Distant Influence Character

My novel takes place in multiple locations. One mega-boss impacts the protagonist/MC by what he’s doing. But the MC does not see the impact and how his actions are changing her/MC. Of course, this might just be the OS antagonist.

Also we have the impact of a non-present father by clues he left behind (and a sister who touts these for a period of time).

Is the most important thing that the IDEA element (presented by those various instigators) triggers a start/change?

My IC:

  • Issue: ALTRUISM
  • Source of Drive: SUPPORT
  • Demotivator: OPPOSE
  • Focus: HINDER
  • Direction: HELP

to her/MC

  • Problem: CONTROL
  • Solution: FREE
  • Direction: CONSCIENCE

Can you expand on this idea a bit? Do you mean that the MC is not consciously aware of the impact the IC is having on them?

Based on what you wrote for the dynamics… the IC’s influence looks to be coming from the Helping driven by Supporting. So imagine the Boss/Father’s Clues serve to help/support someone or something?
The important thing with the IC is to illustrate that whatever/whomever represents those dynamics sticks with the motivation of Supporting. Whatever that source of conflict looks like, it’s something they hold onto.

The Change dynamic is really wrapped up in process of moving through the MC throughline.
The important thing is that you illustrate how the MC gives up the mental dilemma that has to do with Controlling, and by the end is clearly motivated by a NEW dilemma that has to do with Freeing.

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Question. In order for MC to move from focusing on Control to focusing on Free, she must be impacted by…what? The “idea of Support”?

Or, can she be impacted by the “henchmen/yes-men” who are defending/supporting/helping the agenda of the BOSS? Does the idea of support or help have be verbalized in her head?

Like a scene where someone says.
“Why do you always control things? Can’t you just help?” Or something like that? Does that juxtaposition need to be verbalized?

My choices for IC are 1) the henchmen 2) the sister 3) the absent father 4) the Boss 5) all (pass off by act)

It can get tricky when you think of it like that. The MC is not a Character or Player… it’s the subjective “I” Perspective. And the IC is the “You” perspective.

Remember that the whole model is a model of a single mind solving an inequity.
So one could think of it like that – literally imagine a conversation you might have with yourself. Your own mind talking to itself from different perspectives.

MC: I really need to do something so I can be something.
IC: No, you fool, you shouldn’t do that because you’ll end up regretting it.
OS: People should really not be concerned with being anything so they can be happy as they are.
RS: Noticing that the relationship between my personal needs and everything else is causing growth in a positive direction.

The Players in your story are all a big stand-in, a metaphor for your thought processes arguing four different types of perspective on a single inequity.

It’s the exploration of all four of these at once that will drive either the MC or IC to change their initial motivation–their initial source of drive, or “problem.”

Your MC isn’t impacted by anyone because they’re not a real person. The IC perspective influences the Mind to either subjectively Change or remain Steadfast when it comes to the main underlying motivation (What Dramatica calls the Problem element).

If the mind Changes, that means the mind Subjectively gives up being driven by the Problem element, and starts being driven by the “Solution” element.

On Subtext, we may start renaming Problem as Motivation, and Solution as “New Motivation” in Changed stories, “Demotivator” in Steadfast.

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You know, @JohnDusenberry, I’ve heard the mind analogy many times–coming on twelve years–but this way of internal dialogue you just made (indirectly based on outer influences) is the closest to enlightening me to what it really means. Thank you.

So the internal dialogue is “impacted” by words that come into
(MC) head from sources. Those sources could be memories, conscience vs desires, events MC must react to… that shortchange the mind’s previous schema.

In the above set, I see doing and preconscious and being and progress? (MC:Physics, IC: Mind, OS:Situation, RS: Psychology) Would this be the way to adapt it to mine?

*It seems to me that dividends, cost, and consequences would be in these. Would it be

  • OS vs Consequence,
  • MC vs Cost,
  • IC->Dividend,
  • RS=Consequence?

Thinking on here:

That means

  • MC: (Psychology-Becoming or else Obtaining) I need to become something so I don’t get something negative.*
  • IC: (Physics-Obtaining gives you Becoming) Actually, no. You need to get something so you’ll end up becoming something.
  • OS: (Situation-Future or else Subconscious) People should prioritize future concerns so they don’t feel horrible.*
  • RS: (Mind-Subconscious reciprocal) I realize now that relationships must always have love at the center.

Initially, before bringing in the ‘or else,’ I was thinking fits better with my story
MC: (Psychology-Becoming) I need to become something so I don’t do something negative.*
IC: (Physics-Obtaining) Actually, no. You need to get something or you’ll end up being rejected.
OS: (Situation-Future) People should prioritize future concerns so they don’t become something horrible.*
RS: (Mind-Subconscious) I realize now that relationships must always have love at the center.

Oh wow, so glad that analogy was helpful! And yeah, if you think of those different perspectives like voices in your head… the one speaking subjectively (MC) i’ll represent with Luke Skywalker. The one pointing out an alternative view (IC), I’ll represent that one with Obi-Wan Kenobi and Han Solo. The more objective one is what I’ll have Everyone in Star Wars processing… etc.

For me, it’s helped to think of the Influence throughline as being the voice that influences the subjective part of the mind to either change their motivation, or hold onto it.

These are all looking good to me overall. They just need the other side of the source of conflict. Each throughline is processing its own mental dilemma.

“I need to become something so I don’t get something negative, UNLESS… (and then some form of Conceiving leads to Situation/Circumstances/State of Being/Sense of Self)

For the OS in Future, I think i’m just missing the “Situation” or “Universe” problem. Sometimes it helps me to think of this one as one’s “position” or “standing” in their Universe. It could be someone about to be stuck somwhere. It could be someone who is going to be something (like going to be a spouse).
The Future-ing should be about their position. Everyone envisions a future role for themselves, or they see themselves moving to a new town, etc.

For the RS, make sure to talk about the relationship and how it’s growing. The way it’s written frames it in the “I” perspective. Instead, maybe:
The relationship grows by experiencing love so it can be thought of as a good thing, EXCEPT…


Yes. It’s implied in the context. It’s a dystopia type story scenario.

I’m assuming it’s the same domain.

Can I ask how relationship relates to the rest of the plot? Just “that” there is a heart thing going on? or does the RS impact other things:? Alternately, it seems from the storyform as if it is mirroring the consequence, or perhaps emphasizing that same theme. Which is hard to understand why…

Ah I see, you meant that the society doesn’t become a horrible place to be? I was reading it as becoming something horrible, which feels like it’s down in Psychology.

But I’m still missing the other half. What’s the conflict or dilemma with that? I totally agree, people should think about the future so they don’t become something bad… so what’s the problem? What’s the juicy part of that dilemma?

My suggestion would trying to suss out even a basic version of the driving source of conflict so you have inborn conflict in your throughline. Just a simple question akin to “how can I have my cake and eat it too?”

Something like “How can they think about a positive future when… (they’re all about to be killed? or they don’t see how they’ve set themselves up for failure?)”

The RS describes the forces at play between everything. It’s not HOW it relates… it IS the relationship. All the throughlines will feel like they mirror each other on some levels. They’re all looking at the same inequity, just from a different lens. Think of the voices in your head battling it out. They’re all talking about the same thing, just from different points of view. The RS is simply seeing the relationship between those things.

Think of two magnets.

MC is from the POV of one of the magnets… “I’m being drawn toward that other magnet”
IC is from the other one… “You only think you’re being drawn toward me because you can’t see what I see.”
OS is more objective… “Both magnets are arguing their fixed points of view about the way they see things.”
RS describes the relationship… “A magnetic force is growing stronger and stronger toward unification”

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I’m assuming it’s correct to use the consequence, etc, as I did.

@JohnDusenberry, with more detail–How’s this?

  • MC: (Psychology-Becoming or else Obtaining)
    I need to become invisible so I don’t get caught by the soldiers
    I need to become brave enough to face them and force them to tell me where my family is.

  • IC: (Physics-Obtaining gives you Becoming)
    Actually, no. You need to sneak into the city and find your family so you don’t end up dead
    you need to give yourself up in order to join your family wherever they are and become a prisoner.

  • OS: (Situation-Future or else Subconscious)
    People should work to fix society’s essential problems so they don’t live in a sad world where their people are destroyed
    People should wait in hiding until the bad guys destroy one another so that just the good guys are left.

  • RS: (Mind-Subconscious reciprocal)
    Realizing that relationships must always be growing in love and closeness for one another
    relationships need to always be willing to say goodbye.

The Consequence are one of the static plot points that has to do with the OS, not specifically the MC. It’s the kind of thing that would affect the Protagonist or Antagonist (who may be the same Player as the MC, but doesn’t affect them AS MC).

I think some of these are looking like progressive complications… i.e. they’re talking about the same thing and should really be the element seen in a different context.

MC: I need to become invisible so I don’t get caught by the soldiers UNLESS (and then this part needs to be some other context, not to do with the soldiers that puts the mind into conflict)

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Just for the exercise, would something like this work @JohnDusenberry ?

“I need to become invisible so I don’t get caught unless becoming someone who fails to stand up against injustice makes it impossible to live with myself.”

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The context is definitely different, so the last step would be to check whether or not one side makes the other impossible to do at the same time.

Can you become invisible while becoming someone who fails to stand up to injustice, or being in a state where it’s impossible to live with yourself?

That’s an interesting question that hits at the heart of what makes this technique difficult but useful.

It seems to me that if “becoming invisible” means something strictly physical – literally turning invisible – then the two sides could potentially coexist.

But if “becoming invisible” is something more like “becoming the kind of person who receeds into the background and isn’t noticed” then it might be impossible to do that and also stand up to injustice (exposing yourself).

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Yeah, I agree. You can definitely be physically invisible while failing to stand up to justice. In fact, it might even help! So would the latter, for that matter. Being someone who recedes into the background can definitely fail to stand up to justice at the same time without conflict.

The trick is to find two contexts that cannot coexist, or are VERY hard to do. The trick is to present the mind with a hard choice, if not a seemingly impossible choice.

Like… I want to be the life of the party so I feel loved, but being a quiet bystander means I’ll never embarrass myself.

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I guess I meant, can you both stand up against injustice and recede into the background? I think you can probably come up with situations where you could … but the scenarios I’m imagining seem hard. (Imagine someone is beating his child in the square and the only way to stop him is call him out in public).

The harder part for me is actually Becoming – making sure you’re actually talking about something internal or existential. Not so much can you recede into the background and also stand up against injustice but can you become the kind of person who recedes into the background …

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So the main thing with a becoming source of conflict is that is should basically be:

How can I transform into one thing, if I’m transforming into something else?

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Okay. Thanks!

WOOT! I love this dilemma verbalized! Sooo helpful!

So…“I need to become reclusive in order to responsibly assure my own survival UNLESS I need to become death-defying in order to be preserve the survival of my people.” (Responsibility) How can I be become reclusive if I’m becoming death-defying?

So if I understand correctly, Concern/Issue/Act/…and then each beat have this type of conflict linked to its element, growing exponentially.

  1. Throughline element+PSR: Framing the beginning and end of a beat, the conflict must resolve or lean one direction causing the next beat, etc;

  2. Throughline element: Framing the beginning and end of each act, causing the next act turn

  3. Issue: Framing the beginning and end of the story, running through each act and beat.

  4. Concern: Interspersed with the Issue and flavoring each Act

Thanks, @jhull for the finger-pointing in your article:

“writers will do anything to avoid writing real conflict.” LINK.

I’m doing my best to learn from all this…not easy. What would you gentlemen say the trick is to make sure it’s a real inequity?

And thanks @Lakis for hashing the questions/what-ifs out for me so quickly so @JohnDusenberry could reply. (I’m in another timezone so it takes me a long time to reply).


One thing that seems to help (and I’d be interested to know if others agree): If you just get close enough to both sides being unable to coexist, the mind sort of latches onto that intent of a true dilemma. With the understanding that any legal/logical loopholes you might find are sort of petty and not the intent.

For example, “have your cake and eat it too” – when we speak of that as a dilemma we all know that just eating half isn’t what we’re talking about.

So for a dilemma like:

I need to change my nature and recede into the background so I don’t get caught UNLESS becoming someone who fails to stand up to injustice makes it impossible to live with myself.

I think that works because the intent is clear, even if you could poke petty holes like “why don’t you stand up to injustice using an anonymous email account?”
(EDIT: In fact, although you could (boringly) write a character bypassing the dilemma with the anonymous emails, I think most writer brains would immediately gravitate to that not working – that such an attempt to skirt the conflict would just create more conflict.)


I agree the internal logic of the story could account for the petty objections.

“I can’t use an anonymous email because I’m living in a surveillance state where everything can be tracked back to me”

Although, you could tweak the justification to make being known part of the issue.

“I need to become invisible to … UNLESS becoming a martyr in the eyes of the public is the only way to transform society”

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Aside: Which is what I found when researching the idea of dilemma. The phrase ‘horns of a dilemma’ come from bull-jumping in the ancient world, which was quickly used to apply to a situational dilemma. Dilemma technically means double-premise. But the guy who wrote about it, Phædrus, had a bunch of ‘outs’ like you mention that don’t count, as you say.

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