Having difficulty with a Conscience character

One character (so as not to spoil it for anyone who might know my books, let’s call him Bill) has been consistently the only OS Conscience element in the story.

In this book, I have him impulsively doing something which seems like Temptation: taking my MC somewhere he should know will get them both into trouble, because he wants to lift the MC’s spirits.

The scene is important because once Bill gets into trouble, the story’s only Conscience influence is removed from access to this Steadfast/Uncontrolled MC. Hilarity ensues.

I’m trying to look at what might happen if I used one of my Temptation characters for this scene, and the only one who’s not in hiding right now is an older man (let’s call him Dave) who even though he’s a Temptation character, for several very good reasons would never make this sort of mistake. Plus Dave doing this wouldn’t do what I need the scene to do. So I feel stuck.

My real question is: once a character is assigned to an element, is that cast in stone? Can a Conscience character have a moment where he falls into Temptation? Or should I scrap this idea and have Bill be barred from seeing the MC for some other reason?


Technically, no. Since characters aren’t actually anything but vessels, Players, they can take on whatever Elements are needed by the story at any particular point in time. However, if not done carefully, this can feel jagged or forced. Even when done well, if a Player puts down the mantle of Conscience to temporarily hold Temptation, then that Player should not take up any elements in that same quad during that part of the story.

That is, you can certainly do what you’re thinking, but I wonder if what you’re thinking is even necessary:

What is the real motivation of “Bill” here, though? (More accurately worded: What is your intent for this action and/or decision for this scene?) Is it possible that whoever is doing this is really attempting something a little risky now for stronger long-term benefits? If so, I would say that is likely still a Player with a motivation of Conscience.

Finally, passion generally outweighs structure.


The MC has tried to commit suicide once already, and is almost destitute. Bill takes the MC out for dinner to try to distract the MC from their troubles and they both get into hot water for it. So yes, I think you’re right. The intent is there, just misplaced.


Another approach I’ve been playing with is to find the reasoning/drive for the “contradictory” action in another Element quad:

So maybe in addition to be a Conscience character, Bill is also Non-Accurate – he takes the MC somewhere not tot tempt him but because he’s always doing inappropriate things. Or maybe even though doing this thing seems like a bad idea, Bill is totally Certain that it won’t be a problem.


This is really helpful, thanks.


When this happened to me (my Oppose/Disbelief skeptic character suddenly being all supportive), it just felt so right that I went with it, because I figured my story-sense knew better than I did. (That sounds like what you’re feeling too.)

Afterwards, I realized the Support he was giving was entirely in the MC throughline not the OS. It had nothing to do with the Goal. So that was totally fine from a Dramatica standpoint because his Skeptic nature* is in relation to the OS & Story Goal.

I wonder if you might be in the same situation? Lifting the MC’s spirits might not have much to do with the Story Goal.

* In fact, I think going with it allowed a nice juxtaposition so that this character developed to have more depth – he was this very loyal (Faithful) friend who could be supportive of certain things (he was all for any chance to get the MC laid), but was always speaking up against anything that had to do with becoming Firelions (the Story Goal, Becoming Earth’s new defenders).


You know, I think you may be right!



Yes! It sounds crazy, but I have six ICs in the overarching story and “Bill” is one of them. He’s the Conscience character but the biggest issue the two have is the MCs devotion to someone Bill thinks is a sociopath. Bill would do anything for the MC but vehemently opposes the MC on the topic of this third party from a Non-Accurate position (the IC Response).

It’s great because otherwise Bill could come off as a suck-up, but when they get going on their M/I Conflict it gets pretty heated.


Patty, I think what you are worried about here is valid concern, from an audience perspective (which is still something to take into account) you don’t want the character to act OUT of character.

The thing is conscience is a tricky thing (what might be principled to one, maybe unfathomable to another) and justifications allow us to do all sorts of thing. Which is what it sounds to me like you are looking for. What is the conscientious justification for taking the action you need the character to take.

If you character “Bill” thinks your character may suffer or deteriorate if they don’t take action to cheer them up/show them there are other paths, then they will consider that the most conscientious thing to do.

I offer as example this scene from The 100

The decision Clarke makes as opposed to the decision Raven (the girl that screams no at the end) would have made. Their consciences make opposite decisions to the exact same circumstance. Finn (the boy chained to the poll) would have faced death by 1000 sword cuts. Raven wanted Clarke to kill the leader and plunge the two sides into war to save Finn (which it wouldn’t have).


Maybe another series, here? I read a mystery series where the first one the MC was linear, and the rest of the books went over the top holistic. I felt her pain keeping it on track to stick to linear for the first book, [ha ha] and then just exploded with holistic emotions for the others. (That was just my dram take on it but who knows) Somehow, this brings that to mind. Just mulling it over…