Steadfast or Change

Hello all!

First time poster long time lurker. I’ve been studying Dramatica for just over 6 months now, so a complete newbie. Fallen in love with the theory and even at this early stage it has completely changed my writing and approach to story.

I have a question about Change and Steadfast. I feel to a certain extent I have a good handle on these terms. Reading Jim’s article about Woody from Toy Story really cemented it for me. But, with most things, once you apply it to your own characters things get a little hazy.

I’m having trouble deciding if my main character is change of steadfast and would love some insight.

A background on the character -

James is someone who isn’t noticed by the world. Blends into the background. He doesn’t have confidence in himself and can’t see why anyone would be interested in what he has to say or do. He hides from the world.

He loses his eye in a tragic pencil accident (it’s a comedy) and starts getting loads of attention because of it. He is panicked at first until he realises that the attention is positive, they think the eye patch is bad ass. To deal with the new found attention he puts on this pirate persona that everyone responds to. Becomes the head waiter at a cafe and is a instant hit. This flagging cafe is now the most popular cafe in town.

The pirate persona has given him confidence to function in the world. However, he is driven by the fear that one day all these attention will go away, or the mask will slip and the town will get to know the real James and reject him. To combat this he becomes more and more pirate, pushing the limits to keep the attention of the town. To the point where he does some outrageous things which brings a bad reputation to the cafe. He loses his job. He is now just in the real world where he doesn’t get so much attention. He is legend in the fantasy world of the cafe, but in the real world, the town just see him as a weirdo who thinks he is pirate.

He decides he would rather be the pirate in the fantasy world that James in the real world. Without going into too much detail, he manages to get rid of the old owner and becomes the captain of the cafe. Living his life in the fantasy world.

Wow, that was a lot of detail. Sorry. So… when I was first developing the story I thought he was a change character. He transformed into a egotistic pirate where he was more pirate than James by the end (quite literally - eyepatch, peg leg, hook for an hand). But then the more I learned about the differences between steadfast and change the more I’m leaning towards steadfast.

At first he believes that he isn’t good enough for the world. By the end he still believes that, but has completed committed to the pirate character and got rid of the ‘true’ James. It feels like he grows into his resolve.

But I’m finding myself going back and forth. I mean, he does change his nature to a certain extent - but maybe a change?

But as I said, complete newbie, so I’m still not 100 percent sure. Be interested to hear what you all think? Any help would be greatly appreciated.


First off, welcome! You’ll find everyone here super helpful.

Secondly, great story idea :blush:

Sounds like a Coming of Age Comedy so…

MC Domain of Universe
MC Concern of Progress
MC Issue of Fantasy

OS Domain of Psychology
OS Concern of Being
OS Issue of Thought

Arc is Ending to Unending (Problem and Solution in both OS and MC)

You want to tie the Resolve with the personal issues specific to the MC Throughline. He grows out of Universe (reality of patch) to Mind.

Always think of ALL the Storypoints at once. When you focus on just one you can convince yourself that a Storypoint is anything, just like you did before you discovered Dramatica.

Jim, how can OS and MC both be in Universe?

Hey Jim, thank you very much for your reply. It has been so helpful.

Very interesting, lot to think about. With the OS, I also had it as manipulation (I’m guessing Universe was a typo?). You have MC as situation, which has really got me thinking. I currently have it as fixed mind. Just because I felt his problems stem from a defence mechanism – like an impulsive response to the new found attention was to put on an act rather than be his truself. Also, it felt like he was a beer? Changing himself to fit the external situation, rather than the other way around?

I’m 100 percent sure situation is right due to your experience but also because it brings Fact/Fantasy and Unending/Ending into the mix which feels so right to me – almost like a eureka moment. I’ve struggled to get these terms into the form with my pervious attempts at the storyform, so I feel I’m back on the right track – thanks for that. I was wondering if you could give some thoughts into my misdiagnoses of fixed mind? Where I went wrong? I guess I’m still having issues selecting throughlines, so any insight would be helpful.

Lastly, in regards to the resolve – “He grows out of Universe (reality of patch) to Mind.”

Would you be able to explain this? Or maybe point to an article regarding this concept of growing from one domain to another? What I’m sort of taking from it that his issues stem from the fact he has one eye and wears a eye patch. But it’s only when he realises he can never change that fact and growth comes from how he feels about it. Is that right? Is that also why the impact character is fixed mind. They impact the MC to go from universe to mind because of their steadfast fixed views?

I’ve put all your suggestions into the software and MC resolve: Change and MC Growth: Start have been automatically selected. Does that sound correct?

Thank you for your time and advice. Much appreciated.

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I think it was a typo in regards to OS.


Yes, it was a typo. I fixed that.

The Start Dynamic is great. Coming of Age stories thrive on that open space between MC and OS Throughlines.

The “fixed attitude” misattribution is just coming at it from the POV of the characters than as the Author. Plus, you always need to look at all Four Throughlines at once (though here, MC and OS is enough as they imply the other two).

As far as Universe into Mind — the Changed Dynamic of the Resolve is an indication of an abandonment of the original Domain and a “change” into the opposing Domain.


Very cool story and thread @Myster82. Welcome to the boards!

One question – at what point in the story does he lose his eye? I think Jim has been assuming it’s early on (so that the MC personal issues stem from the loss of the eye – Universe).

But if the story starts with James suffering from his lack of confidence and hiding from the world, and he doesn’t lose his eye until Act 2, then an MC Domain of Mind might make more sense. (Or if you like the structure Jim has outlined, it might be best to move the pencil accident earlier and make sure the MC’s personal issues in this story stem from the loss of the eye / Universe.)

Thanks for your response.

Yes, he loses the eye pretty early. It’s the story driver. The more I think about the more situation is the clear winner. I never really thought about it as being a coming of age story but it totally makes sense. He is a guy who loses his eye and is trying to find his place in the world.


Perfect! The fact that it’s the first driver is a great verification. Good luck with the story!

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Thanks Jim, extremely helpful

One quick last question - I promise. In regards to a coming of age story, is it usually ending to unending, or can it be the other way around?

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Coming of Age is a Genre-level appreciation, which means you’ll see the greatest indication of it at the level of Domains (Universe and Psychology).

Ending and Unending appear at the resolution of Character.

Answering your question would be akin to using the wrong set of binoculars (or lenses).

Short answer: I can’t see your answer.


In regards to steadfast and change characters, I’ve been reading quite abit on the subject over the last couple of days. There seems to be a bit of confusion about the two due to judgement getting involved and making it seem hazy. However, I’ve tried to remove judgement from the equation and just look at change/steadfast on their own. I think I’m starting to see the difference now but just wanted to run my thoughts by you good people to make sure I’m on the right track.

So say we have a character with a problem – or what he thinks is the problem (symptom). He decides on an approach to tackle the problem (response). Then near the end he realises what the real problem is.

A change character will say “right, okay if that’s the real problem I’m gonna have to change my approach”, so he adopts the solution to solve the problem

A steadfast character will say “as much as a agree that this is the real problem, I still think my approach was correct I was just wasn’t focussing my attention on the right problem” and will try and solve the problem with their original approach (response)

Is that correct? Am I on the right lines?

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I’m sure others will chime in with more granular explanations about how the Crucial Element links the MC and OS throughlines, the difference between work and dilemma, etc. etc. I’ve gone on these loops before, and they’re interesting but it’s easy to get muddled and in the weeds.

I really think the easier way to understand it is in relation to the IC. There’s a argument between one of two approaches to solving problems. At the end of the story, one side will “win” and adopt the other side’s approach.

As with most things in Dramatica, this is much easier to understand with examples. As it happens I just collected some the other day (I’m doing “writer’s camp” with my kids and we just talked about this). These are climactic scenes from movies that show who changes (note that Iron Man actually has two stories–this is the end of the first story).

I particularly like the Crazy Rich Asians example because you can clearly see the difference between growth and change.


Iron Man - Yinsen death scene - YouTube

Pride and Prejudice Ending (2005) [HD] - YouTube

[ANH] “Use the Force Luke” (HD) - YouTube


Crazy Rich Asians - Mahjong Scene [Official HD] - YouTube

Back to the Future (8/10) Movie CLIP - You Leave Her Alone (1985) HD - YouTube


I think this is accurate (although of course the character may not think of those things consciously).
The other thing you notice with change characters is they adopt the entire alternate perspective. So not just adopting the Solution, but also going from Do-er to Be-er or vice versa.

This isn’t quite right. I think a lot of the time they will look at their Problem element and say “sure that has been causing me difficulties but I need to stick to my guns and see it through”. (again, not always consciously.) Think of Dr. Kimble (Harrison Ford) in The Fugitive – instead of hiding he keeps Pursuing his wife’s killer which keeps causing him problems. But he would never say his Pursuit was the real problem; he needs to see it through and keep pursuing to solve things.

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This is a theoretical understanding of the moment when the Main Character “recognizes” the difference between the Problem and Focus (symptom). In practice, it usually doesn’t play out this way in story - the Steadfast character simply continues to work on both Focus and Direction.

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The Problem element, as far as your characters are concerned, is just referring to how your characters go about addressing issues. In this sense, your characters believe that they are engaging in solutions. That is, they’ve justified that the processes they engage in in order to address issues are the appropriate processes for the occasion. The Problem Element becomes a Problem (even though the characters still think they are engaging in solutions) when the process creates conflict.

Because the characters are coming from a place where they think they are engaging in solutions, they look elsewhere for the problem. They focus on a different process as being the problem and direct their efforts toward addressing that Focus accordingly. And yet this Direction of effort does not address the true source of conflict, which they are still engaging in because they still think it’s the appropriate way to handle things.

So a Changed character will in some way, shape, or form, find that their solution (the Problem element) has only creates more conflict for them and will Change to the Solution Element as their new means of addressing issues. So it will largely look to a Changed Character like they’ve given up one solution for another solution as opposed to giving up a Problem for a Solution.

But a Steadfast Character will continue to see that original solution(Problem) as the appropriate method for addressing their issues and will continue to engage in it to the end.

Now your story might be arguing any one of several possible outcomes. So a character can Change and find either Success or Failure and a Steadfast Character can change and find Success or Failure. A Solution, then, does not guarantee that any goal will be achieved because your story may be arguing that the path the characters take is not an appropriate path to addressing the issues. And then of course they can also feel good or bad about the way things turn out.

Right I’m thinking I starting to see things (could be wrong though haha). Let me see if I am getting the problem solution part right (I’ll come on to symptom and response after – one step at a time right)

So the problem element refers to the approach that is causing the problem. In regards to the fugitive – Dr kimble pursuing his wife’s real killer is causing him the issues.

The solution to those issues would be to go into hiding (avoidance), change your name, forget about justice for his wife.

A steadfast character (kimble) thinks – as much as pursing my wife’s real killer is causing me all kinds of problems, I have to keep going because getting justice for my wife and clearing my name is more important to me. I couldn’t live with myself knowing that I had gone into hiding and let her down.

A change character would think – I think it would best if I forget about theis, I propbably wont be able to catch him, or prove he did it, it would be best for me that I go into hiding and live my life under a secret identity.

Am I beginning to get on the right track?

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You are definitely on the right track! The only thing that might improve your two examples is if they were written in third person instead of first. The reason for this is that all the Dramatica story points are really from the Author’s point of view, not the characters’. Dramatica never tells you exactly what your characters do or think. Instead it gives you amazing ideas for what they do and think, based on what’s causing them problems.

So your examples would work for sure. But you could also have stories where the character doesn’t think those things specifically. (e.g. a Steadfast character who refuses to see that Pursuit is causing him problems; even if someone tells him that directly he just waves his arms and ignores them and gets back to business. I think this fits Kimble more closely actually!)


Ah yes, makes sense. With you.

I think I’m really close to understanding the dynamics. My next attempt…

A character has an issue. They think they can resolve the issue with a certain approach (problem element). This approach causes them problems. Because they are so sure the approach is correct, they don’t see or want to see that the approach might be wrong. So instead they search for an alternative source (symptom element) of the problems and focus their efforts there (response element). As it is not the true source of the conflict, the problems continue.

A change character will decide to change his approach (solution element). Even though this approach may create new problems, the original problems (or type of problems) will disappear.

A steadfast character will keep to his original approach (problem element), and continue to focus on the alternative source (symptom element).


I think what @mlucas was getting at in suggesting you write it in the third person is that with Dramatica you have learn to look at things from outside the perspective of the character.

FWIW this isn’t easy. When you’re writing, you want to get inside the heads of your characters and treat them as real people. But while you’re using Dramatica you kind of have to remember they’re not.

So if I say Lightning McQueen (Pixar’s Cars) has a problem of Hinder, it’s not so much that he thinks he can solve his problems by hindering everyone (he might or might not). It’s more that he’s constantly getting in his own way. Because this is the same Problem as in the OS, there’s lots of other Hindering going on there too.

So when Lighting arrives in Radiator Springs, he (through a series of mishaps) races around and messes up the road they’re trying to fix (Hinder). In response, the cop sentences him to community service and puts a boot on his tire, which threatens to prevent him from getting to his race on time (Hinder).

It’s only when Lightning lets go of his selfishness and decides to 1) Help the citizens of Radiator Springs and 2) accept Help from them that he manages to make it to the race and resolve the story.

Side note: with Steadfast characters it’s best to think of their Problem as their Drive, as it’s not really a “problem” for them in the same way.

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