So, like a lot of writers on this board, I’ve struggled to find a practical way to make use of the “Assign Characteristics” tab. It always seemed like an amazing planning tool, but trying to line up all the elements and conflicts and relationships and illustrate them was just too complicated, difficult and time-consuming. In the end, I decided this was something better left to my intuition.
Upon recently finishing my first draft though, I’ve suddenly realized that the value of the characteristics tab will come in revisions. Yesterday as I was struggling with the second act of my book, I started plugging my OS characters in and discovered a whole bunch of connections and illustrations that are really going to deepen the story.
So just one example:
An ex-military man is brought to a commune in part to help provide protection from dangerous neighbors. Unfortunately, the commune is committed to non-violence, which makes his task difficult.
Initially I tried to illustrated this in terms of a conflict between the ex-military guy and the spiritual leader of the commune: he is in favor of violence as necessary, while she is committed to pacifism.
But this felt kind of blah. So I ended up half-writing a scene in which I flipped it, and had the spiritual leader secretly urging the soldier to organize an armed defense. That felt potentially more interesting, but also false or at least undeveloped. How would I explain this apparent contradiction?
So assigning characteristics, I end up first giving the spiritual leader a motivation of Conscience—her principles forbid violence. Fair enough. The ex-military guy has a Methodology of Protection (that’s his job).
But then I discovered that I could create a different conflict by assigning a Methodology of Proaction to the spiritual leader and Reaction to the ex-military guy.
So now we have a character who, although her conscience forbids violence, has a proactive approach to threats that causes her to push the ex-military guy to prepare for violence and perhaps even strike first. This conflicts with his Methodology of Reaction: he doesn’t want to act until the problem fully materializes.
Suddenly, both the characters and their reactions feel much more believable, complex, and real.
The magic of Dramatica!