October is Influence Character Month here at Narrative First because what could be more scary than an alternative perspective designed to challenge your own personal justifications and make you question why you do the things you do? After all, that is the reason for an Influence Character in a complete story—to frighten and influence the Main Character into shaking things up.
Problem is, many writers find confusion in Dramatica’s explanation of certain Influence Character Throughline story points. Are these appreciations something experienced by the Influence Character themselves, or are they something the Influence Character sees outside of themselves? Do they need to directly impact the Main Character or can they be separate events that indirectly impact the central character of a story?
The Influence Character’s Subjective Viewpoint
We recently covered Understanding the Influence Character’s Signposts, but a little repetition never hurt anyone—especially when it comes to highly complex and sophisiticated story theory. Today, we’ll take a look at the Influence Character’s Symptom. Dramatica defines it as:
The Influence Character concentrates his attention where he thinks his problem lies. Just as in the Main Character, an inequity exists in the Influence Character between himself and his environment which is driving him. The actual nature of this inequity is described by the Influence Character Problem Element. The nature of what is required to restore balance is described by the Influence Character Solution Element. From the subjective view afforded to the Influence Character though, the inequity does not appear to be between himself and the Environment but wholly in one or the other. The Symptom Element describes the nature of how the problem appears to the Influence Character from his subjective point of view.
Notice the lack of reference to direct or indirect impact. It simply doesn’t matter. What does matter is that this alternative perspective sees the problem subjectively as the Influence Character Symptom. Communicate that and the Audience will synthesize the meaning from it.
Influencing the Main Character
With this in mind, the Influence Character Symptom functions both ways: either as a problem the Influence Character experiences themselves or a problem they see in others or other things. It's enough for the storyform that the alternate viewpoint to the Main Character’s point-of-view sees this as symptomatic of what is going on. The Main Character, challenged by this character's take on things, will necessarily reevaluate his or her own strategy. If he thinks this is a problem, and I don't even see it, what does that mean about me? the Main Character will ask themselves internally. You want that kind of impact on the Main Character in your own story.
Note you don't have to make this explicit in your storytelling. The storyform already makes sure that the different Throughlines sync up. That is the whole reason for Dramatica—to keep all those thematics tied together. You can be explicit, but you don't have to make the connections; the audience will make that connection with or without you.