romantic relationship. Also, men tend to be linear thinkers and women tend to be holistic thinkers. Therefore, a love interest is often well suited to offer a different perspective on a problem -- and be listened to.

Best of luck.

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Impact Character

Question: My impact character is my main character's long time friend. My protagonist is supposed to be a fairly decisive person, is there a way to create a balance between him being influenced by the impact character and sticking to his own judgement?

Answer: One way is to have your main character see the impact character succeed at something by taking the opposite approach the main character would. You can also have the main character try to do things in his usual way and not achieve success. Or you could have the impact character beat the main character in some competition. Several incidents like these in the first two acts create pressure for the main character to change. Of course, the impact character could also try to persuade the main character to do things differently, but examples speak louder than words.

Usually, the main character won't actually switch to the impact character's way of doing things until the climax, when there's so much at stake he can't afford to fail. By that point, enough doubt has been created in his mind that he's willing to try something new.

Of course, some main characters refuse to change. In such cases, the impact character usually changes instead. Sometimes that works out, and sometimes it doesn't (depends whether you want a happy ending).

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Impact Characters gone wrong!!!

by Terrell
(Columbia, MO)

Hey, is it possible for an impact character to influence the protagonist to a point that he/she actually does change in the end, but however, the impact was not like how the impact character intended?

For example, can a protagonist be a archetypal good guy and their impact character is more of an anti-hero; willing to do what is necessary to get the job done. However, when or if the protagonist changes his/her ideals to match the impact character, he/she instead takes it a step further and is much worse than the impact character and not exactly how the impact character wanted to influence them?

Answer: Technically, the main character's perception of the impact character and his interpretation of what the impact character is doing creates the pressure to change. Sometimes the impact character is trying to influence the main character. Sometimes he's just following his own agenda and the main character observes what the impact character does and responds entirely on his own. And sometimes the main character can misinterpret the impact character.

For instance, an interesting variation is the Hitchcock film Rope, in which a student who takes to heart the words of a former teacher and conspires to commit murder to prove his 'superiority.'

The student then invites the teacher to dinner and the bulk of the film consists of the student dropping hints about the murder. (We suspect he again is showing off his superiority and wants the teacher's approval once the murder is discovered.)

Of course, the teacher is horrified to see how he has unwittingly influenced his student (who probably suffers from sociopathology), and condemns rather condones his actions.

It's a variation because the film starts at the climax and really is just the fourth act of the story. However, it is an example of how a main character can be influenced by an impact character, even though the impact character had no intention of having such an influence.

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The role of the impact character

by claudiacv

Question: I´ve been reading about the role of the IC and I think Dramatica states that it should not be the antagonist (am I right?)but rather a mentor or friend--someone who can push the MC into doing what he has to do or being who he was meant to be. Is this correct? But what if the antagonist serves this purpose?

My second question would be--does the IC have to physically present throughout the story or can it be a memory of someone, for example the memory of the father figure that lives inside the MC?

Answer: Actually, the impact character can be the antagonist, but that may not be the best choice for your story.

In the traditional, comic-book, pulp fiction type of hero story, the hero was both the main character and the protagonist while the villain was both the antagonist and the impact character.

In that type of story, the hero defines himself as different from the villain in a fundamental (and virtuous way). The villain may try to convince the hero to become like him, but fails. When the hero wins the conflict, the thematic message is that virtue wins over evil.

The problem with having the antagonist be the impact character is that it makes it hard for the main character to change - because changing would mean becoming like the villain. It would be like George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life accepting the job offer from old man Potter - which would imply becoming like him. Or like Batman giving up his sense of justice and becoming no different than the Joker.

The reason these stories feel so predictable is that they are. Sophisticated readers know the hero will remain steadfast, because it would be unthinkable for him not to (except perhaps in tragedy). The writer can try to make the decision seem difficult, but the sophisticated readers usually see through that.

However, if you separate the roles of the impact character and the antagonist, the main character does not have to remain steadfast. The impact character can be an example of the either the wrong way or the right way to solve the story problem. The right decision at the climax becomes less predictable. Should the main character change or not? Is the main character's usual approach the right way to solve the problem, or is the impact character's way right? Neither the main character nor the reader knows for sure until after the crisis has been resolved. The main character does not have to remain steadfast but can change at the crisis, adopt the impact character's approach, and have that be the right decision.

Of course, there are still many stories written in which the villain is the impact character and the main character stays steadfast. Series, for example, often work this way, because if the main character changed he would be a different person in the next book and might not appeal to the same type of reader.

As for your second question...

No, the impact character does not have to be physically present for his influence to be felt. His/her influence can come through memories, other character's recollections, diaries, monuments, videos, classroom lessons, religious teachings, etc. For instance, you could have a story where the main character's idol is Captain Picard from Star Trek. Every time the main character had a tough choice, he might think about what Picard would have done. Or he might flip through a book of Picard quotations, get a visit from an imaginary spirit of Picard, watch an episode of Star Trek on DVD, talk to a Picard fan, etc.

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