Friday, March 19, 2021

Episode 26: The Eight Character Wheel with Lou Anders

UPDATE: I changed the title from “Beyond Head Heart Gut” to make it clear this is a stand-alone episode. 

Hey guys, it’s a new episode of the podcast! James and I welcome the delightful novelist Lou Anders who expands on Head Heart Gut with a list of eight archetypes hiding in many great stories!  Check out Lou’s site to grab his books and RPGs!


Robert K S said...

I would have to think about how Anders' conception differs, if at all, from the Dramatica archetypes, which are also arranged as pairs. https://dramatica.com/theory/book/characters

FWIW the patents on Dramatica have expired (to the extent they were ever really valid under subject-matter eligibility law) so it could be an exercise sometime to dissect and critique the software.

Friday said...

This was so much fun to listen to, I wouldn't have minded it being double the length. Great examples, and Lou has a new fan and fellow accent chameleon. (I start to sound like you Matt if I've been on an episode binge!)

I know Lou mentioned SoS, My Story Can Beat Up Your Story, and another as the storytelling holy trilogy (soon to be tetralogy). Did he actually drop the title? I went back over that section but couldn't hear it if it was mentioned.

I see Robert's point about the similarities to the Dramatica archetypes. I don't remember though if that actually points out the paired relationships? Like mother/daughter, cop/criminal, soldier/spy, etc.

Here's the thing about though: I start falling asleep two paragraphs into dramatica, dudes. That, and, what's that other storytelling bible with all the diagrams? The Anatomy of Story? Hate it. Learned more from this podcast episode than reading and rereading tens of pages of either of those.

I do hope Lou comes back to follow up on that tease at the end.

Matt Bird said...

I didn't catch what the third book was either. I never checked out Dramatica- I should finally check it out at some point. We'll have Lou back soon!

Robert K S said...

Not clear there was a specific third book in mind, apart from "Dan Decker's ideas", but Decker did publish two writing books, "Anatomy of a Screenplay" and "I Think I Write".

Anonymous said...

As someone fairly familiar with Dramatica, I would say that the archetypes are very close if not the same:
Protagonist-Antagonist (pretty much the same as Lou's)
Guardian-Contagonist (equivalent to Mentor and Bad Example in Lou's)
Sidekick-Skeptic (Faithful one and skeptical one in Lou's)
Reason-Emotion (Thinker and Feeler in Lou's)

In the Dramatica Theory book, they look at the characters in Star Wars as well
Protagonist: Luke
Antagonist: Empire/Tarkin
Guardian: Obi-Wan
Contagonist: Vader
Sidekick: C3PO and R2D2
Skeptic: Han (because he is skeptical about the force)
Reason: Leia
Emotion: Chewbacca

The Dramatica folks consider the theory book to be rather difficult to get into, and even somewhat outdated, so putting Han&Chewbacca in the Emotion spot and C3PO in the Skeptic spot might be more up-to-date?

You would also have to consider that the archetypes are broken into "elements"
Protagonist: Pursue and Consider
Antagonist: Avoid/Prevent and Reconsider
Guardian: Help and Conscience
Contagonist: Hinder and Temptation
Sidekick: Support and Faith
Skeptic: Oppose and Disbelief
Reason: Control and Logic
Emotion: Uncontrolled/Free and Feeling

Anonymous said...

Dramatica has no problems with characters playing multiple roles, as long as they're not opposed. (You can't be both Protagonist and Antagonist, but you can be Protagonist and Reason, for instance)
It's also okay with character taking on only elements of archetypes. (without opposing things. A character can't have both pursue and avoid, but can have pursue and reconsider)
Each one of these two would make characters "complex characters" instead of "archetypes".

Nat said...

Great episode! It's interesting to consider how Lou's eight characters intersect with HHG. For example, Head can easily be either Thinker or Doubter depending on how they bounce off the protagonist. (Scottie vs. C-3PO, for example, though you can make the argument that McCoy plays a doubter sort of role every time he does the classic "We cannae go any faster, captain!" bit.) But Spleen would make a good Doubter, too. Similarly, Matt's Gut is probably closest to Lou's Feeler ("rushes in where angels fear to tread") but the Feeler can also be Heart (McCoy).

I think what I'm getting at is something James touched on a bit, that Lou's taxonomy tells us more about the role characters play in relation to the antagonist, whereas Matt's HHG is more about personality/approach. It would be fun to write out a chart of the 24 combinations and how they might work: what does a Gut Mentor look like? How about a Thinker Heart or a Feeler Head? Are there any examples of the weird ones or do do some just not work?

Sounds like a good project for James...

Nat said...

*oops, I said McCoy when I should've said Scottie...

Nat said...

There's also maybe a conversation to be had around introducing new characters in a series. Matt & James talked about this re: Cheers, replacing one heart character with another and so on. But the Avatar conversation in this episode suggested that when bringing in a new character, you need to have a space for them. You can either fill a role not already taken, as when a series expands to include new characters, or you can change one character's role and let someone else take their place (Sokka and Toph, Han and Lando).

Harvey Jerkwater said...

One of my favorite bits of advice from this blog is a variation and expansion of the "bad example" role: "Are there characters whose situations prefigure various fates that might await the hero?"