Consequences that are Playing a Role

When the consequences are playing a role, they are definitionally only temporary. This reduces their significance (as temporary is always better than permanent, all else being equal). How do you make sure they are suitably intense?

I came up with something good that ends up being temporary instead of permanent (i.e. not being homeless or not being crippled or having the love and respect of your family or the like), but is that the only way?

There’s no ‘one size fits all’, really. It depends on the story. For a consequence of Being, what is actually temporary will feel like an eternity. Some examples of Being consequences:

  • Some Like It Hot: the guys will have to continue their ruse as Daphne and Josephine for a significant amount of time.

  • The Jungle Book: pretending to be okay living under Shere Khan’s rule (similar to Star Wars, where the consequence is pretending to be “proper citizens” under the rule of the Empire)

  • Grave of the Fireflies: pretending that there aren’t bodies everywhere; that people aren’t dying.

All three examples have a temporary element, in that all three scenarios could (and likely will, at some point) theoretically end at any moment: the mob could stop hunting for the guys; Shere Khan could die of natural causes or just generally disappear; the war could end.

But in the context of those stories, the consequence feels more lasting. Every single one is about adopting a persona of some kind, but they’re all bad. The guys don’t even want to pose as women, especially when Marilyn turns up – so we know that keeping up that ruse for an extended period of time would be a bad outcome. Everyone in the kingdom is terrified of Shere Khan, and many hide from him – so we know that having to try and pretend everything is fine would be a bad outcome. I think everyone can agree that even the thought of surviving in a war is unthinkable, let alone trying to pretend it isn’t happening – so this is a very bad outcome.

As long as the consequence is about adopting some kind of lifestyle or persona that your protagonist does not want, it’ll be significant. Temporary is better than permanent, sure, but even something temporary (for example, a term in office by a leader one finds abhorrent or distasteful) can feel like a lifetime of misery if it’s something you don’t want.


Don’t think of “temporary” as referring to how long one will play a role but as reinforcing the idea that one isn’t achieving an identity with something.


Also - there are some stories in which the Consequence happens or is prevented at the climax, and others where it’s already in place at the beginning and continues through the story, and the Goal is to remove it.

I thought this had something to do with whether it was a Start or Stop story, but I might be mis-remembering that.


Great answers everyone. I feel like the “temporary” part of the definition can be a bit misleading when you think of it in terms of time. Like Greg says, it has more to do with acting/being/existing a certain way that does not necessarily agree with one’s core nature.

Nope, you’re totally right! :slight_smile: See this:


Think of a story where the consequence of failing to achieve the goal means that the MC will have to pretend in front of his boss that a loved one is dead. This MC isn’t stuck constantly pretending that a loved one is dead, only while the boss is around. So in one sense it’s temporary in that he can go back and forth depending on if the boss is around or not. In another sense it’s permanent in that he will have to do this in front of his boss presumably for the rest of his life.

1 Like

I disagree with the starting assumptions that Being/Playing a Role is necessarily temporary–though based on the discussion, maybe “temporary” isn’t the word you mean. But as a counterexample, is being a father temporary? Is being Dictator for Life? These are still roles people play, and they’re not necessarily bone deep, but that doesn’t automatically mean there’s a disconnect between persona and nature. To run with the parent example, what if a mother really truly loves her child, but this simply doesn’t come out in her parenting style? She needs to learn how to Be a mother, how to express that love she feels but can’t get across.

Fundamentally, Being/Playing a Role is about the ways in which we interact with the people around us. Succeeding at Being means having a place at the table; conversely, failing to Be, or Being something that doesn’t fit into society’s niches, means having to sit alone in the cold. There’s this story that I think really speaks to this concept, and the fact that Being isn’t temporary; I’ll link to it here, but note that it does contain a use of the n-word (scholastically, not as an insult). No matter what you do, you have to Be something, one something or another.

Another way to have a permanent consequence of Being would be an actor being told they’d never work in this town again! Meaning they’re permanently banned from “temporarily adopting a lifestyle”

1 Like

Especially if they now take on the role of “disgraced actor.”

1 Like

Apologies. This turned out longer than expected and might give you an existential crisis, but it’s an interesting thought.

Everything is dependent on the context of the story you’re telling. Theoretically, both of those things you mentioned are temporary because we will all die eventually (Yikes. Really brought the mood down there.). It’s impossible to be a dictator for life, because everyone’s life has a finite amount of time. (Sorry again…) But it depends on the context of the story being told, because most stories (understandably) don’t take place over the course of an entire millennia.

However, having undergone this whole ‘watching every Dramatica-analysed movie’ challenge thing, I’m not sure ‘temporarily’ is an entirely suitable word for this type, either. I’m finding stories with OS Concerns of Being fit into two different contexts, and it’s that context that defines what kind of ‘being’ you’re actually looking at:

  1. stories focusing on people pretending to be something they’re not (Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day; Down and Out in Beverly Hills; Florence Foster Jenkins; Tootsie)
  • stories focusing on people trying to live up to (or be) what is expected of them (Black Swan; The Devil Wears Prada; La La Land; Whiplash; The King’s Speech)

Here, you can see that both of your examples fit neatly into one of these types. ‘Being a Dictator for Life’ is Type 1 (because a Dictator is a created persona), and ‘Being a Father’ is Type 2 (because there are expectations to live up to). It’s the context that provides the definition. Similarly, consequences of Being have two contexts of their own:

  1. stories where characters pretend to be okay under oppressive or unwanted conditions (Star Wars; Grave of the Fireflies; The Imitation Game; Some Like It Hot)
  • stories where characters have to live in conditions expected of them (The Producers; Bull Durham)

Obviously, it depends on the contexts of the stories in question, but there are two consistent definitions of this type in both goal and consequence which are either ‘temporarily adopting a persona’ or ‘fitting into an environment of some kind’. Stories of this type usually explore both in some regard, but one takes priority over the other. Just an interesting little thing I noticed.

I haven’t looked at Being in terms of MC/IC/RS, but I imagine it will be something similar. I’d be interested in seeing if other types have similar ‘contextual subgenres’.

1 Like

Oh, sure! I have no problem with #2. That doesn’t sound particularly “temporary” to me. My point in the rebuttal was that Being doesn’t have to be something you take on and off, or something you “pretend” to be. Am I “pretending” to be male? Is my role-playing of masculinity something I take on and off depending on where I am? (…Bad example. For most people, I assume the answer is “no.” :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes: A better example might be “an adult,” or “a citizen of the nation,” something you don’t get to not Be.)

Your #2 for Consequences is acceptable as well. A Consequence of Being doesn’t always mean you’re now stuck pretending to be something you’re not; sometimes it means taking on a role you didn’t want to take, or the role you’ve pretended to have all along crystallizing into something you’ll do for the rest of your life.

1 Like