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Script Tips: Hero, Protagonist, and Main CharacterTuesday, August 10, 2021

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It can be useful to separate the concept of the character who leads the efforts to achieve the Story Goal (protagonist), from that of the character through whose eyes the audience experiences the story on a personal level (Main Character).

  • The Protagonist is one of many characters that populate the ‘big picture’ thread or throughline in a story, sometimes referred to as the Overall Story throughline. These objective characters are defined by their function in the Overall Story throughline. For example, an archetypal protagonist represents the motivation to pursue and consider the story goal and problems. Other objective characters in the Overall Story throughline include archetypes such as the antagonist, the sidekick, the skeptic, guardian, among others.
  • The Main Character is a subjective character and gives the audience a personal view inside the story. It is through the Main Character's perspective that the audience gets the first person (I), “This is what it's like to have personal problems” experience. The other principle subjective character in a story is the Influence Character who consciously or unconsciously challenges the main character's world view by offering an alternative way of seeing or doing things.

One advantage to separating the main character from the protagonist is to be able to work with the Main Character and Overall Story throughlines separately. Here's a simple example:

Let's say the Overall Story Goal is to “find the Holy Grail.” Bob is the protagonist leading the efforts to find it. Fred is the antagonist and wants the Holy Grail to remain hidden at all costs. We also have Sally, Bob's assistant and sidekick, and Angela, Fred's skeptical sister.

So, who is the Main Character?

Anybody we want.

Following storytelling convention, we would make protagonist Bob the Main Character. A “hero” is typically both the Main Character and Protagonist, among other things. Perhaps we want to get the personal view from “the other side” and make skeptical sister Angela the Main Character. We might want to go the Sherlock Holmes route and make the sidekick, Sally, the Main Character—a la Watson in the Sherlock Holmes books. Or we might want to pick the antagonist as the Main Character. By separating their “objective” functions from their “subjective” functions, this lets you go beyond the confines of storytelling conventions. And that is the simplest advantage of separating the two.

Though connected, each story throughline has unique story elements and dynamics.

[NOTE: This tip was excerpted from the article, "How and Why Dramatica is Different from Six Other Story Paradigms" by Chris Huntley.  The full article is in the theory section on the Dramatica.com website

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