Scholarship Review: Narrative Planning, Balancing Plot and Character

Mark Riedl and R. Young wrote up a piece in the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research about the automated creation of narrative and how the difficulties of believably in plot and character made its creation hard to achieve. Many times, the automated process would be able to string out sequences of events, but the motivations behind them and the sequences themselves made no sense. I looked at all of the sections labeled 2, which covered the basis of narrative planning and character believability.

Narrative was broken down into two layers: Fabula, the sequence that the story occurs, and the sjuzet, the order that the story is told to the readers. The fabula is where all of the character development, the story progression, and any plot points were created. The sjuzet would be worried about later. Artificial creation of narrative required many points to be worked with, including what defines believability for the audience.

Story comprehension requires that the audience understand the causes of the events and the intentions of the characters. For this, you have to have logical progression of the plot and a certain believability of characters.

The character needs a goal, any sort of motivation or intention that drives a character forward. They also need a physical appearance, some way to tell how they dress, look, and move. Stories aren’t believable, the willing suspension of disbelief will be broken, if characters have no individual desires.

In order to create meaningful characters, they must have variable goals that drive them to participate within the story. There is a relative difference between author goals and character goals. As an author, the plot is your goal, having many situations occur between the beginning of the story and the end of it. Character goals can be different because not all of the characters may desire that outcome, or they could be created and resolved throughout the story, or they may have side goals that do not necessarily align with the plot goals. All of these types of goals help to create someone who is relatable and likeable, or in the case of villainous characters, someone who draws emotion from the audience. Little quirks and character traits, details about them, also make characters feel real to the audience and make them believable.

The article talked a lot about how generated plot has a ways to go to become realistic, but identifying the human like traits of characters was a step forward in the process.

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