The Impact Character

by Amanda

Question: I just finished reading your article on Writing an Outline, and the only snag I've really encountered in it is the Impact Character Throughline. I think I know who it is in my story, yet I've only come up with one signpost. I'm not sure I understand who the impact character is. Can you give some examples of impact characters from other stories, and maybe some tips on filling in the signposts?

Answer: The impact character will be the person who offers the main character an example of a different approach - or argues for a different approach - which creates the main character's inner conflict. ("Should I do what I know to do, or do what he would do?")

The MC's choice of whether to change or stay steadfast determines whether he/she can achieve the story goal.


Obi wan Kenobi is the IC to Luke Skywalker, urging him to trust his feelings/the Force rather than his senses/anxiety.

Voldemort is the IC to Harry Potter. While Harry always risks his life to save others, Voldemort kills others to preserve his own life.

Peeta is the IC to Katniss in the Hunger Games. While Katniss generally takes a pragmatic approach for the sake of her family's survival, including letting the Games change her, Peeta will risk his own safety to help her and cling to his own identity.

Twilight - Edward is IC to Bella, giving her an example of who she might become.

Often, the IC is either the antagonist, the love interest, or a mentor figure. But any character can be the IC.

It's actually a fun game to watch movies or read books and try to spot the impact character. Look at the decision the main character makes at the climax. Does he stay the same or follow someone else's example/urging? The IC will be the one creating the choice.

Generally, the IC's signposts chart the progress of his influence on the main character. The first signpost is when the main character first sees the IC taking a different approach. The second signpost may have the IC's example put more pressure on the MC to change. Third signpost will be the IC's strongest argument. Fourth signpost will show how things turn out for the IC.

Bear in mind that the IC isn't necessarily trying to influence the MC (although that can be the case). It may be that the MC simply observes the IC, sees how he tackles problems, and then is forced to evaluate whether the IC's approach is the right one for the MC to take.

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