Today I’m here to bring you a tongue-in-cheek (but surprisingly helpful!) tool for writers to entertain themselves with during isolation. This is the Character Disaster Chart.
No, don’t thank me. That’s enough applause, everyone please settle down.
First, take a cast of characters from your own work or someone else’s. Put each character under the label that best fits, accounting for your story’s context–a Religious Disaster, for instance, could be someone with a strong devotion to ideals or to another character as much as denominational faith. Don’t worry about filling every box.
Afterwards, you should have a colorful map of narrative roles. Characters who actively advance the overarching story are Plot Instigators. Characters who interfere with the plot or introduce new conflict are Chaotic Elements. Characters who support status quo or keep the story on track are Passive Elements.
The main antagonist with an End Goal usually lands in the middle column, while a villain just out to get your protagonist tends to be left column (possibly Disaster Disaster). Character motivations all tend to be centered around the Plot Instigators in various ways. I also noticed that characters opposite each other in the chart are commonly foils to each other. For instance:
Disaster Disaster vs. Absolute Functional
Disaster in Denial vs. Wholesome Functional
Unapologetic Disaster vs. Unhappy Functional
Deliberate Disaster vs. Functional with Effort
Natural Disaster vs. Cripplingly Hyperfunctional
Religious Disaster vs. Functional Psychotic
Obviously, every story dynamic will be different. Protagonists wind up all over the place! But try to have fun with the chart. Mess around with it and show off your results; it’s a great way to roast your own characters while getting to know your writing better!