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2 minutes
September 10, 2015

Defining The Influence Character's Unique Ability

The definitive answer to this powerful concept of story.

Locked within the Influence Character Throughline is a very unique and important concept: the Influence Character Unique Ability. Long thought to be an indicator of the Influence Character’s power over the Main Character’s Unique Ability, this element of structure recently received greater clarification.

The confusion rests in these two definitions of the concept (both from the Dramatica Story Expert application):

The attribute attached to the Influence Character that makes him uniquely qualified to force the Main Character to address his personal problem is described by his Unique Ability.


the item that makes the Influence Character uniquely able to thwart the Main Character

The latter is vague (thwart how exactly), the former is incomplete; both contradict what is generally understood to be the answer: the item that makes the Influence Character uniquely able to undermine the Main Character’s Unique Ability. Listen to any Dramatica podcast analysis over the past ten years and you’ll hear Dramatica co-creator Chris Huntley define the Unique Ability in this way.

Well, times have changed.

During our recent group analysis of Brief Encounter, Huntley offered clarification:

I have been defining it too narrowly, and too specifically. It is broader, it is not specifically about the Main Character’s Unique Ability … It is, but it isn’t, it’s not as specific … It’s much broader and makes more sense. And it was what we originally had concluded. The Influence Character Unique Ability is the Influence Character’s unique ability to force the Main Character to change.

By defining the Influence Character Unique Ability as something that undermines the Main Character’s Unique Ability, Chris was connecting the Influence Character to the Overall Story—and that’s not what that character is really about. It’s something more subjective, speaking clearly of Influence Character’s sphere of influence over the Main Character.

If you still find yourself confused, try to think of it this way:

  • The Main Character’s Unique Ability influences the Overall Story Throughline towards its Solution
  • The Influence Character’s Unique Ability influences the Main Character Throughline towards its Solution

Why? Because a Story Outcome of Success requires the Overall Story Solution and a Changed Main Character Resolve requires the Main Character Solution. The Unique Abilities are similar in how they affect different Throughlines towards a Solution, but they weren’t affecting the same Throughline as we had been led to believe.

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