Updated: Mar 11
Some writers may not understand need to engage audiences beyond common entertainment. Ignorance of a certain ‘need’ factor may begin and end with just filling time. This is a ‘Head or Mind function;’ far from the deeper heart-felt satisfaction. This is what enables empathy with the writer, ‘represented’ by the protagonist. It should echo the life changing personal experiences of each or all audience members.
That is indeed the typical writer’s inner conflict, mirrored in the Protagonist’s Back Story. Some sort of protagonist’s implant, which influences relationship with the antagonist in the story’s external conflict. Every other character also brings his or her back story to impact the Overall Story (OS) goal.
Accordingly, every movie character, especially the protagonist, must have some motivation to become part of the writer’s exposé on his or her ‘pain, bitterness, social inequity or imbalance’. Notwithstanding the writer, rep by the protagonist is motivated by an external stimuli or inciting incidence to take action. This prompts a Call to Adventure, indicated in Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey.
The protagonist’s motivation is, to be more precise, a call to experience change too. Really, as humans we are always sensitive to change; responding and getting oriented. So, while creating a story, we get oriented in a series of causes and effects; looking out for the next change.
Our audiences empathize by identifying with movie characters’ stories and lifestyles. More so with protagonist, main character or hero’s life standards. They, audience get valuable information to help resolve their inner conflicts; the writer’s values, ‘spoken’ through the protagonist.
The hero steps in as ‘us’ to rescue ‘us’ from the antagonist’s evil. This is why we watch movies frequently to ensure rescue from the anti-hero or antagonist. Once the two opposing characters become obstacles to each other’s goals, purposes or dreams in an unfolding Overall Story (OS) conflict, we identify with the hero.
Who are these two opposing forces in the story we love to experience? There are the selfless and selfish; morally right and wrong, respectively. We love the selfless or self-sacrificing, because moral indignation is our ancient life-blood. This, echoes Will Storr in his TEDxManchester Science of Storytelling. So, we are pitched against the Selfish, Greedy Prejudiced and Powerful, who fights us, the Selfless, Generous, Defenseless and Respectful.
Interestingly there are two kinds of story characters according to Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley, developers of Dramatica Story Theory. Most characters in any story play roles as Overall Story, while the Protagonist and Antagonist function as Subjective Story characters. The Overall Story characters embody dramatic functions (external conflict); while Subjective Characters personify point of views (inner conflicts).
Even so the protagonist’s role is further split into Main Character, whose inner conflict the audience shares. To that extent, while the protagonist’s goal drives the plot, the Main Character embodies the story’s thematic exposition. This denotes a certain bias or viewpoints as transmitter of the story’s meaning.
Flipped, the Antagonist’s influence or impact could also be split into Impact Character and Antagonist. In biased or subjective story positions, the Impact Character’s point of view plays against or stands in the way of the Main Character’s point of view. Both therefore play-off each other’s ‘belief systems.’
All story characters are standard story character archetypes or signatures. Basically, archetypes are templates or models from which derivatives of their kinds are produced. It is also human collectively inherited unconscious ideas, thought patterns or images popularly accepted. Storytellers use archetype characters because of limited time or space to emphasize story aspects such as plot or theme; most familiar to their audiences.
Archetype characters are basically simple and not fully developed to make them feel real. There are eight basic character archetypes: Protagonist, Antagonist, Reason, Emotion, Sidekick, Skeptic, Guardian and Contagonist. But recalling the split of the protagonist’s role into Main Character, MC and likelihood of antagonist split for the Impact Character, IC role for subjective, biased points of view of the Overall, all other characters drive the Overall or Objective Story.
As soon the protagonist and main characters are combined, our usual story hero is born!