Does your story suffer from “Multiple Personality Disorder”?
psychology, Multiple Personality Disorder describes a person who has more than
one complete personality. Typically, only one of those personalities will be
active at any given time. This is because they usually share attributes, and so
only one can have that attribute at any particular moment.
also suffer from Multiple Personality Disorder if more than one character
represents a single attribute. In such a case, both should not be able to appear
in the story at the same time. If they do, the audience feels that the story is
fragmented, or more simply put, the story has developed a
Dramatica sees a story as representing a single mind.
Most writers have been taught that characters, plot, theme, and genre are
people, doing things, illustrating value standards, in an overall setting and
mood. In contrast, Dramatica sees characters, plot, theme, and genre as
representing different “families of thought” which go on in the story mind as it
grapples with a central problem.
Characters are the “drives” of the Story
Mind, which often conflict as they do in real people. Plot describes the methods
used by the Story Mind in an attempt to find a solution to its central problem.
Theme represents the Story Mind’s conflicting value standards, which must be
played out one against another to determine the best way of evaluating the
problem. Genre describes the Story Mind’s overall
Traditional story theory states that each character must be
a complete person to be believable to an audience. But because the characters
represent the independent drives of a single Story Mind, each is not really a
complete person but is rather a facet of a complete mind. In fact, if you make
each character complete, they will all be overlapping, and will give your story
It is in the story TELLING stage where characters
take on the trappings of a complete person, not in the story STRUCTURE. Each
character needs to be given traits and interests, which round out the
character’s “presence,” making it feel like a real human being. But these
trappings and traits are not part of the dramatic structure. They are just
window dressing – clothes for the facets to wear so the audience can better
relate to them on a personal level.
Think about the characters you have
seen in successful stories. They might represent Reason, Emotion, Skepticism, or
function as the Protagonist or Antagonist, for example. Each of these kinds of
characters is an “archetype” because it contains a whole family of drives in one
character. For example, a Protagonist may contain the drive to “pursue,” and
also the drive to be a self-starter, “pro-action.” Because these drives work
together in harmony, the character becomes archetypal.
drives don’t have to be bundled in an archetype, however. In fact, each single
drive might be assigned to a different character, creating a multitude of simple
characters. Or, characters might get several drives but conflicting ones. These
characters are more “complex” because their internal make-up is not completely
Regardless of how the drives (also called character
“elements”) are assigned, each drive should appear in one and only one
character. If not, your story may develop Multiple Personality Disorder and
leave your audience unable to relate to the story as a whole.