Coming Good and Breaking Bad: Generating Transformative Character Arcs For Use in Compelling Stories

author: Tony Veale, UCD School of Computer Science and Informatics, University College Dublin
published: Aug. 8, 2014,   recorded: June 2014,   views: 1986


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Stories move us emotionally by physically moving their protagonists, from place to place or from state to state. The most psychologically compelling stories are stories of change, in which characters learn and evolve as they fulfil their dreams or become what they most despise. Character-driven stories must do more than maneouver their protagonists as game pieces on a board, but move them along arcs that transform their inner qualities. This paper presents the Flux Capacitor, a generator of transformative character arcs that are both intuitive and dramatically interesting. These arcs – which define a conceptual start-point and end-point for a character in a narrative – may be translated into short story pitches or used as inputs to an existing story- generator. A corpus-based means of constructing novel arcs is presented, as are criteria for selecting and filtering arcs for well-formedness, plausibility and interestingness. Characters can thus, in this way, be computationally modeled as dynamic blends that unfold along a narrative trajectory.

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