A Pirate's Resources

Character Functions

Exercise 22 :: Helper and King :: A little Help from my Friends/All Hail the King

The helper is a simple function that appears often in stories. This is the character/thing that contributes to the liquidation of the Act of Villainy - their function is to help the other characters defeat the villain and liquidate the AoV. There are often many helpers in any given story. And these helpers might be mini-heroes, someone who defeats a mini-AoV within the story itself.

I imagine this role it pretty easy to understand. Many times the
false hero is, in fact, a helper. They are on the side of light, they want to resolve the AoV, but they are not the hero. Stories are filled with helpers. The Fellowship of the Ring, for example, the actual fellowship (the 8 who accompany our hero on his quest), is made up of helpers. Each one has scenes in the larger story where they are a hero, but none is the hero of the whole story, yet without them, the real hero wouldn’t succeed.

Now here is a tough one. From the start I’ll say - it’s tough. Encourage your child that they aren’t expected to find this simple or easy to do, and they may find it nearly impossible. Have them give it their best shot, and then move on!

king in a story is the sovereign over the thing being fought over (the princess). A king, in real life, has power and authority over their subjects. A teacher in a classroom is something of a king over her students. The fireman is a king over the fire hose and fire. Parents are kinglike over their children. Anything or anyone that has power or authority over something else is, in this sense, king over it. In a story, the king is father to the princess.

Now, just as few stories have actual princesses that are fulfilling the function of
princess, few stories have an actual king or father. They are, as First Mate Manfred assures your child on page 252, often hidden, and difficult to find. It is NOT necessary that your student can find or create them to tell a good story. Just make sure they understand the idea of sovereignty, and something having authority over something else. It can often be a motivating factor in a character’s life. Love may rule them, like a king, and cause them to act in certain ways. They may have some special power, or have a person in their lives that influences them.

Because this is difficult, and often not talked about much in storytelling, we’ve merely introduced it here. Your student can be reassured that they are not going to have to identify kings in their exercises beyond this one, but that this introduction is just that, an introduction. They can say hello to it, do their best during this one exercise, and then move on!

In Real Life :: our lives are filled with helpers, and we ourselves are often helpers. Again, take a look at some problems that were solved in your students day, and have them identify who the helpers were. Have them search out a time when they were a helper (did they set the table at dinner, and help you be the hero who provided a meal?). As a little extra, one thing that discerning these different roles people play in our lives can do is create a sense of gratitude, thankfulness that someone was a helper, or alerted someone that we needed help, or came along side and helped us. As you and your student identify these people and their functions in your life, take a moment to let them know you are thankful. You might find that you are being a helper or hero in their story!

Finding it in the Story :: pg 248 :: First Mate Manfred is the helper. The king is the Kanadien captain, who is the “father” or “sovereign” of the princess, the Kanadien ship/crew/cargo.


Exercise 21 :: Donor and Magical Agent :: What the World Needs Now

This is one of my favorite sections, because there is so much creativity that can happen here! Simply put, the donor is the character/thing that connects the hero to the magical agent. The magical agent is the character/thing that is needed to liquidate (resolve) the Act of Villainy. So the AoV happens in the story, causing a problem, involving a princess. The villain either caused the problem and/or wants to keep it that way. The dispatcher alerts the hero to the AoV, and the hero decides to do something about it. But how? He needs a donor to provide him with the magical agent which is the very thing he needs to defeat the villain and/or solve the AoV. Simple enough, right? The magical agent is something the hero must have in order to stop the villain/AoV. If they try without it, they will lose. The donor is the character or thing that connects the hero and the magical agent.

The exercises do not dwell long on this section, because it tends to be something that happens pretty naturally in a story. Make sure your student is aware that these functions -
donor and magical agent - may be embedded in characters or things already in their story. Or it may be something totally unexpected, such as the donor being “three pizzas” that give the hero “fire in her belly” (pg 245) which she uses to burp and defeat the knight. The hero might have some knowledge they need, given to them by a donor long ago in school. This book is a donor, of sorts, giving your student the magical agent of storytelling grammar, which they may hopefully use to defeat some villain someday.

In Real Life :: Again, help them think outside the box, and help them spend some time talking about these functions in their favorite stories or in their real life. Truly, this is one of the best ways to really get to know and identify and utilize these story elements!

Finding it in the Story :: pg 247 :: the exercise itself leads the student through this one. The donor is the volume that First Mate Manfred reads from, and the magical agent is the knowledge in the volume that tells LeFossa which kind of kraken it is, and how to defeat it.


Exercise 20 :: Dispatcher :: Let the Hero know

The dispatcher is the character/thing that informs the hero that there is a problem to be solved. I think this is very straightforward, and the exercise leads the student through the concept very nicely.

In Real Life :: If you are reading this, you are by definition a parent or teacher or a parent-teacher, and that means that you have the desire to be the hero for someone. You want to help your student overcome the obstacles to learning, and prepare and educate them. But what happens if you don’t know there is a problem? When I was homeschooling 3 at once, it was fairly common for kiddo number one to come running in to where I was with number two, to tell me that the third was struggling with math. Without them telling me, I might have just gone on reading to #2, and #3 might have gotten more and more in the weeds with arithmetic. Not a super exciting A0V, but a real one to that #3, who was, in this case, the princess who needed a hero to rescue them from the (in their eyes) villain of math (or perhaps, ironically, me for assigning it). Child #1 played the very important role of dispatcher.

Who acts as the
dispatcher in your child’s story or life? Have them think of a specific problem they have, and who helped solve it. How did that person know to help solve it? The dispatcher could be many different people, and could even be the hero themselves (say, a friend who saw they were sad and themselves did something about it). But often it is a third person or thing that sees or finds out about an AoV, and lets someone know who then decides to solve the problem, and becomes the hero. Help them also see the moments when they were a dispatcher (and feel free to dispel any sense that tattling is, in fact dispatching, which it is, in fact, not). This is a valuable role in a story, a valuable role for those who are in need of a hero, and for those who want to be a hero, but don’t know where the problem is.

Finding it in the Story :: pg 232 :: this is an easy one. Scurvy Spat acts as the dispatcher in alerting the Captain, soon to be the hero of the princess of the Kanadien ship. Again, keep checking throughout the story for these kinds of mini-stories, and you’ll find lots of these character function/roles being played out (and help your student note that individual characters might have different functions in different mini-stories).


Exercise 20 :: Hero :: To the Rescue!

The hero! Bold and true, ready to rescue the princess! But, as with the princess, the hero isn’t necessarily the stereotype that we imagine, though they certainly might be. The hero is a character/thing that liquidates the Act of Villainy. Think of liquidating as solving, removing, fixing … whatever it takes to take resolve the AoV. In most stories, this will be the main character, and the story itself is all about the main character being the hero who eliminates the AoV. But, and this is important, the hero is whichever character, big or small, likely or not, who fulfills the function of liquidating the AoV.

There are several types of heroes. The
Seeker Hero is one who resolves the AoV for someone else. The Victim Hero resolves the AoV that affects themselves. And the False Hero is the one who appears to be the hero - through the story we think that they are going to solve the problem, and they may act like a hero, and they may desire and try to resolve the AoV - but if they are not the one who liquidates the AoV, then they aren’t actually the hero, even if they are the main character. (Just a reminder, these terms all refer to the actual function a character has in a story, not the stereotypical view we have of these character in fairytales).

Help your student understand these various types of heroes by thinking through their favorite stories (books, tv shows, movies, songs, video games) or any problem that they already know how it was solved, and asking first what the problem (AoV) was, and then who solved it, and, based on whether it was for themselves or another, they were a
seeker or victim hero. And spend some time searching for the false hero. These can be harder to find (let them read through the next chapter of the story to see on their own that we’ve already introduced them to a false hero).

In Real Life :: This concept of what a true hero does, and the difference between someone who wants to help but fails, wants to help others, or wants to help themselves, is important in life as well as in story. This will help a student look at those around them, those who claim to be a hero in some way, and assess, are they actually a hero? Who are they rescuing? What problem are they solving? Are they actually solving a problem? These are important questions to ask about others, and also about ourselves. So often the things we do have the appearance of being for others (seeker hero), but actually are there to solve a problem for ourselves. Or we think we are solving the problem but aren’t able to (take courage! We may be a helper and not realize it). These aren’t necessarily bad things, but it is a good thing to be aware and understand what really is.

Finding it in Real Life :: pg 225 :: the hero appears to be Meataloaf. Then on pg. 232, we see that it appears that the Captain is about to become the hero - he desires to rescue the princess of the ship. Ask your student, which characters are a seeker or victim hero, and which is a false hero? (Yogger is a seeker hero, Meataloaf ends up being a false hero).


Exercise 19 :: Princess :: Does the Princess have to wear a tiara?

Ah, the fairy tale princess. Now, before your student gags quietly in the corner over this stereotype, this is NOT what we are talking about. The princess may be, but often isn’t, an actual princess. She doesn’t have to be female. And she might not even be a character. Really?

Really. The
princess is the character or thing that is being fought over. It is something that is desired - it performs the function of being the thing in the story that is desired or needs to be saved. It could be magic jelly beans. It could be sea turtles. It could be a monkey slave. It could be the shire or Middle Earth. It could be the Ark of the Covenant. It might be a princess. Truly, the princess can be anything that someone in the story wants, or needs saving in some way. This opens it wide up!

How does this character or thing become the princess? They might be stolen or lost, or under threat of harm. This might be from the
villain, or it may have happened before the story even starts. Whenever the danger occurs to the princess, it causes other characters to desire to take actions to rescue or protect her.

In Real Life :: Sometimes in a story, as in life, something happens. A virus strikes the world. When this act of villainy occurs, any number of people might become the princess :: the elderly, the immune-compromised, small businesses, first responders, friendships, political position, airlines. All of these are possible princesses, and the author’s job is to make the choices necessary to move the story forward. Each of those potential princesses would have different characters who would desire to protect or save her.

Throughout these exercises on character, your student will be asked to identify who different characters might be, based on how they view what AoV is presented. It is a marvelous lesson in perspective, and I encourage you to help your student see this very aspect of it. Because as valuable as it is to be able to identify the
villain or the princess, being able to see the same AoV from different perspectives, to understand why one character reacts they way that they do, is of incredible value in life. So take some time and investigate the problems, big and small, that you see around you. Talk through how one person might see it as a problem, and another might not, and why. Ask who or what needs saving. Ask who might want to solve the problem and how they might go about doing it, and you are on your way to creating a storyteller who lives a compassionate life.

Finding it in the Story :: pg 225 :: the princess is the Kanadien ship and all the people on it. (The really astute student might even recognize that Meataloaf becomes the princess when the kraken swallows him - at that moment, there is a new AoV, and Meataloaf needs rescuing).


Exercise 19 :: Villain :: Who's the bad guy?

Devious music, a long handled mustache, a black cape. All these are classic symbols of a story villain. But in A Pirate’s Guide, princesses, heroes, and villains aren’t simply the pretty girl, the young strong knight, and the evil step-mother. They have specific functions in the story - which means that the handsome knight who is coming to rescue the princess, only to sell her to the evil step-mother looks like a hero (until the end), but is actually a villain. Going through the exercises and teaching will quickly help your student see how these different roles work.

villain is the character (or thing) that is on the side of the Act of Villainy. Remember, the AoV is what starts the story, and solving the AoV ends the story. The villain may (or may not) be the cause of the AoV. If the AoV is the stealing of the princess, the villain may be the one who stole her, or he may simply be another character that is on the side of her being stolen.

villain sees the AoV as a good thing. This is often a matter of perspective. And here we run into how these concepts can apply in real life. The student is asked to identify the villain in the exercise. Here is one example: “Because we didn’t have the proper permits to camp in the national park, the police officer forced my family to leave.” Who is the villain? Is it the police officer, who forced my family to leave? Is it the family, who, by not having a permit, forced the police officer to force them to leave? Is it the parent who neglected to get the permit? Is it the park service for creating a park that required permits? Your perspective will determine who you perceive the villain to be.

Remember, the key is that the
villain is the one who supports the AoV. They either made it happen, or want it to continue. They are NOT trying to solve the problem, or resolve the story. (True in story, true in life).

In Real Life :: When you require your children to finish their homework before going out to play, who is the villain? The problem is that the homework isn’t done, and it must be done before play. (AoV = unfinished homework). To you, the student may be the villain, since they aren’t finishing their homework as required. To the student, they may see you as the villain, the one who has a requirement they don’t want to meet. Or they may see the homework as the villain. Or the teacher that assigned it. Understanding their perspective, and helping them to understand yours, will help determine what actions you both take, and this in turn will determine how this story ends. I find this somewhat of a convicting function, because you don’t have to be a “bad guy” to be a villain. You can, in one sense, simply not choose to do something about an AoV that you see - this plays into the “dark shadows” portion of light and dark. Or you might be perpetuating a problem because you aren’t aware it is a problem for someone, and inadvertently you become a villain in their story. Being aware of these functions, and what your response is, can make you more aware of who you are in the story of life around you.

Finding it in the Story :: pg 225 :: the villain is the kraken. You might ask your student to think back to some other parts of the story and makes some guesses as to who else has acted, even in just one short scene, as a villain. As they come to understand the other characters more, they will be able to see if they were right or not.


Exercise 19-22 :: Character Functions

Very briefly, since there are no exercises with this, and it’s pretty self-explanatory, character functions describe the role (or function) a character plays in a story. It is determined by whom they are (their characterizations), what they want (their desires), the choices they make (story engine), and the actions they take (plot). A character’s function may change throughout the story, but understanding the role they play either in the story as a whole, or in a specific part of a story, MORE HERE.

There are 8 main character roles in any given story. Not every story will have all of them, stories may have several characters that fill a certain function, and characters may fill more than one function within the story, or at different parts of the story. Here are the different roles :: Villain, Princess, Hero, Dispatcher, Donor, Magical Agent, Helper, and King. Encourage your student to keep an open mind as they learn about each role - a princess isn’t necessarily a “princess,” and a hero isn’t necessarily just the main character. These are new terms with very specific definitions, so have them read on, and really gain an understanding of their function, their purpose in the story, as it will help them develop characters that are rich not only because they have done a good job giving them characteristics and desires that are specific, but also because they fulfill something essential in the story.

In Real Life :: we fill these same functions in life, so, as you learn about each function, think about times when you have operated in that role, and help your student to find examples of this in real life. It can be in simple things, like making dinner (if the AoV is “everyone is hungry and its past dinnertime,” think of all the “characters” in your family story, and how they responded.) Their actions will determine which functions they took. This will make much more sense as you learn the functions and put them into practice.

Finding it in the Story :: read on into the next exercises!