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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Archetypal Breakdown

by Melanie Anne Phillips
creator StoryWeaver, co-creator Dramatica

Recently this question came my way:

So my question is how come this (from the Author’s perspective) is the first set wherein the Archetypes don’t fit in with the Dramatica rules. Specifically I am referring to the Sidekick, Skeptic, Guardian, and Antagonist’s Purposes. They all have ratings and judgments in the same quad! (Ability and Knowledge, Order and Equity, etc.) Does this mean that when using these Archetypal Purposes they will feel weaker or that they internally contradict one another? I think I remember from the online book (v.3) that when elements from the same quad are used in the same character that it kind of narrows what you can do as an author and creates a sort of internal conflict within the character.

Here is a brief response:

To answer your question, first take a look at the Dramatica structural chart. You’ll notice that the good ol’ original eight Archetypes work fine in Universe, Physics, and Psychology, but not in Mind. If you try to create them in Mind, the Elements of, say, the Protagonist (Pursuit and Consider) are in the same quad!

Why? Because the structure has a built-in bias. Simply put, when you look at anything, you aren’t looking at what’s behind you. Another way, when you look around yourself, you never see what is right under your feet. Instead, you have to synthesize that view based on the information you DO see.

This means there would be no way to see the Dramatica structure at all, unless we adopt a point of view. And, as soon as we have a point of view, we can see one part clearly and another part gets wanky.

But, the "wankiness" is consistent, so that the Story Engine can be accurate.

Now, when seen from this perspective, Motivations are the most clearly seen dimension of character. So, the 8 original Archetypes work in three out of four Classes. And, if seen as Motivation characters, then you can see their Evaluations, Methods, and Purposes. But if you shift your point of view of the characters and see them as Evaluation characters (rather than Motivation character who have Evaluations) the patterns fall apart. The patterns are equally wanky with Methods, but when you get all the way across the lake to Purposes (the farther thing from Motivations) then the patterns go completely haywire.

Still, looking at those other perspectives of Archetypes is a much better way to describe many of the stories that are told. To truly tailor Dramatica the software to accommodate that part of the theory, you would need to create four DIFFERENT arrangements of the structure that favored each of the four perspectives. We’ve talked about that, but it is a mammoth task and will require some time to get it right.

In the meantime, you may note that Dramatica’s "rule" about Elements is that characters should "never" contain dynamically opposite Elements (those that are diagonal on the chart). This is never violated by any of the new Archetypes nor the original 8. Then there is a rule of thumb that it is usually better not to put Elements from the same quad into a single character, but this is only true part of the time and should be taken with a grain of salt.

I hope this clarifies the issue a bit and makes the Archetypes a tad more accessible and a bit more useful.