Characters and Organisations

I’ve been thinking about the relationship between main characters in fiction and organisations (local government, corporations, institutions, national government, the nation state).

Like real people, characters exist within organisations. They work in them. Their lives are impacted by them.

Characters and organisations go through different stages. A lifecycle. Youth. Adulthood. Old age.

Where do interesting stories place characters in context to an organisation?

  • Defending it
  • Fighting it
  • Inside it
  • Outside it
  • Driving for change
  • Resisting change
  • Forward looking
  • Backward looking

How does the organisation (as expressed through its status quo) perceive the character?

  • A supporter
  • An enemy

At what stage is the character?

  • Youth
  • Adult
  • Old age

At what stage is the organisation?

  • Youthful: dynamic and building
  • Adult: stabile and plateauing
  • Old age: ossified and collapsing

An organisation can be the main character’s antagonist.

An organisation can be their ally.

To increase the drama the main character has to completely identify with the organisation or completely identify as its opponent. (And maybe have a reversal of belief as the story progresses.)

When they are opposites they can offer heightened drama.

  • A weak character in a powerful organisation
  • A heroic character in a vulnerable organisation
  • A old character in a young organisation
  • A liberal character in an illiberal organisation
  • A truthful character fighting a mendacious organisation

Stories are about change. (Or an inability to change.)

What is the dynamic for change between the main character and the organisation?

What happens when an energetic young mind enters an ossified organisation that cannot change?

Where is the character in relation to the status quo?

Where is the character and the organisation in relation to the truth?

  • Exposing the truth
  • Covering up the truth
  • In harmony with himself/herself/itself
  • A distorted construct

Contrasting qualities are more interesting.