The Sticking Place

Character Relationship Map: The Third Man

Third Man Map

In a well-told story, every fictional character functions within a network or nexus, a cat’s cradle of character interactions. Certain characteristics of the protagonist and antagonist are revealed often only through relationships with each other or with circumstances (either external or internal) and events played out in action and reaction. Under the pressure of situations, conflicts, clashes of will or story tension, the ideas that lie behind a story’s themes cease to be merely abstract and become people actually doing things to each other or reacting to the action. As has been already explained, film dialogue is best when it has an immediate purpose and produces visible reactions in others. This is the essence of drama. Because character is not a static quality that belongs to a specific figure, rather than thinking of individual characters in the world it is far more useful for the writer to consider the notion of character-in-action-and-reaction.
A story’s energy comes from the degree to which its characters are warring elements, complimentary aspects that illuminate each other by contrast and conflict. The only practical reason for a particular character’s existence, in fact, is to interact with other characters.

© The Estate of Alexander Mackendrick