Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ontology: Characters (Part 2)

Different characters play different roles in a story. These roles fall into three categories (Card, 1988, p. 59), with the major characters identified in more specific roles:
  • Major characters: The major charactersdrive the plot through its twists and turns and move the story forward. The major characters fill a variety roles (Phillips & Huntley, 1996, pp. 36-38):
    • Protagonist: The protagonist is the main character role in a story and drives the action. The protagonist will have a goal and undergoes a change – the “hero’s journey” – in the process of seeking to achieve that goal.
    • Antagonist: The character in the role of antagonist is in direct opposition to the protagonist. The antagonist may seek the same goal (e.g. find the significant object of the story) as the protagonist or may simply want to prevent the protagonist from achieving that goal.
    • Sidekick: The sidekick character role may be linked to the protagonist or antagonist. Each of those character roles may have its own sidekick. The sidekick character provides loyalty and support throughout the story and has unfailing faith in the rightness of the goals and actions of the protagonist or antagonist to which he/she is linked.
    • Guardian: The guardian character role is that of mentor or teacher to the protagonist. The guardian provides knowledge, guidance, support, and protection but also drives the protagonist towards achieving the protagonist’s goal.
    • Skeptic: The skeptic character role is linked to the protagonist, but this character’s role is to question and doubt everything – the protagonist’s thoughts, emotions and actions, the trustworthiness of other characters, anything and everything.
    • Emotion: The emotion character role is linked to the protagonist and responds to story events emotionally without thinking and without concern for the practical implications of a response.
    • Reason: The reason character role is linked to the protagonist and responds to events in the narrative logically, while not letting emotion interfere with the rational.
    • Temptation: The temptation character role is not necessarily directly opposed to the protagonist, but rather tries to hinder, divert, and delude the protagonist from achieving his/her goal, often by tempting and playing on the weaknesses of the protagonist.
  • Minor characters: The minor characters have a limited impact on the story, with their desires and actions causing plot twists but not substantially shaping the overall flow of the story. Typically, minor characters do one or two things before disappearing from the story.
  • Walk-on and placeholder characters: The walk-on and placeholder characters exist in the background to add realism or, if they appear in the foreground, it is to serve a simple function and then disappear.
Concept map of character roles and archetypes
A number of lists of archetypal character have been compiled. Schmidt’s compilation of 45 archetypal characters is one such list (Schmidt, 2001):
  • Male Hero/Villain Types
    • Businessman/Traitor
    • Protector/Gladiator
    • Recluse/Warlock
    • Fool/Derelict
    • Woman’s Man/Seducer
    • Male Messiah/Punisher
    • Artist/Abuser
    • King/Dictator
  • Female Hero/Villain Types
    • Seductive Muse/Femme Fatale
    • Amazon/Gorgon
    • Father’s Daughter/Backstabber
    • Nurturer/Over Controlling Mother
    • Matriarch/Scorned Woman
    • Female Messiah/Destroyer
    • Maiden/Troubled Teen
  • Supporting Types
    • Friends of Protagonist
      • Magi
      • Mentor
      • Best Friend
      • Lover
    • Rivals of Protagonist
      • Joker
      • Jester
      • Nemesis
      • Investigator
      • Pessimist
      • Psychic
    • Symbols
      • Shadow
      • Lost Soul
      • Double

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