What if the IC loses impact?

I’m in a bit of a conflict between my writer’s instincts and my (possibly too narrow) understanding of the Sequences in the Impact Character Throughline EDIT: meant the Sequences in the PSR

What I’m not sure about is this: are all of the Sequences meant to show the various ways of the IC pushing the MC toward change, or can they also show the IC losing influence without the IC turning into a sort of second Main Character? In my story, there seems to be a kind of low point in the IC Throughline in the middle of the story, after which the IC gains momentum before a grand impact at the end, pushing the MC to change. Here’s how it goes:

In the second act of the IC Throughline, my IC is taking on an identity (Being) with the Sequences being: Truth, Evidence, Suspicion, and Falsehood; with his identity, the IC first demonstrates the truth of his way of thinking established in the first act. But then, evidence and suspicion bring about a falshood in his views, making even the IC himself doubtful of his views. This feels right with the third act beginning with Closure and ending in the IC’s very adamant Denial of having been wrong.

Intuitively, this feels like it works awesomely. But… if the IC’s Sequences are meant to show the IC’s ways of impacting the MC in the POSITIVE, can it be right? Or am I somehow confusing the Sequences with the IC Critical Flaw?

I’m no expert, but here are my thoughts regardless.

Your IC is either a changed or a steadfast character. You and dramatica know which one it will be in the end, but your IC does not. They may go back and forth between being confidant and unsure in their attempt at a solution. That’s fine. They can waffle between whether they should change or not. This waffling may even have an effect on whether the MC is more or less FOR changing their attempt to solve the problem and whether they decide to remain steadfast or to become a changed character. That is still an example of the IC making an impact.

I’m curious, too, if you might not find an IC critical flaw causing your IC to lose their impact at that point in the story. Or maybe a relationship catalyst or inhibitor.

I’m interested to see how some of the real experts on here will reply as well. Good question.

One other suggestion I meant to add in there–aren’t truth, falsehood, evidence, and suspicion in the ‘theme’ level? Your ICs apparent loss of impact may simply be showing that one of these issues is better or worse than another, or lead to or away from the other. Is it possible that this is simply a part of your thematic argument?

Hi @VIlle, this is a neat question. I’ll do my best to point out some things but keep in mind I don’t understand Sequences or the PSR all that well yet, haven’t started using them in my own writing, so you can take everything I say with a grain of salt!

First of all, are you sure you are talking about Sequences as described in the Dramatica theory book? In my PDF copy starting on p. 135 “What is a Sequence?” it seems to imply that the 6 sequences are based on the quad of Variations below the Concern. And when it talks just after that about the Four Act Progression, it still talks about using the Variations below the Act/Signpost Type.

I think you are actually talking about the PSR, the subjective exploration of each Act, as things might appear from within the story. So from that perspective, I think the answer to your question is no, each of those Variations does not have to impact the MC directly. They’re more just ways to explore or see the Influence Character’s influence on the Type. Like you might be exploring how Evidence and Suspicion diminish his influence on Being. I don’t think it just has to be about diminishing or increasing influence either, since it’s just exploring subjectively. For example, it could be exploring how Falsehood makes Playing a Role feel wrong, or how Truth makes him really annoying or something like that.

One other thing to point out – and now we’re talking about the objective Dramatica storyform – is that your IC signposts are actually supposed to show the areas of influence/impact on the MC and other characters. So it’s totally cool that in Act 2 he is taking on an identity (Being), but you should also ask yourself how this affects others (especially the MC) in terms of Being or lack of Being, and how that causes conflict. I bet you will find that in there somewhere, and it would be good to focus on that along with the IC’s own Being.

As an example, maybe the MC sees through the new identity and has to pretend to be fooled by it, but this causes trouble for the MC. Or maybe he gets in trouble for mocking the IC whose new identity is somehow worth making fun of. That sort of thing.

Finally, I personally think it’s okay for your IC’s influence to wane for part of the story … especially if that waning is related to the Critical Flaw. I think as long as he is still creating conflict on all the conflict-generating story points (Domain/Concern, Issue, Problem, Symptom/Response, Signposts1-4), the storyform takes care of the rest so that by the end it will seem like the “waning period” was just the calm before the storm and actually allowed him to have more influence on the MC to change.

P.S. I think when you say impacting the MC in the POSITIVE you actually mean influencing him toward Change, right?

Thanks for the detailed replies!

@Gregolas A very good explanation of the difference between the subjective and objective views!

One example came to my mind: in Toy Story, Buzz’s own personal doubts about being a space ranger play a very important role in the middle of the story, yet, even in this miserable state, he manages to impact Woody – only in a “reverse” manner.

Oh, and to clarify, @mlucas, yes I meant the order of the Sequences in the Plot Sequence Report. It’s been a long time since I read the Dramatica theory book, but yes, I remember the description of the 6 sequences.

Actually, what might be confusing me at the moment is that I learned only relatively recently that the PSR presents a view from within the story. For years, I’ve just marveled at the PSR in its ability to pinpoint what’s going on in the story in each act. But I never made the distinction between the inside-out view and outside-in view – I just went with the PSR’s seemingly chaotic arrangement of the Variations, cause it worked like magic. So, it might just be me applying the objective logic of Dramatica to the subjective CHARACTER’s view, while my storytelling muse wants to break free.

And yes, @mlucas, by “impacting in the POSITIVE” I meant influencing him toward change rather than away from it – funny enough: my SS Inhibitor is Repulsion.

That’s funny, I was being all picky about the definition of Sequence and I forgot that the S in PSR stands for Sequence too!

I like the Toy Story example … the same thing might be happening in your story. The influence character isn’t even really a character, but rather a force of influence, and his influence on the MC might not be apparent to him, or to any character. Or even sometimes to the audience in the middle of the story; it may only become apparent after experiencing the whole story.

I know I already chimed in, but I’m still thinking this through.

The way I see it–and i’m not trying to add anything to the theory, here, i swear it (in fact, I’ll say at the end where I think this is already covered in the theory)–any character can impact another character in many different ways. We’ll call them positive and negative (for toward change and away from change, since that’s how they were used above), for and against (as in the IC can push the MC to be for order or against chaos) and strong or weak (the ICs affect can cause the MC to say, ‘eh, i’ll consider it, maybe,’ or can cause them to say, 'YES, I AM TOTALLY 100% on board with your LIFE CHANGING ADVICE!!!).

A steadfast IC that knows they know the solution would aim to have a strong positive impact on any character that doesn’t solve the problem the same way. A steadfast IC that isn’t confident in their solution may go from a strong positive impact to a weak positive impact, or even to a strong negative impact depending on how much they went back and forth on the issues themselves, as long as they ended on a positive impact. A steadfast IC might even think for a while about being a changed IC. But that IC journey is still having an impact on the MC whether strong, weak, negative, positive, for, or against.

When you ask if the sequences are all meant to show the IC pushing the MC toward change, or if they can show the IC losing influence, I think the answer is that an IC can push your MC toward or away from change, for or against a particular solution, and have a weak or strong impact while doing it.

Subjectively or objectively, I think your IC can be all over the place. It’s really about where they end up (which character changed and which remained steadfast) and what affect did the IC have on the MC (did the IC convince the MC to be for or against something)? The strength or weakness of the ICs impact seems more like a barometer for how well the IC is doing as an IC. All of these different impacts can already be found in changed or steadfast (toward or away from change), start and stop (for and against), and the IC benchmark (strong or weak impact).

As an example, an MC might begin a story as enemies with an IC and move toward being good friends. In this case, the ICs impact to the MC might start out as a strong negative (the IC wants the MC to change, but because the MC doesn’t like the IC, he doesn’t want to change), move to a weak negative (MC decides the IC isn’t that bad and can kinda see his reasoning) and finally to a strong positive (because the MC became friends with the IC, he can finally see that the IC was right all along change his path accordingly).

I think a good real world example for what your talking about would be Sam and Frodo in The Lord of the Rings. Sam has a strong impact on Frodo early on. But then as Frodo becomes more like Gollum, Sam still strives to have a strong positive impact subjectively, but objectively, Frodo isn’t moved. Frodo is more affected by Gollum. At one point, I think, it might even seem like Sam has decided to leave Frodo. But in the end, Sam comes back and has a strong impact on Frodo again.