Amanda Lewis

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The Importance of Friendship

This morning my little girl was watching Lilo & Stitch, and for those of you who haven’t seen it, it is a lovely tale of two misfits finding a family in each other. Their friendship isn’t exactly easy in the beginning but they grow together. The catch-phrase for the movie is; “O’hana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind, or forgotten.” Coupled with Elvis music; the movie is very likable.

Friendship is important to all stories. In fact the eight major characters have titles and are naturally common to most stories, whether intentional or not.

8 Archetypal Characters: …there are other opposing character functions that are part of a well-rounded story. Altogether, Dramatica Theory identifies 16 basic character functions, divided into 8 basic opposing pairs. (Actually, Dramatica uses the term “motivations,” but I find the term “functions” makes more sense in some cases.) In other words, to make your novel feel complete, it should include a character who… 1) PURSUEs the goal and … 2) one who AVOIDs the goal. 3) one who HELPs someone’s efforts and … 4) one who HINDERs someone’s efforts. 5) one who tries to get someone to CONSIDER a course of action and …6) one who tries to get someone to RECONSIDER a course of action. 7) one who seeks a course or explanation that is LOGICally satisfying and …8) one who seeks a course or explanation that FEELs emotionally fulfilling. 9) one who exhibits self-CONTROL (focuses on one task or area to the exclusion of everything else) and…10) one who appears UNCONTROLled (tries to juggle or reacts to many things at once.) 11) one who makes an appeal to CONSCIENCE and …12) one who makes an appeal to TEMPTATION. 13) one who SUPPORTs (speaks in favour of) any effort and …14) one who OPPOSEs (speaks out against) any effort. 15) one who expresses FAITH (confidence something is true, despite lack of proof) and …16) one who expresses DISBELIEF (confidence something is false, despite lack of proof.)

This is not to say that you must have 16 characters in your novel. Heaven forbid you should be that formulaic! Any character in a novel can fulfil one or several of these functions, and you are free to assign these functions to different characters any way you like. You can have as few as two characters, each of which takes on half the functions. Or you can have as many as 200 characters. (Though not every one of 200 characters may perform a dramatic function in the main plot, minor characters may play important dramatic functions in subplots.) There are, however, two guidelines:

1. Each function should only be fulfilled by one character at a time. Two characters serving the same function simultaneously is redundant. For instance, only one character in a scene should make an appeal to LOGIC or express FAITH.

2. No character should fulfil both functions of an opposing pair. The orphan boy, for example, cannot both pursue revenge and seek to prevent it at the same time.

(I know what you’re thinking. What if your protagonist is conflicted within himself? Couldn’t he both PURSUE and AVOID at the same time? The simple answer is no. However, what writers often do in such situations is create two characters, both of which exist within someone’s mind, who can take on opposing functions. For example, many TV shows have scenes in which a tiny imaginary angel (CONSCIENCE) and devil (TEMPTATION) sit on opposite shoulders of the protagonist, each trying to convince him to take a different course of action. Or you can create one character that represents someone’s LOGICal side and another that represents their FEELing side and have them battle it out in the person’s imagination.

1. Protagonist (pursue, consider) vs. 2. Antagonist (avoid, reconsider)

A protagonist considers the importance of fulfilling the Story Goal and pursues it, while the Antagonist tries to get him to reconsider and does everything to avoid the goal being achieved.

The powerless uncle and the elderly wizard are examples of two other archetypal characters …

3. Guardian (help, conscience) vs. 4. Contagonist (hinder, temptation)

The typical Guardian is like the protagonist’s wise teacher, mentor, or parent who helps him and guides him into doing what is right. The Contagonist (a term invented by Chris Huntley) delays the protagonist and tempts him to give up his pursuit of the goal. (This archetypal character is sometimes known as a Trickster or Temptress.)

If you are a fan of fantasy and science fiction, you are probably quite familiar with the next two archetypal characters…

5. Reason (logic, control) vs. 6. Emotion (feeling, uncontrolled)

For instance, in the various Star Trek television series, the Captain typically has two advisors. One is a Reason character (e.g. Spock, T’Pol, Data, Odo, Warf) who takes a logical approach and appears in control of his emotions. The other is an Emotion character (Dr. McCoy, Riker, Ensign Ro, B’Elanna Torres, Major Kira, Trip) who appeals to the Captain’s feelings and tries to get the Captain to pay attention to more than just the main goal of the mission.

Another example is the characters Ron and Hermione from the Harry Potter novels. Ron generally fulfills the functions of the Emotion archetype, while Hermione takes the Reason functions. (Although, there are issues on which they trade places.)

If you’re not a fantasy fan, you may recall that in several of Jane Austen’s novels, married couples take on the archetypal characters of Reason and Emotion. For instance, in Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth’s father is always rational and controlled while her mother is prone to emotional and irrational outbursts.

The final two archetypal characters are the …

7. Sidekick (support, faith) vs. 8. Skeptic (oppose, disbelief)

Sidekicks express unflinching the emotional support and faith of a best friend or pet (in some stories, the hero’s dog is actually his sidekick). They approve of the hero’s every plan, and are always certain it will succeed. Skeptics, on the other hand, are perpetually pessimistic and opposed to every plan. Marvin, the chronically depressed robot from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, is a good example of a skeptic.

You can use these archetypes in your own novels, particularly if you are writing genre fiction or any work which is more plot-oriented. They are a convenient shortcut, which will not appear stereotyped as long as you dress them up in new clothes.

Taken Verbatim from; an excellent guide for (non-pantser) writers who like to use plotting.

 Is there anyone in your life whom you associate these types in your own life? I have a few (if not all) even though they usually evolve to something different as real people don’t stagnate.

xoxo Happy Monday!


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