Players and Characters

Subtxt separates the idea of Characters from the concept of Players. Writers are familiar with the former--Characters are usually what brings most Authors to the party. Players, on the other hand, are something different. A Player is a vessel for context within a given perspective.

Context & Perspective

When it comes to the Narrative Subtxt underlying a story, perspective outweighs individual characters. In A Christmas Carol, it is the shared perspective held by the Ghosts that eventually influences Scrooge to alter the way he sees the world. In Aliens, it is the shared perspective held between Newt, Carter, and Lt. Gorman that eventually drives Ripley to "man up" and save the day. In both of these examples, the characters holding that shared perspective are less important to the meaning of the story than the actual perspective.

In a complete story, perspective arrives in four different contexts:

  • Objective Story (THEY perspective)
  • Main Character (I perspective)
  • Influence Character (YOU perspective)
  • Relationship Story (WE perspective)

The conflict THEY experience is vastly different than the conflict I personally witness. While YOU may create problems of your own, WE struggle to develop a meaningful relationship with each other.

These four different perspectives as the Four Througlines of a story. Think of them as four separate stories that kinda-sorta have some familiar thematic issues in them.

Handing Off the Perspective

Subtxt recognizes the importance of perspective over character by providing an opportunity for the writer to track these "hand-offs" from one Player to the next.

Simply drag and drop the Players you wish to share the same perspective into a Throughline, and they will appear as options within the Structural Detail of Storybeats within that Throughline.

Note: Believe it or not, you CAN drop multiple Players into the Main Character Throughline. Main Character is a perspective, not a character. Films like Stalag 17 or The Big Chill are examples of this rare—but perfectly legit—approach to framing a narrative.

A Word About Relationships

You may notice that you can drag and drop multiple relationships into the Relationship Story Throughline. What is this about?

Relationships, by definition, are constantly changing. What starts out as friendship eventually evolves into love or even devolves into mere acquaintances. What started out as a mentorship can evolve into a more level playing field as colleagues or fellow grandmasters. Regardless of the specific labels, a relationship is always in flux.

Subtxt recognizes this reality by allowing writers to alter the key relationship in a story as the narrative progresses. Add a Relationship Player to signify the start of your Relationship Story Theoughline, add another to mark the evolution of the relationship. When you visit the Structural Detail for a Relationship Story Throughline Beat, you will be presented with the opportunity to define that Beat in terms of where the relationship started, or what it grows into at the end of your story.

Playing Dual Roles

Some Characters play different roles in different Throughlines.

Ripley is the primary Player within the Main Character Throughline of Aliens, while also playing the Role of Protagonist in the Objective Story Throughline.

E.T. is the primary Player within the Influence Character Throughline of E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial, while also playing the Role of Protagonist in the Objective Story Throughline.

Players drive Throughlines, not characters. Feel free to mix and match Players within different Throughlines in order to accomodate the story you want to tell.

You CANNOT assign the same Player to competing perspectives. In other words, you can't have the same player operating in both the Main Character and Influence Character Throughlines. That would create a schizophrenic story--and would be crazy for your Audience to experience.

Assigning Character Elements

If you’re a writer familiar with Dramatica, you may be wondering where the option to set Protagonist or individual Character Elements are in Subtxt. For now, Subtxt only offers the Motivations of Pursuit and Avoid through the Storypoints of the Story Goal and the Story Consequence (respectively).

In future version of Subtxt, you will be able to assign all 64 elements.

Protagonist and Antagonist

The Protagonist pursues the Story Goal, the Antagonist prevents it and is for the Story Consequence. That said, these Players may not be fully aware that they are aligned with either one.

When developing the Storybeats for your Objective Story Throughline make sure you have a couple of them driven by the Protagonist and/or the Antagonist. These two are pitted against each other within the context of the Objective Story, so it only makes sense for them to drive the conflict from that particular perspective.

It's very important that you remain objective about these assignments, and that you refer to the Motivations in context of the Story Goal. The Story Goal of The Terminator is for Sarah to gain control, or command, over her life--not to simply escape from the Terminator.

In Dramatica theory, Storypoints are reference points for the Author, not the characters. The Story Goal is where the Author sees resolution appearing in the narrative from an objective point-of-view. This means that, while quite often they are conscious and aware of the Story Goal, characters do not necessarily need to know the Goal of a story--they're not the Author, they are a player in the story. This plays out in films like The Terminator, E.T., Casablanca, and The Lion King where the personal development of the Main Character is the point of the entire story.

In the context of Sarah gaining control over her life, those pursuing her are what make her the Protagonist of that story. The Antagonist then, the one avoiding, or preventing--even if unconsciously--is Reese, her protector. His very presence makes it impossible for Sarah to gain control over her life. It's only once he is dead and gone that Sarah can finally step up and assume her place as leader of her life.

The Protagonist and Antagonist of The Terminator