Friday, August 12, 2016

Finding the Inequity inside the MC Problem

After listening to Narrative First's Podcast Episode "Supercharging the Conflict in your Story" (the supercharging part starts at about 20 minutes in), I wondered if I could use anything specific to create these inequities he is talking about, specifically when it comes to the Main Character Problem.

After setting a blank story form's Main Character Problem to Pursuit, like his first example, I looked into the other story points and tried to find anything that resembled the second, incompatible truth of the Mary character. In fact, if you look to the Influence Character Problem, you find these options:
  • Consider
  • Logic
  • Help
  • Support
"You either not care or you can not pursue, but you can't pursue and want to help at the same time."
Jim Hull, Narrative First Podcast 10: Supercharging the Conflict in your Story (Emphasis mine)
I don't know if this was obvious from the beginning and I just didn't notice it, but this makes so much sense to me. This could be why the Influence Character has an effect on the Main Character in the first place. On the other hand, this is only the case if Help is truly the Influence Character's Problem, which doesn't have to be the case. Still, these four options seem like good brainstorming tools for finding that illusive inequity, even if you're not thinking of the Influence Character quite yet.

Let's use his other example, with a Main Character Problem of Certainty.
  • Proaction
  • Inaction
  • Deduction
  • Reduction
"He's always looking for an angle and no one can really trust him to not find fault with them, and then he only ends up matching with other people that are like-minded like him and he never actually mentally connects with somebody."
Jim Hull, Narrative First Podcast 10: Supercharging the Conflict in your Story
While not as obvious as the first example, it does sound a bit like Reduction or Deduction, doesn't it?

I looked into this a bit more, and found which Main Character Problems lead to which Influence Character problems.
If your Main Character Problem is in the left column, then the Influence Character Problem is one of the elements in the right column in the same row. If your Main Character Problem is in the right column, then the Influence Character Problem is one of the elements in the left column in the same row.

Using an Example of, say, Temptation (third-to-last row, right):

  • You can't take the easy way out if you don't want people complaining about it.
  • You can't take the easy way out if someone stands in your way.
  • You can't carelessly indulge if you feel terrible afterward.
  • You can't give in to your temptations if you care about hurting other people's feelings.
  • You can't carelessly indulge if you don't want people to rethink having you around.

Maybe Test (fourth row, right):

  • You can't test the limits if you acknowledge that there are no limits.
  • You can't test everything if testing everything takes too long for you.
  • You can't keep testing something if you also want to have it run smoothly
  • You can't rely on tried and tested methods and also want to act on mere intuition
  • You can't test something that is unfalsifiable.

Now these examples may or may not be good, but I think you get the idea. You have to make sure that the MC Problem is actually the problem and not the IC Problem. The MC keeps doing the MC Problem, but the other thing is also there, standing in the way.

Now you might wonder why I don't simply use the Main Character Focus/Symptom for this exercise. That's because the Focus/Symptom is, as the name implies, the symptom of that inequity and not part of the inequity itself. (Some of the potential IC Problems are potential MC Symptoms as well, I know). And the obvious part of integrating the IC Point of View is there as well.

In the end, all this is, is a tool to make your Main Character Problem more concrete in your head.


  1. Hey Bob, this is brilliant! I tried it for my own stories and it works well:
    - If you keep focusing on one person you won't be able to save those who need saving. (MC Problem Control, IC Problem Help)
    - If you keep trying to be free you'll never mount an effective resistance (MC Problem Uncontrolled, IC Problem Oppose)

    1. I've been looking back at this two-year old post and wondering whether it might be misleading or unhelpful.
      It's great that it works for you!