The "main character" who is not the Main Character

I have a question about the “main character” of a story who is not of the Main Character Throughline.

The best example I can come up with to illustrate this question would be an alternate version of Lord of the Rings:

Suppose Frodo is the “main character”, who holds the ring and must deliver it to Mount Doom, but all of the other characters receive a POV while Frodo does not. Each of these other characters contributes to the success of Frodo’s mission. Frodo is obviously the character everyone else depends on to destroy the ring, but the audience will not see things from his perspective. What type of character would this represent, and could you have a main character that does not receive a Main Character POV?

He would simply be one of the Overall Story characters.

He might also be the Protagonist, if he’s the one pursuing the goal the most and getting other characters to consider the goal. Or he might represent different objective character elements.

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The answer might depend on how you’re defining “main character”.

As @mlucas said, Dramatica differentiates between “main character” and “protagonist” (they can be the same, but not necessarily [CORRECTION - they can be in the same “player”, but the roles are not the same]). The separation of the “main character” role (the “I” perspective) from that of the “protagonist” is one of the first insights that convinced me that Dramatica was onto something that I had not encountered in other story paradigms. So that’s one answer.

But you might be asking something related but slightly different, namely, in a novel that has multiple points of view, how do you know which POV is the “main character”? We had a discussion about that here, so maybe that will be useful.

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Hm. You could say that he is pursuing the goal more than the others, but the POV characters would also be pursuing the goal to supplement Frodo’s goal. Would you have to trade-off the elements of Protagonists (in scenes) if there are multiples? But what would happen if two protagonists come together? Would one protagonist assume the protagonist character elements while the other protagonist takes on other character elements within that scene?

… So many questions! @mlucas

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What do you mean by this part?

In this case, do you think Frodo could be termed the “central character”, differentiating from a main character? @Lakis

@Gregolas As in, the story receives a perspective from the supporting cast in supplement to the central character, where the main character, the “I” perspective, would be a part of that supporting cast.

I’m not used to speaking of POV characters, only POV as, say, a first person voice, or a third person omniscient voice, or whatever. So to be clear, are you using “POV character” to refer to who the audience is following? As in, Legolas would be the POV character in a sentence that read “Legolas watched in horror as Frodo was stabbed by the Cave Trolls spear”?

POV = Point of View. So, yes, it would be referring to all those with a point of view, from their perspective, where the audience would be following POV characters supporting the cause of Frodo, who does not receive a POV. @Gregolas

Dramatica doesn’t use the term “central character” as far as I know, so I think that would muddy things to use that term.

I’m still new at this so others can weigh in, but I think in your hypothetical version of the LOTR, the most likely scenario (from a Dramatica perspective) is that Frodo is the protagonist (the character who pursues the overall story goal) but not the main character (because we don’t see anything from his perspective).

I think the example is a little confused though because the actual LOTR has multiple storyforms – in other words, multiple stories that each have the four throughlines, each with their own story goals, main characters, etc.

So you could have a scenario (say) where you have multiple storyforms, the most prominent of which is Frodo getting the ring to Mordor. Frodo could be the protagonist of the Overall Story, with Sam as the “Help” character (for example) in the Overall Story. Sam could also be the main character. Probably Frodo in that case would be the Influence Character. Then you make the storytelling decision not to have any scenes told from Frodo’s point of view, and you end up with a version of LOTR where almost everyone except Frodo has point of view scenes.

But this is just a mental exercise on my part. There are countless other possibilities, and I’m not sure this is answering your question.

I suspect that your answer lies in understanding the difference between Protagonist and Main Character. But maybe you could clarify further?

Got it. Sorry for the goofy questions.

If I can add to what @mlucas and @Lakis have already said, I think you get the idea that a traditional “main character” and a Dramatica Main Character are two different things, one clearly defined and the other much less so, sometimes seemingly interchangeable but oftentimes not. That said, I think the Dramatica term most appropriate for how you are using “main character” would be “player”.

The concept of “player” is found throughout Dramatica and differs from what we mean by “character.” Dramatica defines a character as a set of dramatic functions that must be portrayed in order to make the complete argument of a story. Several functions may be grouped together and assigned to a person, place, or thing who will represent them in the story. The group of functions defines the nature of the character. The personage representing the functions is a player.

If you are looking at Frodo’s story, all events being exactly the same only seen from another perspective, then I agree that he seems to be fulfilling a protagonist role, or embodying the Pursuit characteristic at the very least, but could also potentially have other roles, such as the IC, depending on how this hypothetical version plays out and where it’s focused.

Similarly I don’t think the audience having a POV on a character is the same as the Storymind’s perspective on or within the story. However, i have a hard time imagining what a personal perspective would look like without being able to follow that characters POV. So…perhaps not?

Dramatica theory suggests you not put two separate protagonists in the same scene, so yes, you would have one of them maintain the Protagonist characteristics while the other let go of them for that scene. The exception would be if you had multiple characters that were meant to represent a single Protagonist role. An example of something like this might bethe Salamanca cousins on Breaking Bad (not that they are a collective Protagonist, but that they are a collective of whatever their story role is…Contagonist, maybe?).

for a great example of a “main character” that is not a Main Character, look at the discusions about Andy Dufresne in The Shawshank Redemption.

Not to get persnickety, but they cannot be the same. They can be played by the same player, but the roles have to remain distinct.

I think you may want to take a look at Dead Poets Society. Mr. Keating has a huge role and a strong personality, but he is not the Main Character in Dramatica parlance.

You may also want to look at Stalag 17 where the entire group represents the Main Character.

Or, you may be trying to force your preconceptions into Dramatica, which doesn’t really work very well.

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Persnickety is welcome Mike. I corrected it in the post (can’t have something incorrect living under my name for Internet eternity…) :slight_smile:


Hey thanks for your reply!

Yeah, no problem. I didn’t think they were goofy questions. Sometimes we just need a little clarification :slight_smile:

Just so the internet knows, @Lakis was loose with his words, and misleading with his help. NEVER LET THIS DIE! CAN I GET AN SEO EXPERT TO HELP HERE?

That response was totally worth it @MWollaeger. Just for that I’m going to start offering as much subtly incorrect Dramatica advice on these boards as possible to keep you on your toes.

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So I’m working on a project where I can see the OS playing out in one of two ways. I have an MC who, within the OS would probably be the Protagonist and Reason character. But whenever I think in terms of the OS for this story I can’t tell if it would be better if it were coming more from his POV or the POV of his wife, who is probably the Emotion character. I always think of the OS as being from her perspective because I think it helps me keep the Throughlines separate in my mind. But it also seems like it might feel kind of weird to follow her perspective rather than his since he is both Protagonist and Main Character.

When you talk about what seems to be going on, that is the subjective audience view – the experiential view – of the story, not the objective view Dramatica provides of your story.

When considering the storyform and the story point embodied in it, always think in terms of what IS, not what seems or may be.

Pretend like you’ve already seen or read the story all the way through so you know everything about how things fit and what is going on. THAT is the perspective needed when making storyforming choices.