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Basic question - identifying characters

Posted: Jun 09, 2014 9:31 am
by tokyorose
Hi All,

Apologies if this has been discussed numerous times in the past - I went through the messages and found a lot of great help and advice but I couldn't find an answer to fit my current conundrum...

I am developing a story for a novel and I'm having real problems identifying my various characters as I work through Dramatica. The rough outline is as follows:

A policeman, just the wrong side of middle age (we'll call him Jim), is pastured-out to a small 'retirement village' whose inhabitants are not all that they seem. He is introduced to the village and its residents by his Community Liaison (kind of an unofficial position akin to the head of the neighborhood watch - we'll call her Nicci) and we follow his first few days as he settles in, resentful of this new posting, feeling as if he has been forced into a kind of early retirement in this strange, sleepy village.

He makes a few attempts to escape, writing to his superiors, calling on favors etc. All of which fail and he is forced to make the best of his new situation, convinced that he will sleep his way through the remainder of his career - that is until one of the villagers is murdered.

Suspicion immediately falls on two potential suspects, one is known to be on vacation however Jim is forced to arrest the other suspect for his own good as some of the villagers begin making dire threats of retribution. It becomes obvious to Jim that the suspect he has in custody is innocent, which means he now has a murder to solve.

With Nicci's assistance he begins to investigate the murder. When the second suspect (we'll call him Luke) returns to the village (albeit in hiding from the other residents) Jim and Nicci track him down and he convinces them that he was abroad at the time of the murder.

As the investigation progresses Jim discovers that the murderer was the victim's own father - someone who, until that point, everyone had believed to be not of sound mind OR body. Jim arrests the murderer however he realizes that the father was simply a tool and had been manipulated into the murder by Luke all along - Luke had even sent the murder weapon to him disguised as an innocent keepsake.

With time running out Jim and Nicci pursue Luke, catching him just as he is about to leave the village and vanish for good.

So essentially it's a murder mystery story with a splash of detective work. My problem is that I cannot identify my Impact Character, nor even my antagonist. Is Luke the antagonist? Jim is trying to solve a murder that Luke arranged but Luke does not actively try to thwart Jim - indeed Luke is convinced that the murder will be solved and that the father will take the fall given his mental state. Or is that alone enough to make Luke the Antagonist?

Who then would be the Impact Character? Once the murder happens Jim's motives are fairly simple, stemming as they do from his duty as a policeman. If that is the case the only opposing view I can see would be that of Luke himself - Can Luke be both the Antagonist AND the Impact Character?

What role would I assign to the father? As the unwitting pawn who has been taken advantage of by Luke?

Once again, sorry if I am being vague and sorry if this has been covered a thousand times before but right now I am well and truly stuck so any help or advice would be greatly appreciated!



Re: Basic question - identifying characters

Posted: Jun 24, 2014 3:06 pm
by Chris Huntley
Yes, Luke can be both Antagonist and Impact Character.

If Luke committed the murder and the goal is to try to identify the murderer, then Luke would be the Antagonist if he's trying to prevent being identified as the murderer.

When trying to identify characters and assign characteristics, always think of what the characters are REALLY doing (as from the author's god's eye point of view), NOT what it seems like they are doing. This is tricky when doing a mystery because the mystery comes from the storyweaving and is not represented in the storyform.

Re: Basic question - identifying characters

Posted: Jun 26, 2014 6:05 am
by tokyorose
Hi Chris

Thanks so much for your advice - that's helped a LOT. You're right, I was thinking in terms of the role Luke was playing as opposed to what he was actually doing!

What about the father as someone manipulated into committing a murder on Luke's behalf? He doesn't seem to fall into any of the archetypes. Essentially Luke has played on his instability and poked him into acting, while he commits the act with his own hands he is not 100% responsible for his actions, his mental state leads him to believe that what he is doing is for the greater good - he attempts to hide the fact that he is the murderer not because he fears justice but because he fears it will undo this greater good that he believes he is bringing about. I have attempted to work this into the story form a couple of times but I cannot figure out where the father would fit in :(

Anyway, thanks again for your advice it is much appreciated!



Re: Basic question - identifying characters

Posted: Jun 28, 2014 8:21 am
by Chris Huntley
That's the DISadvantage of character archetypes. They're too simple to describe more complex characters. In those instances, I recommend breaking away from archetypes by assigning players specific characteristics (character functions). That said, unless the father is the MC or IC, I wouldn't worry too much about his function until you've developed the story further. It's likely that you'll make him do what he should be doing and then be able to identify those 'traits' after the fact.

Do not forget that Dramatica as a system and piece of software is a tool to aid your writing. Do not allow yourself to be a slave to its forms. Use it to tune up your writer's intuition, not replace it.

Re: Basic question - identifying characters

Posted: Aug 12, 2014 1:19 am
by tokyorose
Hi Chris,

Many thanks for the advice!