Who is the pivotal character in your story? Lajos Egri defines this character as the one who forces the action.
The pivotal character may take the form of the antagonist, protagonist, love interest, sidekick, mentor, and so on.
This character generates energy from the get-go. He or she is the motivating force, the engine of conflict in a story, confident about the course of action to be undertaken. Othello’s Iago is such a character. His function is to drive the story to it’s ultimate conclusion.
Sometimes the character is relentless because circumstances have placed him in this position. An honest man who steals, for example, does so not for excitement or gain, but because his family might be starving, or he might need money for an operation for his child. But because he is an obsessively driven individual who focuses on his own goal, he can be reactionary and militant.
“The pivotal character forces the action, causing other characters to act.”
Pivotal characters are fixated on their goals and will drag others along with them.
Here are some characteristics and circumstances that make for effective pivotal characters:
- Someone who wants to take revenge on the man who ran away with his wife.
- Someone willing to give his life for his country.
- Someone who loves a woman but must make money first to marry her.
- Someone greedy. His greed springs from poverty. He exploits others because of it.
- Someone who obsessively wants to achieve success in a specific job or profession and will stop at nothing to achieve it.
A pivotal character is useful because he grants the writer flexibility—pivotal characters are usually protagonists or antagonists, but not necessarily so. This means the writer can utilise other characters to enrich the story without having to do it through traditional roles.
The pivotal character can be the protagonist or antagonist, or she can be the love interest, ally or mentor, providing she forces others into action throughout the story.