Multiple POV, IC as OS Protagonist, MC as OS Antagonist

Maybe this is where I’m having trouble.

We like to get into the mind of our characters, we like to see where the MC is going wrong because she’s missing information. Tension, suspense happens when the MC doesn’t know what’s about to happen.

This happens by hiding or revealing things to the MC.

Dramatica for Screenwriters has the following

But according to Greg’s quote above, the reader isn’t supposed to really know what the IC is up to.

Does this mean we’re not supposed to have deep POV scenes with the IC? Or am I understanding this wrong?

In my story, I use deep POV for the main four characters, OS, IC, MC. Only the MC is fully known. Everyone else has secrets, “holding their cards close to their chest.”

The IC’s POV scenes are cloaked in non-answers and avoiding the real issue, the one that matters to the MC. We see his face twitch, we see him tense up, but he doesn’t tell us why. We’re still removed by a huge chasm of inexplicable cause.


I’ve been thinking about this lately (again), so I’m glad you brought it up.

Not necessarily. In theory, “POV” from a storytelling perspective happens on a different level from the structural “POV” in Dramatica. In practice you can see this in the many examples of stories with one storyform and several different POV characters.

However, in my own recent struggles with my WIP, I realized that I was causing problems for myself by switching POVs too often. The effect of this during the organic process of storytelling was to inadvertently start creating substories in which the POV character is his/her own MC. Again, in theory this is okay – nothing wrong with substories unless your problem is that you have already overcomplicated your story (my case) and want to create a tighter plot.

So the lessons for me (not necessarily applicable to everyone) are:

  1. Avoid POV shifts from the MC/Protagonist unless absolutely necessary.
  2. Try to always keep in mind the ways in which different throughlines are supposed to differ, so that you’re not encoding all of them the same way.

The second point came sank in for me a bit during yesterday’s writer’s room when @jhull was explaining that illustrations for Obtaining as a RS Concern should look different from illustrations for Obtaining in an OS because the RS is different from the OS.

Even though I know better, I think I’ve been illustrating my throughlines too similarly.

So as pertains to your question, I guess I would say even when you’re writing from the IC’s POV, you should try to keep in mind what makes this a “you” perspective rather than an “I” perspective. (Maybe).


The other thing I’ve been working on is separating my Dramatica/Subtext outline from my storytelling beats. Specifically, keeping in mind that the Dramatica/Subtext outline is the author’s “God’s-eye” view of things, in which all events are exposed, while my beat sheet “tells the story” as the reader experiences it. You’d think this wouldn’t be so hard, but I’ve found it difficult in practice because it’s only once I’m writing that I as the author learn certain things and or get better ideas. (This relates to a topic @mlucas brought up in the writer’s room yesterday about discovery writing).


This has me boggled.

I was thinking this this afternoon, guessing that Subtext creates problems for us because the same gists are available with the same wording for all throughlines. I was thinking it might be helpful to rephrase them in some way to show the distinction. But I’m still trying to figure out that distinction.

The “I, you, we, they” makes no sense to me. A foreign language, an alien language.

So if you have a Subtext sentence “Impact Character Joe earns someone’s confidence that leads to being in distress about something while jumping at loud noises” how is that “converted to a storytelling beat” as you put it?

How is that not a “his story” but a “you story”?

Let’s say it says “you earn someone’s confidence that leads to being in distress about something while jumping at loud noises.” What does that look like in a story?

How would it be converted differently than "I earn someone’s confidence that leads to being in distress about something while jumping at loud noises" or “We earn someone’s confidence that leads to being in distress about something while jumping at loud noises.”

Since I can’t find a model of this anywhere, I’m finding it difficult. Even the models of this on Subtext, within the movie examples, dont’ give specific examples of how it’s differentiated between I, You, We, They.

Maybe an example is somewhere. It’s the pat answer to any question about what’s the difference. But I don’t get it. I need to see it, or a chart of what it means.

But perhaps your comment about separating the subtext outline from storytelling beats is the assistance I’m looking for in the meanwhile. HOW is that done?


Does this possibly mean that a beat might not be a scene at all, but happen off screen?

Way back last year, @jhull wrote

It sounds nice when you have a story like Back to the Future, where the inequity is nicely divided into Pursuit; Hinder; Temptation, which each throughline interprets the problem as.

But in my case…
OS appears as Test…
MC appears as Result…
IC appears as Test…
RS appears as Test…

That doesn’t look like four different angles on an inequity.

Looking forward to comments…


Whew! Great discussion, a lot going on here.

First of all, for the IC throughline, you want that to be all about the impact and influence that perspective has, especially on the MC. The IC story points can be sources of conflict for the IC themself – in which case the influence comes from seeing how they deal with those problems. Or the IC story points can describe how the IC influences and causes conflict for the MC (like an IC signpost or Concern of Memories might be the influence the IC has on the MC to relive painful memories). Or it can be both… I think in most stories, it ends up being some of both.

Now, as far as having scenes from IC’s POV (esp. in a novel), this is definitely okay but I agree with @Lakis about the caveat. It can work fine for the story, but if you are the author writing your first draft you may have a tendency to get sucked into the IC’s personal issues so much that you create a substory with the IC character as MC. This likely depends on the writer.

In any case, I think IC POV scenes can work really well. The key thing for your narrative is when you “zoom out” and sort of picture the whole story in your head at once (well above the scene level, more like the 2-4 page outline/treatment level). At this level, do you know which character is the MC and does the IC character’s (or characters’) purpose seem to be more about impact and influence? That’s all you need.

I’ll comment on the four different angles question in a bit…


I wish I could give you a better example, but I’m still working this out right now on my current draft. Drawing something randomly from an old outline though, I have:

The Lost Boys use delay tactics that leads to selecting someone while inventing a false explanation

Which I’m illustrating as: “Aiming to delay the opening of that gas plant, the Lost Boys recruit Belinda under false pretenses.”

The next subtext beat:

Belinda has preconceptions about someone that leads to being not open to someone while coming up with a dangerous idea

So say we illustrate that as, " Belinda’s preconceptions about the boys keep her from being open to their dangerous ideas for rebellion."

But how does this express itself in scene?

I could start by explaining the boys’ plans, and why they need Belinda, as laid out in the Subtext synopsis.

But more likely I start the scene with Belinda being cornered by the boys; they are trying to convince her to help them. I don’t show the boys’ false pretenses now; that will come out later, or just be hinted at. Even Belinda’s preconceptions about them could be unconscious, so maybe I make a note to just hint at those. This all could be two scenes, or maybe it’s just one.

So for my “non-subtext” beat sheet maybe I’ll describe the mood of the scene, the setting, what we see from Belinda’s POV, any worldbuilding that I should include, etc. All of this becomes a paragraph or two of description from the perspective of the POV character in this scene.

Big disclaimer though! I’m still figuring this out! Ask me again how it worked when the draft is finished. :slight_smile:



  • Test in the context of Skill (Say, for example, testing the swordfighting talent of someone.)
  • Test in the context of Fantasy (Checking a historical truth against historical myth.)
  • Test in the context of Desire (Testing how deeply someone wants something [coming-of-age, maybe?])
  • Test in the context of Confidence (A character, being required to verify their claims of certainty.)

I’m not sure which of these are in your book, but those four are all Test. Yet, they each look a little bit different. The difference can be made more extreme if you go up a step to Types/Concerns or two steps to Classes/Domains.

I think this is part of what the idea of “I”, “You”, “We”, and “They” are trying to get at. Since, per Dramatica, a story is a mind exploring an inequity, that mind, I, would take one stance on the problem or dissonance. (Maybe I’m dealing with bullies in some fashion, hiding from them, avoiding them, etc.) [Physics]

From that standpoint, I would pick a singular, similar, person that seems to be solving a similar problem or dealing with a similar dissonance, and attempt to understand how it looks from their side. In other words, what this problem or dissonance looks like to You… (Someone else dealing with distant parents who don’t seem to care about this person. The problem is similar to mine, as illustrated above, but it’s different. How does he or she deal with it, and does it work or not? Why does it look so similar, and can this one person’s approach work for me?) [Psychology]

In addition to working with this singular, similar look, the same mind might also see how a group of people, of which the mind may or may not be a part of, is dealing with another problem, but one that looks similar. (Perhaps the country, They, where I live is in a cold war of sorts, staring down another. I’m a part of the country, but the problem is too far removed for me to do much about it, because I’m a lowly farmer. However, that doesn’t mean I’m not watching the news, trying to keep tabs on what’s going on “out there”.) [Mind or Universe]

Finally, since I don’t have a storyform for this, I actually don’t know what the We perspective would be to round out this brief outline. However, it is a relationship, and the question becomes how are We as friends, lovers, enemies, strangers, or something else, dealing with our own issues, issues separate from the world, issues separate from the bullies I’m dealing with, and separate from the parental issues You’re dealing with. [Mind or Universe]

As to the IC, I think @mlucas answered it fairly well. It turns out that’s actually the hardest throughline for me, as I almost always end up trying to treat that throughline like another MC. In order to get it right, I had to force myself to make sure I was “taking a step back” from there by using words like “seems to” and “appears to be” and such, even though I actually know exactly what is happening.

An important part of all of this, however, is to notice that there may very well be scenes with just that character with his parents. Scenes of which the Main Character is completely unaware, but the audience gets to see. Without those scenes, it would be difficult to actually show the problem or dissonance the Influence Character is dealing with. However, that doesn’t mean that we will fully and completely “feel with” the Influence Character. We’ll probably get very close to it, though. Still, there might be some hidden information; we might only be able to guess at the thoughts of that character, though we’d probably be close to the mark with that guess.


A few comments here.

First, the same element, such as Test, can look vastly different in a story because of the context surrounding it, the perspective (personal vs. everyone) and even just the choice of a different “instance” or illustration of that element.

It’s the difference between a wannabe Jedi testing himself against Sandpeople, and a powerful Empire flexing its muscles to see what it can get away with.

Don’t forget about the rest of your throughline perspectives – Domains, Concerns, Issues. Those are all very different between, helping you set up those different angles on the inequity.

Also don’t forget the other elements in your Problem quads. Your MC will share Focus & Direction with the OS (since you have a Steadfast story), and those commonalities are super important too.


Thanks for pointing this out! It fell together with this detail. I hadn’t considered that and was merely looking at the element.


  • OS appears as Test in regard to Skill in the Game “They want”
  • MC appears as Result as for Security Progress “I want”
  • IC appears as Test in regard to Confidence/Instinct “You want”
  • RS appears as Test in regard to Ability/Pretending “We want”

If I understand right, the inequity of all these was caused, or set in motion, by the First story driver, correct? But its resolution looks different to each POV.

Super suggestion! Makes perfect sense on how to spin the influence-function of this throughline.

Best explanation I’ve ever got for this difference. Thank you[quote=“mlucas, post:6, topic:2587”]
At this level, do you know which character is the MC and does the IC character’s (or characters’) purpose seem to be more about impact and influence? That’s all you need.

Awesome. I’m on the right track, then. (Earlier today, I was tempted to throw this whole thing out!) While I am certainly including more subplot for the IC (as he is a big part of the Trilogy, as the change MC), in this story his function is definitely IC.


Not exactly. I’ll explain in a moment, but first, what I was referring to and what DFS was referring to are two different things. Without a copy of DFS in front of me to look at, it seems DFS is defining literary terms that describe the relationship between audience and character in the story-mainly, what information the audience does or doesn’t have vs what the characters in the story do or do not have. The reference I made was to the idea of the IC throughline as one possible perspective that a single mind can take. As a perspective, it’s not about what the MC or Storymind or audience know, but about how things are being observed-or perhaps I should say where they are being observed from.

An example. Character A has a task to do but doesn’t know how to get started. Character B also has a task to do but seems to know how to get started. Character A wants to know what Character B does to get started. Assuming Character A is an MC, as soon as they look to Character B to see how to handle the problem, Character B becomes the IC to A’s MC. A could look over her shoulder at B to see what B does while not having a clue what B is actually doing. Or A could ask B and B could tell A everything. Either way is still an example of A wondering what B is up to. So again, it’s not really whether the MC or the audience know what’s going on in the ICs mind or whether there’s any actual hidden info from one character or another, or even whether the audience knows what’s going on that creates an IC. What creates an IC is when the attempts to solve a problem by one character or perspective are influenced by the attempts of another character or perspective to solve a problem.

So to answer your question, deep POV scenes with the IC are allowed. They just need to influence the way MC perspective of the Storymind is attempting to solve its problem.

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Not addressing the idea of the IC being the MC of a subplot here, but the idea of the IC appearing to be a 2nd MC to the audience, as in the IC has POV scenes that make them indistinguishable from the MC because the audiences knows just as much about them as the actual MC. This is, I’m sure, more than okay to do.

As an example, consider Shawshank Redemption. Ask most people and they’ll tell you that Andy Dufresne is the MC because we see so deeply into his character. And yet, structurally, he is the one influencing Red to go into his parole hearing and tell them to stamp their form and quit wasting his time rather than repeat the same rehearsed speech that he thinks they want to hear. The storytelling is not the storyform. You can tell your IC perspective to your audience however you want. It can look like the IC is an MC as long as the story the IC is dealing with is the one that contains the IC story points. As far as the influence goes, you can show this, or you can just treat the IC as though writing another MC and trust the storyform. If you do it right, the Storymind-and thus the audience-will make the connection that in order for the MC to change or remain steadfast, we had to see this other character doing these things. The very act of the MC being influenced is built in simply by virtue of the story exploring the problem from that perspective. Influence is something the characters CAN have within the story, but can also just be something that happens to the Storymind as it observes the IC story unfold. This might not make a lot of sense if one doesn’t have a good idea of what the Storymind is, but I’m sure is sound advice.

I haven’t seen the writers room, but I wonder if he means that ‘seeking the treasure’ should be illustrated through run ins with ghosts and pirates and ghost pirates and sword fights, while ‘seeking the treasure’ as an RS Concern should look more like becoming friends or enemies over attempts to find the treasure, or as an IC concern showing how seeking the treasure influences the MC to be more manipulative. Is something like that what was meant?

This may not help at all, but imagine you are walking somewhere far away and to get there you keep climbing up and then down some really treacherous mountains. You think to yourself ‘this is difficult, but if I keep going I will get there.’ That’s one way to look at it. And since it’s the perspective that you take, it will be the I or MC perspective.

But then, after a while, you think to yourself ‘what if I were to walk around the the mountains? Wouldn’t that be easier?’ Even though you are thinking in terms of yourself, you are now looking at another perspective. Since you are walking over the mountains, this is not the perspective you have taken. It’s as if you’re imagining someone else walking around the mountain when you walked over it. So that’s the You or IC perspective. Both the perspective you took (MC walking over mtns) and the perspective you didn’t (IC walking around) take place in the same mind. Your mind. But when writing a story, you can give these two separate perspectives to two separate characters and follow the journeys of each as they go over and around the mountains. Two different perspective, two different characters, still one mind.


Does the IC’s problem solving “answer” have to be exactly related to the inequity? or is the influence any kind of momentum that gets the MC to move in “their” way?

In my story, the IC’s approach is the cause of the inequity (not the inequity itself). IC wants the MC to take his approach, consider it NOT inequity. She is watching his take and considering it, but as steadfast STOP

Also, can the IC’s impact be indirect? If she doesn’t meet the IC until end of Act One, but is impacted by his decisions and his “machine” so to speak, is that a present IC? Or do I need a character to embody his perspective?

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I’m sure this is right, but I also believe it can be difficult to prevent confusion when doing this if one is in the early process of learning Dramatica or storyforming their story. Though, it is nice to keep in mind for more complicated stories.

Absolutely. In my own WIP, the player (character) that embodies the Influence Character for the first three Signposts of the IC Throughline is completely and utterly onscreen. However, at the end of the third Signpost, he secrets his way out from the village where he and the MC were staying. This signifies the start of his Change (the MC is the Steadfast perspective), but it’s not the end of his influence:

The final Signpost is Learning, and the final influence on the MC comes from the MC’s Learning that the IC player left so he could try to figure out what the MC seems to have that the IC doesn’t.* In essence, it’s the final piece that the MC needs to strengthen his foothold, but it comes from what is left behind, not from anything that could be called a “character” per se. At least, that is my current outline for it, and I kind of hope to keep it that way, but we’ll see what happens when I get to the actual writing. (This is kind of the opposite of what you describe as it’s influence from absence at the end, but it holds the same idea. There isn’t a player on the board to represent an IC, but the empty space is enough to influence the MC. Basically, so long as the influence can be connected, it should work.**)

*I’m not sure exactly how this is going to work, yet. I was thinking a note, originally, but I think I want to come up with something a bit more unique in the storytelling. Maybe something that uses the magic system or the like…

**And, as @Greg said, it might not even need to be connect. I have an ongoing experimental story where I have four separate tales, with characters that never meet, built using Dramatica. There’s some kind of ineffable connection among the four tales, though. Something strange and fluid, but not quite right to a Linear mind about how “not connected, yet connected” the tales are.

Unfortunately, I don’t have answers to the other questions, so I’m looking forward to hearing from the crowd.

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Not entirely sure what you mean. The IC answer will be related to the inequity by virtue of being a perspective on dealing with the inequity. So…yes? But it doesn’t have to look anything like the problems the MC, Os or RS are dealing with, if that’s what you mean. If the MC problem is looking for treasure, the IC problem could be being a cut throat in order to get treasure, or being a bad father.

I addressed this in my previous post, which I think was posted about the time you posted, but yes, it can. Consider the mountain example. As you consider walking around instead of over the mtns, you don’t have to imagine a scenario where the you walking over them meets the you walking around them in order to convince yourself that going around is easier. You just need to imagine that, had you gone around instead, it would have been easier. What you are doing and what you could be doing are not connected that way. What connects them is that both are in your mind and you are able to observe both and make a decision about how to continue. Your mind observing the difference between the two is what connects them. In the same way, the MC and IC are connected by the Storymind observing each of them and making a decision. So your MC can be a 1930’s American gangster while your IC is a space ranger from a planet that formed billions of years after the earth exploded and the two never meet and, theoretically, the Storymind can make the connection and the gangster be influenced. It might be hard to write that story, and might come off as strange to an audience, but is theoretically sound.

I’ll just say that I think there can be multiple equally valid perspectives on this and leave it at that. :laughing:

Others had good responses on this, but as with most things Dramatica I think the best way is to watch/read lots of examples to get an intuitive sense of how it works. After a while it starts to be come more obvious.

I agree! Maybe this would be a good thread to start here sometime – we could take a few illustrations with gists (from Subtext maybe, or just Dramatica) and practice illustrating them as different throughlines. Like, what are some examples to make this illustration feel more like IC than MC? I know this would be beneficial for me.

I agree, though I think this is a tricky example because (if I remember correctly) the Shawshank story is told in the first person with Red as the narrator. Also isn’t there voiceover in the movie? This all serves to subconsciously convey the idea that Red is the MC even if Andy is the Protagonist.

A better example that pops to mind for me is the novel Lexicon which is told almost 50/50 through two separate points of view (with a just a couple of other switches). I mentioned it in a previous thread, and we couldn’t get consensus on which character was main and which IC. (In retrospect it feels like one storyform to me, and Emily is the MC).

I would have agreed with this in the past, but now I’m not sure. The point of the storyform is that the IC isn’t the same as the MC. And as either the IC or MC can be change/steadfast characters, you can’t even use that as a guide–how do you tell the difference between an IC who influences a Steadfast MC and vice-versa without some idea of “influence” in your mind?

I should emphasize that I’m talking very specifically about the subjective process of writing, using Dramatica. I have no doubt that writers get to complete stories all manner of ways, and may not even consciously know who their own MC and IC are.

I think he would say that example still looks more like OS than than RS, though I should probably let @jhull speak for himself on that.

In the writer’s room example, particular case, he was describing Obtaining more as a matter of control – the relationship has control issues, but also the Goal of the relationship is something about getting together or breaking up. (Writing this, I realize I need to re-listen). Anyway, it was a revelation to me, because up until now I’ve been illustrating my RS idea more the way you describe.


@didomachiatto Maybe this thread will be useful: Does a change main character's "flipped" perspective need to match the influence character's perspective?


But in my case…
OS appears as Test…
MC appears as Result…
IC appears as Test…
RS appears as Test…

That doesn’t look like four different angles on an inequity.

The fact that they all look like Test from within the same mind gives you a good indicator that this particular bout of conflict resolution is going to end in failure. Things rarely look the same from different points-of-view.

Treating the IC as a Main Character lessens the effectiveness of the impact. It’s not a real character as far as Dramatica is concerned: it’s an external perspective. Greg’s example of climbing a mountain is excellent.

This has been suggested before, and I’m definitely open to modifying the presentation of the Storybeats. The difficulty lies in finding an approach that isn’t overly complicated, yet works well across all stories.

We’re also looking into ways to alter the actual Illustrations (the Gists) so that they reflect the Throughline perspective.

Not sure how to do that again, without getting too prescriptive—one marriage’s winning something is another friendship’s dominating the relationship.

The quickest approach now is education. I’ll continue to add more examples in Subtext, as well as continue to publish articles showing how it works.

The separation Lakis speaks about can be summed up in this: Dramatica is modelling how you think NOT how you write stories.

You will naturally gravitate towards a narrative structure that models your personal truth.

Until you align both, you’ll need to have one template that reflects the mental process, and another that is your story.

Eventually you’ll be able to do both at the same time within the same document.


Well, I mean I was conflating meanings a bit for purposes of the conversation.

When I said that as long as the IC deals with IC storypoints it’s fine, that’s saying that as long as the IC is structurally an IC it’s fine. When I say you can treat your IC like an MC, what I mean is that you can show the character to the audience, let them peek inside his head a bit, and it’s ok because he is still a structural IC.

Structurally, no, the IC shouldn’t look like the MC. But if you ask someone who is unfamiliar with dramatica how many main characters your story has and they answer two because the storytelling has allowed them to see into the lives and minds of each character-that is, because your IC looks like an MC in the way his journey is told-you are not diminishing the meaning of your story. Even people who think Shawshank has 2 main characters or that think Andy is the only main character can still receive the message of the movie just fine. Basically, my point is that as long as story structure is sound, storytelling can be what it needs to be to convey that message, even if it means having POV scenes that let the audience into the mind of the IC.

TLDR: I used IC to refer to the story structure of the character and MC as a shorthand for how one can story tell the character without restraint.