Alter-Ego as Impact Character?

I’m going to start a re-watch of the Breaking Bad series. I’m thinking the main character is Walter White and the Impact Character is actually his alter-ego or his inner self, Heisenberg. When I think of the best non-MC characters, they often have a backstory with an impact event rather than an impact character:

Snape (death of Lily Evans Potter), Dumbledore (death of his sister), Gus Fring (death of his friend / business partner), Mike Ehmantrout (death of the abused woman when he was a cop)…hmm, I’m sensing a pattern.

So, my 3 questions are:

  1. Can an alter-ego be a true impact character when both “characters” are completely aware of each other (not a split personality)?

  2. Should we consider impact events or impact characters for most of our non-MC charaacters and can we map out impact eventrs in the Dramatica model?

  3. Has anyone taken their story and done the entire Dramatica storyform process with secondary characters set as the MC and mapped all the relationships? Lessons learned?


Can the story look at the alter ego from a perspective that treats the character/ego as a source of influence toward or by means of an alternative approach to the story’s problem?

This is getting more existential than I realized. Whether we call it an impact character or an impact event - the decision to alter course or fight to remain steadfast exists solely in the mind of the MC. For me, at the beginning of learning Dramatica Theory, the impact character feels like a fuzzy concept balancing on a slippery slope. What I think of as the impact character, in the case of Walter White, is a series of events followed by a decision to wake up to his true nature: growing up being taught charity is for failures, then feeling unworthy socially with wealthy friends who he felt superior to intellectually - but then losing out to them in the business that they started together, then being humiliated at his teaching job, at his part-time job and at home, then getting a terminal cancer diagnosis, then seeing even his laziest student making much more money than him - a student he failed in chemistry who is using chemistry, crudely, to make piles of cash while his teacher works two jobs…all of those inputs are the soldier standing in the trench making Walter decide to meekly accept getting beaten for the last time - or to let his inner Heisenberg out and unleash his entire intellect - to win at any cost.

So, I’m left with the MC’s mind being autonomous and characters and events just being inputs. I don’t know if this way of looking at things is reconcilable with the Dramatica Theory. Any thoughts and advice will be very much appreciated. Thanks!

I definitely think an “alter-ego” can be a different Character than the main personality. Here’s an example with a classic superhero: imagine Superman/Batman is forced into a hostage situation as their mundane self. Normally, they’d break out the powers and save the day, but the fact that they don’t want to reveal themselves in front of everybody means their alter ego is a Hindrance to them. In more extreme circumstances, a character might see their alter-ego as more emotional (or more rational) than themselves, even going so far as to argue with their alter-ego about what’s right and wrong. An example of this could be when Dr. Horrible (from the web musical named after himself) sings:

“It’s gonna be bloody / head up, Billy buddy / there’s no time for mercy.” (Billy being his mundane counterpart.)

It’s not about the character. It’s about the perspective that the story takes. That is, it’s about how the story-or, if it’s easier, about how you as the author-looks at the character.
If you look at the character as embodying an alternative approach to the story’s inequity such that the approach they take is metaphorically saying to the personal perspective on the inequity “take this other path” or “don’t go down that road”, then the character can fulfill the role of IC. So can the story look at, say, Bruce Wayne as having one approach to the inequity and Batman as having another?
@actingpower ‘s post (long time, no see, btw. Welcome back) has some good examples, I think.

As for Breaking Bad, do your examples influence the Storymind-or, if it’s easier, Walter White-to take another approach to inequity, or do they simply act as tension for his current approach? That is, are they part of the conflict that lets Walter and the audience know that his current approach is problematic?

Would Birdman have been the IC, if the movie was a Grand Argument Story?

These things are good detail, and may show up as story points or appreciations, but they are unlikely to be well-rounded enough to consider for a storyform.

Treating non-MCs as MCs tends to generate different storyforms, since you’d be addressing different problems from new POVs. I’ve kind of done this, but stories are oriented around one inequity, and this introduces other inequities, so it can be weird. Look at Han Solo—we treat his debt to Jabba as its own storyform, but it’s not really touched on that much.

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