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Authentic Characters Have Complex Conflicts
In Ten Types of Literary Conflict, I posit that there are actually five types of internal conflict that
mirror five types of external conflict. This is an extension of that article and there have been a
few changes made from the system described in that article. I have added Man versus Family
and have refined the concepts from the prior article. The literary theory of conflict begins in
Ancient Greece and the details of how conflict is viewed have changed over the centuries but not
the larger philosophical framework.
I posit that internal versus external conflict is a modality and on a spectrum. As a semiotic
modality, if the conflict is presented in subjective, psychological terms then the conflict is
interpreted as internal by the receiver of the message. If the conflict is presented in more
objective, physical terms then the conflict is interpreted as external by the receiver of the
message. This is due to conventions of communication and does not reflect the fact that humans
actually live in world that is a stream of consciousness and an external that is largely socially
constructed. The internal/external dichotomy is not how we perceive reality. The
internal/external dichotomy is a narrative convention that has creative utility. Because internal
and external conflict is a modality that means internality and externality exist on a spectrum.
For example, in Man versus Society, an ethnic group may be marginalized physically via
discrimination but the affects can be internal. In the novel, Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, the
protagonist claims he is invisible but this is not a physical condition but due to a system that
ignores him as a black man. However, the novel does detail physical conflict with the system.
The novel works because the internal and external modalities are dealt with in a synthetic
manner rather than neatly separated.
I hope my framework will be useful for writers who want to write complex characters. The
thesis of this article is that complex characters that are authentic have complex conflicts. Many
of the most commercially successful TV shows of the last 20 years have worked because they
have had an authentic complex protagonist and/or main character at their center. This has led to
a factory approach to create more shows with complex characters via interesting quirks and
habits that can add to the external complexity of the character but without any grounding in
internal conflict seem forced and gimmicky and ultimately inauthentic. External character
complexity minus internal character complexity is phony and unsatisfying to the viewer who
wants to see something that is true to life even on the small screen.
Complexity has two dimensions including depth and breadth. Depth is a combination of both
internal and external conflict within a single area such Man versus Faults. If the character is a
kleptomaniac and the narrative explores how the character feels about his kleptomania and how
his kleptomania effects the people around him then that is depth of conflict. When there is a
clear narrative connection between the internal and external then the audience experiences
satisfaction. For example, a character feels shame because of his poverty and this causes him to
steal which in turn creates conflict between that character and the law. This tidy cycle makes us
feel happy. However untidy characters whose internal and external conflict are not so well
connected can create unease and curiosity in the audience and we want to watch more about the
character in order to figure the character out. In the TV show, Jessica Jones, the supervillain is

Authentic Characters Have Complex Conflicts
Kilgrave and perhaps the most well rounded supervillain in the history of comic book characters
on the small screen. Kilgraves psychopathic behavior has a certain panache and his British
accent helps make his behavior interesting. In the episode AKA WWJD, the audience finds out
that Kilgrave was forced to be a lab rat for his parents and that is why he is a psychopath and part
of me likes the explanation but part of me lost interest in the character but the villain as victim
angle was interesting. The parents of Kilgrave appear soon afterwards and their version of
events is at odds with Kilgraves tale of woe. Kilgrave is probably a liar and the fact that
psychopaths lie is not new and my interest in the Kilgrave character plummeted. A faint trail
between internal and external conflict may create mystery which in turn creates curiosity.
Breadth is conflict in most of the six areas mentioned including Man versus Faults, Man versus
Family, Man versus Nature, Man versus Society, Man versus Universe and Man versus Machine.
This essay looked at ten complex TV characters and almost all of them have some connection to
the six areas mentioned even is the connection is tenuous in some cases. Is breadth or depth of
conflict more important when creating a complex character that is authentic and engages the
audience? There probably is not easy answer to this question. I would posit that an authentic
complex character needs both depth and breadth.
I can accept a simple character like Homer Simpson in The Simpsons and laugh and be
entertained. Homer Simpson lacks both depth and breadth as a character. However, an
inauthentic complex character like Everett Backstrom played by Rainn Wilson in Backstrom is
inauthentic and was not well received by audiences because there is breadth but no depth to the
character. On the other hand, Rainn Wilson played Dwight Schrute with quirks in The Office
and this external complexity worked because this character displayed both depth and breadth.
Michael Scott played by Steve Carrell was the protagonist in The Office but I would argue
Dwight was the more important character and is the main reason The Office continued to have
success for two seasons after Michael Scott left in season seven.
The characters I have picked to illustrate this position are iconic TV characters that have been
associated with TV shows that have had both critical and commercial success. If you want to
write great characters then a scholarly approach would be to study great characters and that is
what I have done here!
1.1) Man versus Faults
Man versus Faults includes psychological pathologies ranging from anxiety and simple phobias
to severe, and long-standing obsessive/compulsive disorder and substance abuse. Man versus
faults can also include character flaws. However, if the character is comfortable with their
pathology and/or character flaws then there is no internal conflict but these faults can still lead to
conflict with other characters. This is the internal version of the external man versus man
conflict and in particular good versus evil.
1.2) Man versus Family

Authentic Characters Have Complex Conflicts
This is a struggle with people we care about. There are people around us whose opinion matters
and they have the power to define our identity and we struggle with them. This is usually family
and/or significant others but the defining characteristic is they are a thou as defined by Martin
Buber and the boundary between ourselves and the other are not clearly defined. In sociological
terms this would be conflict with a member or members of your primary group. Herbert Mead
has put forth the concept of 'I' and the 'me'. According to Mead, the "me" is the socialized aspect
of the person, the "I" is the active aspect of the person. The me is largely shaped by our
family. This is the small version of society that defines who we are rather than the larger
impersonal society of institutions. Family defines our identity to such a great extent that family
can make creating a new and better identity difficult. In My Big Fat Greek Wedding, Toula has a
family that tries to limit both her ethnic and gender identity and life choices. Toula successfully
negotiates a new identity with her family that includes the best of her Greek heritage and also
allows her to join a larger social circle beyond her Greek roots.
Most family centered films are intensely psychological. However, families do have the ability to
give or withhold resources and stories about powerful families may emphasize the largely
external power struggle between family members as is the case in The Godfather. Michael (Al
Pacino) is drawn into the mafia family business because his father, the Godfather is shot i.e.
external circumstances.
1.3) Man versus Nature
The character struggles with the animal within. In more general terms this can be instinct and/or
hardwired programming we have as virtue of being biological beings. We are born with certain
predispositions that we probably share with all biological beings and certainly all animals but as
humans we can use our mind to overcome this animal side and achieve a higher level of being
which is being civilized and/or transcendence. In Freudian terms, the superego is in conflict with
the id. The character is struggling with what Maslow terms lower order needs and especially
physiological needs. The successful resolution of this conflict can leads to more happiness and
less neurosis. The character trajectory for this sort of conflict is generally the descent from
civilization to savagery but in the case of Tarzan the trajectory was reversed and therefore a more
interesting story was created. The external version of this conflict is the physical struggle of man
versus a force of nature and/or animal. The Old Man and the Sea is an example of the external
version of this struggle. Faults tend to be idiosyncratic while the struggle with our sexuality and
aggression is more universal.
1.4) Man versus Society
The character resists the socialization, institutionalization, seduction or even brainwashing of an
authoritarian system. The character is not struggling with members of his/her primary group but
with functionaries of a society that are just doing their job. A simple cops and robbers story
focuses on the external conflict between the criminal and the system. However, if the criminal
also wonders about the ethics of his actions and what his role should be in society then an
internal struggle is at work. If the character struggles against an authoritarian system physically

Authentic Characters Have Complex Conflicts
(The Hunger Games) but has no doubt of the rightness of their cause then this is the external
version of this conflict.
1.5) Man versus Universe
The character wonders about their place in the universe. Not their place in society but the
universe as a whole. The character ponders what is the meaning of life, truth and/or the nature of
reality. This may be an existential crisis or worse. One extreme version of this conflict is the
protagonist struggles with madness but the madness is so pervasive that he or she cannot tell
what is real or not real. The universe may indeed have gone mad or the character is suffering
from some type of psychosis i.e. manic depression or schizophrenia. Madness is not a part of the
character but is the character.
Man versus the universe can be a spiritual struggle. The character is struggling with what
Maslow terms higher order needs and self-actualization in particular. In Buddhism there are the
three poisons. The three poisons are ignorance, attachment, and aversion. Synonyms for
ignorance are confusion, bewilderment, and delusion. The opposite of ignorance is wisdom.
Synonyms for attachment are desire, passion and greed. Synonyms for aversion are anger,
aggression and hatred. Dealing with the three poisons successfully can lead to enlightenment
which in my opinion is pretty similar to self-actualization.
In the external version of this struggle, the character is in a struggle against cosmic level forces
such as the supernatural (The Shining), fate (Slaughterhouse Five) or even God (A Canticle for
Leibowitz). Lovecraftian horror is also an example of this type of struggle but the struggle has a
large internal dimension. The most common version of this cosmic level struggle is actually not
with God but with the Devil in deals with the devil stories. Man is hopelessly outmatched in
terms of power in this type of struggle and cannot win via power but must rely on his wits and/or
1.6) Man versus Machine
The character struggles with technology externally but sometimes the machine is within. The
character is a cyborg and struggles to maintain a human identity despite the computer implants in
their brain. Deathlok and the Robocop franchise are both examples of this type of struggle. The
converse version of this type of conflict is a robot that strives to be human. Data of Star Trek
would be an example of this type of struggle. Jessica Alba struggles with her feline transgenic
DNA in Dark Angel. This type of conflict did not show up in any of the characters analyzed but
is mentioned since this is a type of inner conflict a writer might want to explore as part of the
character creation process. Future Shock would be another example of the external struggle with
technology effecting us within. The constant change in technology leaves some individuals in
more or less a state of shock. Being a cog in the machine also effects the individual internally
and externally. The character may experience alienation, frustration and boredom because of
their dehumanized condition.

Authentic Characters Have Complex Conflicts
If the character is in a struggle against a robot and/or computer and the struggle is physical then
this is the external version of this conflict. The Terminator franchise and the comic book hero
Magnus, Robot Hunter would be examples of this type of conflict. Humans do not just fight
robots but the machine in the form of automation which takes their jobs and the deskilling of
jobs that demeans humans. Technology can also be a daily irritant when the technology breaks


2.1) Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City
Carrie Bradshaw Man versus Faults
Carrie is neurotic. In Season 4, Change of Dress, she breaks into a rash when wearing a wedding
dress due to her anxiety about marrying Aidan. Carrie buys shoes obsessively. Miranda
estimates that Carrie has spent over 40,000 dollars on shoes. Because of her shoe fetish, In Ring
A Ding Ding, Carrie has zero assets and zero savings and cannot buy her apartment from her exboyfriend Aidan. Carrie has very little insight into her neurosis and is only bothered by the
financial consequences when she might end up losing her apartment. Carrie does not reflect that
she has a shoe fetish that might indicate a deeper psychological problem. Carrie does not
interpret the wedding dress rash as representative of a deep inner fear of commitment but as just
a fear of commitment with Aidan. Carrie is self-absorbed. Carries column is not about
relationships but about her relationships. In the episode Freak Show, there is a slight allusion
that maybe Carries problem is not freaky men but her own neurosis that causes her to pursue the
wrong men. Carrie amusingly uses buying sprees to relieve anxiety but also uses binge drinking
and one night stands to relieve anxiety but this is less noticed because this plot device is much
more common in television.
Carrie Bradshaw Man versus Family
Carries primary group is her three female friends but she has an inability to make a similar
connection with males in her life. In particular, she struggles with achieving an intimate
relationship with Big and also has a long list of failed relationships with men. If I met someone
like Carrie and know her sexual history then I would wonder if there had been some sort of child
abuse or neglect from her father when she was young. The family histories of Carrie and her
friends are largely untouched except for one episode about the death of Mirandas mother.
Carrie does seem to have daddy issues and one of the older male editors at Vogue tries to exploit
this perceived weakness unsuccessfully. Big calls Carrie kid on a regular basis. Carrie uses
her friends as a substitute family and wants unconditional support rather than questions from her
friends even when her decision are not well thought out. In Splat!, Petrovsky wants Carrie to
move to Paris from New York and the lack of Mirandas approval causes Carrie great distress.
Carrie Bradshaw Man versus Nature

Authentic Characters Have Complex Conflicts
Carrie generally runs away from physical conflict. However, Carries out of control sexuality
leads to an abortion and dangerous liaisons with dangerous characters including an alcoholic
(Patrick Casey) and David Duchovny, who plays Carries high school boyfriend, is
institutionalized. One criticism of the show is that the lack of consequences for sexual behavior
provides a dangerous role model for young female viewers. However, Carries antics are
amusing and there is a realism to her liaisons that make me think there is a real life story behind
almost all of them.
Carrie hates Aidens cabin. Carrie is not a big fan of Aidens dog.
Carrie Bradshaw Man versus Society
If men can be promiscuous then why cant women? Carrie and her group often spout feminist
rhetoric to rationalize their promiscuity. Theirs is a pseudo feminism that serves a rhetorical
function to justify the exploitation of men for financial reasons and fleeting sexual pleasure
regardless of the damage such behavior might cause the men in their life. There is also a lack of
a sense of self-preservation. In the real world men do not get pregnant and are less likely to be
raped. Carrie and her friends claim independence but are more than willing to use men in the
very traditional role of sugar daddy in exchange for sex. Charlotte receives a huge apartment in
exchange for having been married for a short period of time. Carrie is offered money from Mr.
Big to buy an apartment. Carrie cheats on Aiden with Big to satisfy a sexual itch. Aiden is hurt
deeply by Carrie. Carrie cares more about the label her behavior may carry than the
consequences of her behavior in Critical Condition. Carrie does occasionally reflect that there is
a dissonance between her feminist rhetoric and the actual behavior of her friends.
Carrie never reflects on social justice. Charity functions are backdrops for fashion. Carrie takes
her life of privilege for granted but this actually makes the character more real since we all know
people like Carrie who have made consumerism their social philosophy.
Carrie Bradshaw Man versus Universe
Carries does not worry about God or the universe or the meaning of life and neither do her
friends. Her friend Samantha is doesnt think twice about seducing a priest in The Agony and
the Ex-tacy. Charlotte converts to Judaism but her biggest issue with this conversion is that she
will have to give up Christmas decorations! Houses of worship are largely a fashion accessory
for Carrie and her friends. Carrie has an abortion but does not see the issue in religious terms in
the least. Carrie visits the Chad, the father of her aborted baby, in Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda and
he is a loser and would not have been a good provider so her decision is justified. Right to life
arguments pro or con are irrelevant to Carrie.
In the film, Sex and the City 2, Islam is used as a fashion backdrop while any attempt to explore
the clash of world views between a largely Christian US sensibility and Islam is totally ignored.
I suppose one heartening message of the message is that Arab women like American women
wear high fashion labels so they are united in the sisterhood of high fashion consumerism.

Authentic Characters Have Complex Conflicts
However, in my opinion this actually makes Carries a more realistic character since this lack of
any reflection of her place in the universe is representative of many Americans, unfortunately.
The big issues like AIDS, abortion, religion can all be solved by Carrie with a shoe buying spree
that will allow her to forget all her troubles! The fashionista side of Carrie makes her interesting
but the slight hint that the fashionista face of Carrie is indicative of a dangerous shallowness is
what makes the character work.
Carrie is superficially a sympathetic character but upon analysis is an example of absurd
consumerism at the expense of all other values and this means you want to watch in the same
way you want to watch the eye of a beautiful woman being cut in Un Chien Andalou. How can
such a well-dressed and pretty girl be such a grotesquerie spiritually? Carrie revels in ignorance
and attachment and shows almost zero spiritual growth. Carrie gets Big in the end and thats all
that matters. Carrie is not in conflict with the three poisons because she is blissfully aware of the
three poisons. I reject the argument that we forgive character like Tony Soprano who is a
murderer but detest Carrie who is guilty of so much less. Tony Soprano represents an exotic evil
I have only seen in fiction. Carrie represents an Ugly American whose banal evil is all too
common. They hate us because there are too many Carries in America!
Carrie Bradshaw Man versus Machine
Carrie struggles with technology. In My Motherboard, My Self, Carries Mac crashes and she
has not backed up her data. Carrie does not have a cell phone and is admonished to get one by
Miranda. Carrie does switch from a Mac to a Hewlett Packard PC in the movie Sex and the City
2. Carrie is frustrated by technology but does not really suffer from Future Shock and like many
deals with one technology crisis in her life at a time.
2.2) Don Draper from Madmen
Don Draper Man versus Faults
Don Draper drifts from serious alcohol abuse to out and out alcoholism from the first season to
the last season. Don Draper also has hallucinations and sees dead people! Draper sees his father
Archibald Whitman during a drunken hallucination in Seven Twenty Three. Drapers sees Anna
Draper in The Suitcase. Don saw his half-brother Adam Whitman in The Phantom. Draper
watched the recently deceased Bert Cooper dance in Waterloo. The good news is that Draper is
generally drunk out of his mind when he sees dead people so he is probably suffering from
alcohol induced episodic psychosis rather than out and out psychosis. Draper may be drinking
because he had a horrific childhood. Draper may be drinking because he has a deep dark secret
that causes anxiety. Draper may drink so much because its part of the ad man lifestyle. Finally,
Draper may be drinking because he is addicted to alcohol and that seems to be the case towards
the end. In the last episode of Season Six, Megan states, You want to be alone with your liquor
and your ex-wife and your screwed up kids.". Megan dear, he just wants to be left alone with his
liquor. I think we have all known someone like that in our lives!
Don Draper Man versus Family

Authentic Characters Have Complex Conflicts

Draper was born Richard "Dick" Whitman and had a horrific childhood and is born into poverty.
His mother was a prostitute that died in labor. His stepmother Abigail is abusive towards
Draper. Draper loses his virginity to a prostitute in none consensual sex. Draper wants love but
probably because of his early experiences with women, has a hard time allowing women past his
defenses. Draper does flirt with SM with the housewife and neighbor Silvia Rosen.
Don Draper Man versus Nature
Don Draper chases women and his out of control womanizing and damages his first marriage.
Don is reflective enough to realize he has a problem in this area. Draper gets into a fist fight
with a reverend in a bar. Draper is a he-man in the classic fifties model but is smart enough to
realize the limitations of this act and by the last season is a nomad seeking deeper meaning and
escape from his baser side.
Don Draper Man versus Society
Draper switches identities with his commanding officer during the Korean War after the officer
is killed. Draper steals his role in society via fraud. This is Drapers deep secret and there are
major consequences. His half-brother commits suicide presumably because Draper must keep
him away in order to keep his secret. Draper may be comfortable with his deception but he is not
comfortable with the death of his half-brother the deception caused. Draper has made the cold
blooded decision that self-interest is more important than the truth and this is a realistic
decision that we will see again in other complex TV protagonists.
The Civil Rights Movement provides some background noise and some external conflict in the
series. Draper has an African-American receptionist at one point and one episode takes place
during the assassination of Martin Luther King. Two of the major characters represent two
pathways to be a successful woman in a sexist sixties world. Joan Holloway uses a combination
of obvious sexuality that is possible with her voluptuous figure and assertiveness in tandem to
play men. Peggy Olson has real advertising talent and is less willing to use her sexuality.
Predictably the two join forces to create a company that will film ads.
Don Draper Man versus Universe
Draper doesnt care about money compared to his peers. Draper gives is second wife a check for
a million dollars that he does not have to as part of the divorce settlement. Draper is an ad man
that manipulates consumers but is not manipulated by consumerism. Don is struggling to find
the meaning for life and goes to a commune and presumably writes the "I'd Like to Buy the
World a Coke" ad that may or may not be an expression of self-actualization.
Don Draper Man versus Machine
In Mad Men, television becomes an increasingly more important part of advertising. Harry
Cranes character rises in the organization due to his expertise in this area and is also in charge of

Authentic Characters Have Complex Conflicts
the new computer the organization buys and installs. Whats interesting is that Harry Cranes
lack of people skills are not over the top as is the stereotype with technology nerds in television
and he does move to California and become more at ease and fashionable but is always making
faux pas with Draper with comments that are inappropriate. The technology shift in advertising
has almost no effect on Draper. Draper is a pragmatist that can soon adapt to new external
2.3) Dwight Schrute from The Office
Dwight Schrute Man versus Faults
One of the reasons I watched The Office was to see what outrageous action Dwight would take.
Dwight is immature, lack social skills, suffers from paranoia and engages in splitting. Dwights
in the first few seasons has very little self-awareness of his faults. His faults cause external not
internal conflict. Dwight does modify his behavior and is portrayed as a quirky but effective
manager in the last episode of the last season. Dwight even lets Jim Halper, his previous arch
enemy, become is number two man in the office. There is no real aha moment but Dwight has
obviously mellowed by the last episode. A lot of Dwights behavior makes sense when you
realize that Dwight is basically paranoid. Dwight has weapons hidden all over the office because
he fears physical attack. Dwight engages in splitting, black and white thinking about other
people and there is a consistent pattern to his conflicts with other characters. Dwight idolizes his
boss Michael Scott and decides that Jim Halpert is his arch enemy more or less in comic book
terms. Dwights family history suggest extreme neglect. Dwight is in touch with an extended
family including his cousin Moe, and Dwight shares a lot of information about that extended
family but not his parents. If I met a person with Dwights problems then I would wonder if he
had been neglected by his parents while growing up. However, why Dwight acts so crazy is all
and all a mystery. Jim Halper in particular reacts to Dwights misbehavior with punishing
pranks but does express more than once his utter mystification why Dwight is the way he is but
again there are hints.
Dwight Schrute Man versus Family
Moe Schrute is Dwights cousin and he they have a love/hate relationship. In one episode,
Dwight leaves a message to Moe and his unborn son. Dwight warns his unborn son about Moe.
Dwight also warns his cousin about his unborn son. The boss, Michael Scott is a surrogate father
and is picked as such perhaps due to neglect from his real father.
Dwight Schrute Man versus Nature
Dwight is a hunter. Dwight uses absurd parallels between survival in the animal kingdom and
those are lessons that humans should use to guide their own behavior. Dwight is a student of the
martial arts and uses multiple martial arts classes to handle his pent up aggression about not
being given the job of office manager.
Dwight Schrute Man versus Society

Authentic Characters Have Complex Conflicts

Dwight has an authoritarian personality and accepts Social Darwinism. Dwight is a volunteer
deputy sheriff and would probably be a police officer if he could get past the psychological test.
Dwight is rude and even cruel to his fellow office workers but subservient to his boss Dwight. In
X he does tell the documentary crew that he does respond to authority.
Dwight Schrute Man versus Universe
Dwights world view has been heavily influence by Dungeons & Dragons and their alignment
system. You dont see much evidence of Dwight classifying characters as lawful or chaotic but
Dwight does engage in splitting and the people around him are good or evil and there isnt much
grey in Dwights world view.
Dwight Schrute Man versus Machine
Economies of scale in the paper industry threaten Dunder Mifflin, the company that employs
Schrute. The real life Staples is often mentioned as a competitor to Dunder Mifflin. Technology
is not mentioned directly as part of the company struggle but part of Staples success is superior
logistic which is possible with superior information systems. Schrute himself likes computer
games and likes Sharper Image type gadgets.
2.4) Enoch Malachi "Nucky" Thompson from Boardwalk Empire
Nucky Thompson Man versus Faults
Nucky is a surprisingly well adjusted gangster surrounded by gangsters that have numerous
psychological problems. Is Nuckys saneness a weakness? In the world of gangsters
unpredictable, psychopaths often have the advantage over Nucky but in the long run Nucky can
form alliances the psychopaths cannot. Crazy men have a tactical advantage in the world of
crime. Sane men have a strategic advantage in the world of crime.
Nucky Thompson Man versus Family
Nuckys brother is Eli Thompson. Nucky marries Margaret Thompson. Eli works for
Thompson but sometimes resents how he is treated by Nucky. Margaret is a moral person who is
eventually leaves Nucky because of his gangster lifestyle. Both characters provide ongoing
conflict. The conflict with Eli is largely external. Margaret does make Nucky question his
lifestyle so this struggle has an internal element.
Nucky Thompson Man versus Nature
Nucky drinks but in moderation. Nucky likes the ladies but doesnt let that interfere with
business. Nucky does not shy away from violence but sees uses violence as a tool not for
vicarious pleasure like the gangsters around him. Nucky is an adult and in control and all thmore
dangerous because of this maturity.

Authentic Characters Have Complex Conflicts
Nucky Thompson Man versus Society
Crime is inherently a struggle against legitimate social norms. Crime is ethnic redress. In real
life gangs generally divided along ethnic lines. The Italian Mafia in America requires made men
to be of Italian ancestry. Nucky is the mayor of Atlantic City and one of the reasons is that
Nucky gets most of the black vote.
Nucky Thompson Man versus Universe
Nucky rejects Catholicism. This is not a big area of conflict for Nucky.
Nucky Thompson Man versus Machine
2.5) Nancy Botwin from Weeds
Nancy Botwin Man versus Faults
Nancy is impulsive, has an oral fixation, is reckless and soft.
Nancy Botwin Man versus Family
Nancy has ongoing conflicts with three members of her family. Andy Botwin is the brother-inlaw of Nancy and is sexually attracted to Nancy and she uses her sexuality to manipulate Andy
until he realizes what is going on and removes himself from her presence permanently. Shane
Botwin is the youngest son of Nancy. Nancy and Shane have an ongoing struggle for power and
authority. Silas Botwin is the oldest son of Nancy and embraces their criminal lifestyle.
Nancy Botwin Man versus Nature
Nancy is out of control sexually. Weed is an increasingly a symbol of nature as the series
Nancy Botwin Man versus Society
The theme song is Little Boxes. Crime is rebellion against conformity.
Nancy Botwin Man versus Universe
The American dream is stolen from Nancy by her husbands death. Nancy is a middle class
housewife until her husband's death forces her to sell weed to support her family. Destiny not
God forces her into a life of crime. The husband was Jewish and the brother-in-law Andy goes
to Rabbi school and provides some background noise in the form of musings both Jewish and
New Age.

Authentic Characters Have Complex Conflicts
Nancy Botwin Man versus Machine
The Botwin family is off the grid and in a RV in Season Six but their version of roughing it pales
in comparison to The Walking Dead. Cellphone usage is ubiquitous yet communication snafus
are a common plot device. Skype type technology used when the sons are in Copenhagen.
Discussion of pot growing tech is pervasive.
2.6) Piper Chapman from Orange is the New Black
Piper Chapman Man versus Faults
Piper is suffers from reduced affect display. Piper stares into space and very rarely shows any
emotion much less empathy. Piper is comfortable with being clueless. Piper is a white middle
class, thin, attractive protagonist that made one mistake. Piper smuggled drugs once years
earlier. The white middle class audience should identify with Piper but cannot due to her lack of
empathy. Ironically, the violent, none white career, often over weight, career criminals are more
sympathetic characters than the protagonist. Is Orange is the New Black a new version of the
women in prison genre? Piper is being punished for not just being a dumb blond but a clueless
dumb blond. Unlike past version of this genre, Piper is not innocent but guilty of being a bad
person so the audience gets sadistic pleasure from witnessing her pain! Piper is a subtle version
of the character you love to hate. Piper's tale is also a cautionary tale and provides the audience a
certain level of satisfaction as this sort of story.
Piper Chapman Man versus Family
Pipers family includes Carol Chapman (mother), Bill Chapman (father), Cal Chapman (brother)
and Celeste Chapman (grandmother). However, the real thou in Piper's life is Alex Vause
(lover). Piper and Alex are lesbian lovers. Alex is a manipulative, amoral, selfish person. Piper
doesnt show a lot of insight about Alex but instead becomes more like Alex over time in a
monkey see, monkey do sort of manner. Piper's replacement of family with a dysfunctional
lesbian lover makes her the poster child for the subatomic family which is the successor of the
disintegrated nuclear family in our current post-modern social apocalypse.
Piper Chapman Man versus Nature
Piper is in a total institution in which natural sexual impulses are perverted due to the institution.
Sex becomes a commodity that is bought and sold between inmates. More importantly sex is
one of the few commodities the female prisoners can offer the male guards. Authentic romantic
feelings invariably lead to leveraged relationships within the context of a total institution.
Piper Chapman Man versus Society
Piper experiences extreme downward Social Mobility. Piper cannot use her cultural capital
within a Total Institution as she is accustomed to.

Authentic Characters Have Complex Conflicts
Piper Chapman Man versus Universe
In Fool Me Once, Piper states, Look I understand that religion makes it easier to deal with all of
the random shitty things that happen to us. And I wish I could get on that ride, I'm sure I would
be happier. But I can't. Feeling aren't enough. I need it to be real. Overall, Piper is comfortable
with her atheism.
Piper Chapman Man versus Machine
A prison is a total institution and there is a level of surveillance that does not exist even for an
outlaw like Tony Soprano or Walter White has to deal with. Piper is assigned an electrician job
which allows her access to tools that the other inmates do not have and whether or not to use
these tools illegally is an ongoing plot device.
2.7) Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead
Rick Grimes Man versus Faults
Rick Grimes hears the voice of his dead wife on a regular basis. Rick struggles with a psychotic
breakdown but seems to recover later. Overall, Rick has very few faults and is a heroic character
that tries to the right thing in a world gone mad.
Rick Grimes Man versus Family
Rick has a wife Lori Grimes who is too soft for a zombie world in the judgement of Rick. The
wife later dies and Rick does lose an ethical touchstone. In contrast Rick's son, Carl Grimes
becomes more ruthless in a zombie world and perhaps too ruthless in the judgement of Rick.
Rick Grimes Man versus Nature
Rick's right hand man is Daryl Dixon. Daryl is a skilled hunter and tracker that can use a cross
bow. Daryl can live of the land unlike most of his band. Rick at first relies on Daryl for his
skills but later Daryl takes on the role of an advisor but not necessarily a confidant. Rick
becomes more savage as the show progresses. Daryl becomes more social as the show
progresses. Rick and Daryl exchange roles along the man versus nature dimension.
Rick Grimes Man versus Society
Grimes struggles with his pre-zombie apocalypse role as a police officer. There is no
government. Should Rick still act like a police officer even though society has broken down?
Rick becomes more and more pragmatic about the use of violence but always at the core there is
some of the police officer still in him.
Rick Grimes Man versus Universe

Authentic Characters Have Complex Conflicts
Grimes asks for guidance from God even though he was never much of a believer.
Rick Grimes Man versus Machine
The machine has broken down. Mass communication no longer exists.
2.8) Tony Soprano from The Sopranos
Tony Soprano Man versus Faults
Tony suffers from depression, panic attacks and is arguably a sociopath.
Tony Soprano Man versus Family
Tony's mother is Livia Soprano. Livia Soprano is a narcissist that attempts to have Tony killed.
Tony struggles with the realization that his idealized version of his mother has very little to do
with the truth about his mother. Tony's wife, Carmela Soprano is the good wife. Carmela raises
the children and provides a good home for them and Tony. Carmela slowly realizes that she is
married to a man who does evil thing and therefore she is an accomplice to evil. Jennifer Melfi
is Tony's therapist who initially tries a counseling approach until she slowly realizes that evil is
evil and that perhaps her counseling is just helping Tony become a better sociopath. Tony is a
charismatic protagonist. Carmela and Jennifer him struggle with their attraction to Tony on the
one hand but being an enabler of evil if they continue a relationship with Tony.
Tony Soprano Man versus Nature
Tony is out of control sexually. Tony is extremely violent. Tony is a nature lover. Tony loves
the ducks in his pool. Tony is willing to kill a made man over a horse.
Tony Soprano Man versus Society
Crime is capitalism by other means.
Tony Soprano Man versus Universe
Catholicism is a tool that Tony uses to avoid divorce from Carmela. Tony at one point states that
he is a soldier and God forgives soldiers. In the end, religion is just another legalistic system that
Tony exploits via loopholes while doing terrible things.
Tony Soprano Man versus Machine
Tony is aware of computers but doesnt use computers. Tony has an extreme fear of surveillance
and his caution makes it difficult for the FBI to make a case against him. Tony is very
comfortable with human infrastructure. Tony may not understand the intricacies of the law but
has enough sense to get a lawyer that does and follow his advice more or less. Tony may not be

Authentic Characters Have Complex Conflicts
a theologian but can figure out enough theology to justify his actions when needed. Tony is the
Italian prince that uses the machine.
2.9) Tyrion Lannister from Game of Thrones
Tyrion Lannister Man versus Faults
Tyrion is a complex character. Tyrion is an alcoholic. Tyrion is also a whore monger. Most of
all Tyrion is a dwarf and in an age of knights a man who is a dwarf is seen as less than a man.
Tyrion comes from one of the most powerful and wealthy families in the Seven Kingdoms so he
may not be able to earn respect through knightly deeds but can buy solace with fine wine and
fine whores.
Tyrion Lannister Man versus Family
Tyrion has a sister named Cersei. In the novels not the TV show, the reader discovers that Cersei
tortured Tyrion even when he was a baby because she blames him for the death of their wife
during childbirth. Tywin Lannister is Tyrion's father and the mighty head of the Lannister
family. Tyrion is disgusted with his son because he is a dwarf, drunkard and whore monger.
Tywin has a sense of duty towards Tyrion but very little empathy towards his Tyrion. Tyrion
ultimately kills his father with a crossbow because he stole is lover Shae and Cersei wants
vengeance upon Tyrion.
Tyrion Lannister Man versus Nature
Tyrion exists in period when men fight nature with swords. King Robert dies fighting a giant
boar and this creates the Game of Thrones. Tyrion's stunted body means he cannot fight nature
with a sword but perhaps he can triumph with his intellect.
Tyrion Lannister Man versus Society
For Tyrion patricide is freedom. Tyrion's family is society! Tyrion is at odd with his sister and
father and therefore society.
Tyrion Lannister Man versus Universe
Tyrion has stated that if there are gods then they are cruel since the world is cruel and they made
the world. Tyrion probably wonders why the gods made him a dwarf. Tyrion's rationalism is
often at odd with the superstition that is prevalent in the medieval culture of the Seven
Kingdoms. Tyrion has killed his father so if there are gods then he is probably cursed!
Tyrion Lannister Man versus Machine
Tyrion lives in a land before the machines have risen to their current heights. There is no
conflict with machines but there is conflict with dragons and White Walkers with their wights.
Magic is the advanced technology of this world. Tyrion reads all he can about dragons.

Authentic Characters Have Complex Conflicts
Samwell Tarly, who is obese, reads all he can about wights. Will this world be saved by the
scholars and not the warriors?
2.10) Walter White from Breaking Bad
Walter White Man versus Faults
Walter cofounded Gray Matter and sold his shares for 5,000 dollars and the company went on to
make a fortune of over 2 billion. Walter seems to have accepted this loss and his current role as
a high school chemistry teacher but deep down Walter is angry and resentful as to how his life
has turned out. Walter is found to have cancer and enters the drug trade at first to take of his
family. However, Walter makes more money than he can count over time. The wife uses the
size of the pile of cash to try to guess how much money they have and points out its more money
they can spend in several lifetimes. Walter's cancer is also in remission by that time. Why does
Walter go on in his illegal activities? Walter suffers from hubris and must prove he is at the best
at something to make up for his loss of Gray Matter. Walter wants to be the Coca Cola of the
methamphetamine trade. Walter wants to be the best at something and if that something is drug
dealing then so be it.
Walter White Man versus Family
Walter has cancer. Walter wants to provide for his family after his death. Walter gets into the
drug trade in order to provide for his family. Walter is a drug dealer because he is a family man.
This parallels the broad plot lines of Nancy Botwins story. Walters family includes Skyler
White (wife), Walter Jr. White (son) and Hank Schrader (brother-in-law). Walter also has a
surrogate son in the person of Jesse Pinkman his on and off crime partner. Is there some sort of
color symbolism between the last name White and the last name Pinkman? Walter's illegal drug
trade ultimately causes him to lose his family, get his brother-in-law killed by neo-Nazis. Jesse
is taken prisoner by the same neo-Nazis but manages to escape in the last episode.
Walter White Man versus Nature
Walter White slowly becomes more ruthless and eventually becomes a cold-blooded murderer.
Walter is forced to struggle with nature due to the need for isolation to make meth. Walter
almost dies in the desert in one of the early episodes.
Walter White Man versus Society
For Walter, crime is capitalism by other means. Walter states that he wants to be the Coca Cola
of the drug trade. Walter applies the rational principles of capitalism to the drug trade.
Walter White Man versus Universe

Authentic Characters Have Complex Conflicts
Walter is probably an atheist but this is never clearly stated. Walter sees success in work as his
legacy. Walter does mention in one episode that if there is a hell then he is probably going there
no matter what so he might as well leave a legacy of success in this world.
Walter White Man versus Machine
Walter has a doctorate in chemistry. Walter is highly intelligent and applies this intelligence to
crime just like he would to any technical problem. Walter understands the machine better than
other criminals and this is why he is more successful.
Complex characters make for interesting television and more importantly for many, successful
television. Complexity can include quirks and habits but internal conflict may be the best way to
make truly complex characters. Perhaps authors should start from the inside not the outside to
make rounded characters.