Thursday, September 4, 2008

Dramatica's Contagonist Archetype

A Brief Introduction To Dramatica’s Contagonist Archetype.

Immediately, this archetype intrigued me, for this character adds another layer of conflict to your story, AND we all know deeper layers make for a more satisfying read.

Contagonist is a Archetype coined by Dramatica, and in this blog, I’m just touching the surface of what this character can do for your story, while hopefully whetting your appetite to learn more.

Both the Antagonist and Contagonist have negative effects on the Protagonist, but don’t confuse the two Archetypes. They have differing roles.

We all know the basic Archetype of the Antagonist is to stop the Protagonist, to prevent the Protagonist’s further progress. The Contagonist works to deflect the Protagonist, to delay or divert her.

Additionally, the Contagonist can attach itself to the Protagonist, like a burr under a saddle. The Contagonist can be temptation. Remember those cartoon images of an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other, each whispering into a person’s ear? That devil would be the Contagonist, while the angel would be in Dramatica terms, the Guardian.

The Contagonist is not a passive character. Again in Dramatica speak, it’s a driver character along with the Protag, the Antag and the Guardian.

All of this may sound a bit theoretical and frankly, that’s my main beef with Dramatica, but the example they use in Star Wars, at least to me, made it feel workable, a character I could easily begin to incorporate in my writing.

Dramatica example paraphrased by me:

Most people would agree that Luke Skywalker is the Protagonist in Star Wars. The Empire, embodied by Gran Mof Tarkin and his troops, are diametrically opposed to Luke destroying the Death Star, thus the Empire is the Antagonist.

(Whoa, that stopped me, I thought Darth Vader was the Antagonist.)

Obi Wan Kenobe is the Guardian, protecting Luke, providing him with moral guidance and DARTH VADER is the Contagonist, representing the temptation of the Dark Side.

(I love that, Darth Vader is suddenly a more complex character.)

Han Solo functions as the Skeptic, disbelieving in the Force and arguing with everyone about everything. R2D2 and C3PO jointly fill the role of Sidekick, forever faithful to whomever they serve. Princess Leia is Reason, coldly calculating. Chewbacca is Emotion, often acting with little or no thought, wholly with emotion.

Emotion, Reason, Skeptic and Sidekick are the passenger archetypes, also interesting, and of course can add additional layers to your story. But it was the concept of Contagonist that really made me sit up and take notice, as I said, it immediately made me see more complexity in a character. Temptation, luring the Protag away from success, hindering its success.

This blog is not as wordy as many of my others :) It's just a bit to chew on, to think about. Please, let me know what you think of the concept of Contagonist.

Dramatica: A New Theory of Story is both a book and a computer program writing tool.

Oh, and the scribes are noodling with an idea to have a joint blog on our favorite and not-so-favorite writing how-to books. Check back soon.

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