A Story is a process of Change and Transformation.
Over the duration of the story, a character, and his/her set of relationships to the surrounding world – and in point of fact, generally, the contents of that surrounding world itself – evolve, typically by coming under some sort of pressure.
Change in a narrative drama is mental; what we experience is transformation of the psyche.
Our basic belief is that psychological change occurs by process – a process with which we are all familiar having experienced psychological change in our own lives. Stories are convincing, and engaging, insofar as they evoke the genuine contents of – and maintain verisimilitude in comparison to – our primary dramatic instincts.
This idea is relevant and applicable to every story we tell, experience or interpret. Stronger stories show keener psychological insight; they are more convincing when writers apply and are able to leverage high-level understandings of meaning and psychological action, reaction, progression, and formation.
The idea of psychological “action” appears to be key. Almost without fail, writers expose characters to influences, situations and endeavors that are meant to apply stress to a character’s psyche – but stress in itself seems to be insufficient to promote deeper level engagement with the story or the character’s plight; engagement is largely contingent on “duress” which is something beyond trial which implies the weight of responsibility.
Characters know – as we do – that actions are not neutral; actions not only denote, but in fact signify; characters know that determinative action can and would have some consequential effect, on, at the very least, the way they are able to understand themselves; determinative action represents both the application – and consolidation of – an ongoing psychological shift, progression or evolution.
Most writers will be familiar with the dramatic axiom against writing Passive Characters. Passive characters do not engage at deep levels; they are not so much “people” as entities that circumstances are visited upon. This idea is so embedded in the zeitgeist that if a writer submits a script anywhere, they are liable to receive some language that communicates some guidance that makes reference to this notion.
Nor does the “Passive Characters” concept seem to apply only to a story’s most prominent character or characters; the phenomena is perhaps almost as unsettling or frustrating if it applies to a peripheral character – one who “goes along” for the ride, and continues to assimilate or participate in the experience, but never flips the switch in a way which communicates agency – and the care to express it – over the contents of one’s own reality.
Perhaps this is because, above all things, we want characters to care about their lives and realities. We care about our lives – and so should they about theirs. Furthermore, we know – as they must – that determinative action is an expression of the degree to which we care. Care – or at least partiality – is a unifying feature of human experience.
In a basic sense, the method we use and have devised is a method of constituting characters within a paradigm composed of factors and ideas which push a character toward determinative action and offer an explanation for what that action “looks” like and entails. A completely formulated Psyche is an action and goal-oriented mechanism just as a worldview is not only a method of “sense-making” or a method of sorting and interpreting information – but also an instrument for governing choice, and generating sustainable action. To say a character has a complete psychic constitution means that to know the contents of this constitution can be continually pushed or pulled into dimensions of choice that continually modify, stress, and progress their realities. (Ludwig Von Mises and Classical Economy; as well as Jung).
This exact idea is dominantly “Economic” in origin, and particularly in the tradition of Classical economists which include Adam Smith, JS Mill, and Ludwig Von Mises, who found a common terrain for constituting human reality by interpreting man as an “Economic agent” who interacts with and makes choice within the world in a manner which is rational insofar as this manner of choice is in fact a kind of schema to maximize the agent’s share of the “goods” he/she recognizes as germane (we’ll get more into this concept later).
Insofar as motive indicates some trajectory and generates its own vectors, we expect characters to be constituted in such a way that allows us to see them this way and thus to appreciate the outcomes the story allocates to them.
Another influence here is the field of Psychology, particularly the Jungian tradition which interprets “Psyche” as some kind of “road map” – particularly a road map which is oriented toward whatever provides the experience commensurate with the agent’s present understanding of “Meaning” and “the Good”; hence the idea of “maps of meaning” and the notion that, at all times, a psychology is an assertion and a demonstration that “meaning is” “here” or “over there.”
One thing we try to argue, and help writers appreciate in their own work, is that to say a character is “passive” or “incomplete” or “flat” or “unengaging” is no reason to despair, but simply means that the story would benefit from building for this character a more definable and consistent psychic reality.
Principles of a “Psychic Reality”
- The strife Concept and “Preoccupation.”
One of the basic principles of Psyche is that it is a mechanism. The preterit form of a disordered reality, or an unsatisfactorily ordered reality, is strife. Strife is a generalizable constant, which maps universally onto people or characters of every placement, station or background. To say a character “has” or “is experiencing” strife is to communicate the basic fact that they are preoccupied and that their active thoughts acknowledge some apprehension that the world – and their reality – may not, or is definitely not all that they had hoped, or believe it can/ought to be. In the Scriptmatix system, we make use of the notion that a character becomes an active one when they become preoccupied.
Preoccupations embed characters within Time; the nature of human experience, insofar as man exists in time, is uncertainty – even uncertainty about things that ought to seem certain.
Though there are others (including Heidegger, Joyce, and perhaps even some of the existentialists), perhaps the most influential voice who contributed to this idea is the philosopher Kierkegaard, who argues compellingly about the constancy of “Angst” which he attributes to the dissonant conjunction of man as both “flesh” and “spirit”. Kierkegaard also writes compellingly about the notion that to have Angst about one’s reality is a reflection of a basal cognitions that; a. the actor has the ability to change that reality; and b. that they have a responsibility to do so in a way which is for the better. There is a difference between “Angst” in this sense, and the more accepted idea of “Anxiety.” Anxiety may be an expression of Angst, but it is not primary. The basic difference seems – again – to map onto the question of “ability” and “determinative action.” Anxiety as a concept is synchronous with paralysis, in the sense that when one becomes anxious, one avoids or is unable to meaningfully act (at least in a particular window). Angst implies the ability to act, but the dread that chosen actions will fail to serve, or in fact be antithetical to either the goods one avows as right and valid – or the goods which, although not avowed, are in fact (from a higher perspective) what ought to serve.
So part of the reason we believe characters ought to have Angst – expressed as preoccupation – is because this is how we can start to take them seriously. If you follow the argument above, a character without angst is a depiction of someone who is essentially – by their own volition, or their own psychological impotence – withdrawn from the world of meaningful action.
Sub note on “Time”: another important thing about Angst is that angst is, almost axiomatically, the awareness of “Time” – and the gravity of time, and the possibility of what time can be applied for (i.e., what it is “good” for; and thus what constitutes “use of time.”). If Immersion is an omnipresent directive and informing ideal for the writer’s work – the fact is immersion is “immersion within,” particularly within the time and space of the narrative environment, which must, to be immersive, be also, in fact, psychologically tangible. For a character to have angst and to be preoccupied or troubled is also a means of showing that they are impacted by time and space.
- Beliefs and Interpretive Mechanisms.
On some basic level, we can trace strife back to a character’s basic set of beliefs.
- Worldview (vindicated/validated by)
A worldview is a habitualized reality.
Worldview must be in some way conducive to some measure of sustainable personal activity – even if this activity isn’t exactly “inspired” or “vigorous” or even “constructive” – that at all times a person’s worldview is rooted in an awareness of and appreciation for a particular good and each “worldview” represents a basic equilibria of a system of relations and interpretations which mediate between that character’s present station or degree of understanding and the goods they understand to be meaningful and worthwhile.
That being said, these respective “States of consciousness” or psychological thresholds are arranged in a very implicit hierarchy which map onto – essentially – the degree of opportunity or potential meaning that character believes are contained within the prospect of Life and Living. Each “Worldview” is therefore a “Life view” – and Life, at any time, may appear good, and rich and promising, or rather not good and decidedly not promising.
Worldviews are also – again – manners of relating to the surrounding world, and again, manners of doing so which filter the surrounding world and cultural milieu by and through and with regard to the availability and attainability of certain goods. It is therefore, as we like to say, a way of interpreting “Cultural Symbols” and the symbols or experiences which one’s fellow people are inclined to and actively create. So this means that there is an inherent “self”/”other” mediation occurring within any worldview; no person who is in a very positive affected state (let’s say an “inspirational” worldview) would reasonably believe that the good which is present in the world, and the opportunities to actualize, advocate, or realize certain goods in the world, are consequences only of their own aptitude – but in fact of the hospitable state of culture and the inherent qualities of life and life process which have created the circumstances suitable to such a worldview.
Conversely, no one who is occupying a more negative and disavowing and denial-based worldview believes, while they are occupying that state, that the state is a consequence or product exclusively of self, or his/her personal failings. The person is likely – in point of fact – to believe that the world and this moment culture is “only good” and hospitable for a very diluted and diffused and unfulfilling version of the good they wish to experience; and that although he/she has put forth an essentially viable effort to become enmeshed within life, there is something about the symbology of his/her culture, or mankind itself, which degrades or corrodes his/her intentions. Which is why we refer to the lowest states in the Worldview hierarchy as, respectively, “subsistent” or “victimized.”
To use a concrete example – one known good is that of “Devotion”, which is the idea of finding meaning through the process of identifying something or someone to which one can “give oneself” entirely, be it to look after, tend to, or care for. Again, we take as axiomatic that a character’s psychology is basically informed by the ideal of their good – and that this character may be aware of the possibility of other goods, like say, “Artistry”, and may even observe how these goods are expressed, but will largely appreciate within his/her own endeavors, and those of others not necessarily the values other actors perceive, but the values associated with the process of becoming Devoted. The Devotion – the act of devotion – is to this person what is real and substantive and impressive and worthwhile and while some achievements and ways of life require some capacity for devotion, for most other people (motivated by another good), the devotion itself will be more an aspect of the achievement or venture, but not the purpose of the venture itself.
But despite, and perhaps because of this manner of perceiving and his/her own capacity to be Devoted, this person has available to them some path to self-affirmation, and if they are successful at this, and successful over appreciable durations of time, and begin to see the fruits of devotion, then this person should be able to feel and exist within a worldview which is not only self-affirming, but affirming, appreciative, and grateful to the time and place in which they live, were born, and have been able to make a life because it has been hospitable to them and offer them the items – be it a person, cause, principle or deity – to which they could unreservedly devote themselves and their energies. However, if this person is unable to find this thing, and they fall into a requisitely negating or mechanistic worldview, they are liable to believe that the real “issue” with the world and “cause of their state’, though he/she may bear some real blame, is also the fact that the world simply did not offer anything worth becoming devoted to and that – to wit – cultural symbols are largely meaningless, duplicitous or false.
It’s probably for this reason that worldviews are fairly self-sustaining and self-perpetuating. One basic principle is that all people – particularly during times in their life which are insecure are challenged – will have reasons available to them which should allow them to believe in the plausibility of achieving the meaning they seek and realizing their ends; and they will also have reasons to believe that achieving the meaning they seek and realizing their ends is largely implausible, inordinately difficult/demanding, and that the “deck” has been stacked against them. This principle is pretty instinctually built into our conception of what a successful or meritful actor “is”; a person may not be all things and some may, for cause of birth, circumstance, etc. be able to be masterful or virtuosic in certain disciplines in ways which most of us cannot be, what seems to matter more to our dramatic understanding of and appreciation for a character or person is the universalizable quality of this person as a “Dramatic” Actor – because, in an even more simple sense, one’s worldview is one’s cultivated relationship to and understanding of existential realities.
We’re going to go into this further in other sections, but one of the reasons we believe worldviews must be oriented toward a positive and definable person good (which exerts an inspiring influence on a person’s life) is that life itself is informed by some potentially very stark existential claims about what it means to be a compromised, or a failed or unworthy actor; the known virtue of the human life is that it is the opportunity to identify and communicate some essential purpose and applies the gamut of one’s person – and a lot of what dramatic fiction does is engage with exactly this notion.
Part of the reason we engage in some length about the Worldview concept in this section is because, basically, we believe that if a writer understands the Worldview concept he/she can write a very effective and compelling story. The reason is that plot itself is – properly conceived – a vehicle which moves characters between affective states, and a process by which a character existing within basically stable worldview is transformed into another, and perhaps even another still – and this is true whether the story is an action blockbuster with a massive budget, or a stage play. Buy-in to the narrative, and appreciation for it, is – mostly – contingent on “logic”, but logic of a higher order and a very fundamental task allotted to the writer of narrative fiction is to create a story rooted in viable and compelling explanations as to how this process is occurring.
- Deliverance via cognition of “Available Goods”
Strife is unpleasant. Although there are many expressions of strife – and many ways to be preoccupied – the really unifying thing preoccupation as an idea is that people do not like it, and in point of fact, cannot exist long within it. The concept of strife, and the threat of a life defined by “Striving” creates its own reversal, which is – in the naïve form “Deliverance” – and in the mature form “Gratification” “Redemption” “Redemptive value” “Remembrance” or “Unification.”
Gratification is perhaps the most easily accessible and valuable term here. We can largely assume that one of the core intentions of narrative stories (to be deserving of the term “Drama”) is ideation of “meaning” – “meaning” constituting some type of motivational fact which is beyond (though also probably accounts for and basically integrates notions of pleasure or pain). We infer that most “stories” really begin exactly when a character no longer takes as satisfactory an essentially “banal” or “provincial” life composed of a basic matrix of things which are conducive to subsistence and repeated pleasure and have instead opted or come to appreciate that “life” – to be construed – must entail “something more”, or in fact “something more meaningful.” Most writers will, in point of fact, distinguish the characters we are meant to identify with on a deeper level and empathize most with – i.e. “Protagonist” – exactly on the basis that this character, or these characters, are those who have can advance a genuine hypothesis about some sort of “higher good” or form of gratification. There are many of these (we account for 48).
One interesting feature of intangible “goods” is that – although they may become tangible and expressed in form, or “actualized’ in the achievement of a particular end, goal or objective, they are, in their ideation, intangible, and non-extent, at least in a form which is temporally bound and personally specific. That is – we may have an idea of what a particular good looks like because it has been made apparent by precedent; we know what “artistry” looks like, or might look like, or has looked like because there are previous examples there of – just as we know what other goods like “Responsibility” may look like – though, then of course, no precedent, and no abstract can tangibly circumscribe exactly what that good may look like in its “personally-specific” form or the form most appropriate to the context of dramatic/cultural space/time.
The upshot of this fact is both; a. that part of the intrigue and catharsis offered by a narrative is that a strong story holds out the notion and expectation that a “good” will be actualized or approximated and that when this occurs, it will occur in a form which is a coherent product and consequence of and contribution toward the psycho-cultural milieu of the narrative environment, and particularly of the characters who we have spent the story with/observing; what we are witnessing is the story of these characters relationship to the good and their effort to bring a priori cognizance of that good into a verifiable, consolidated, testifiable form. In a real sense, this process is the process we know as “Intentional Action.”
The other takeaway is; b. because “goods” are largely intangible or sub tangible, the ideation or “proposition” of a good by a character, and of that character’s ability to be associated with or to give form and expression to that good is inherently (varyingly) controversial. A character who makes such a position asserts about him or herself that they are “going to actually do something” which we understand to be an endeavor of meaningful consequence, and meaningful existential difficulty – and therefore something in which he/she may not succeed. But – to refer to a previous idea – we also register that the good is what affords this character the possibility to achieve some basic concept of what it means to experience “deliverance” into a life above/beyond their preterit set of strife and tribulation.
- Objects and “Having Objects”
Of course, it’s also axiomatic that good drama generates and good stories “have” conflict.
The above has also furnished us with the basic implements of a very robust conception of what is meant by “Dramatic conflict” – and conflict in an ennobled sense which is not as contingent on traditional dramatic dualities, but in fact dramatic conflict which is derived from, lends credence to and tries to pay respect to the basic ability of each character to filter and interpret their realities, from their own perspective.
The basic notion is that the existence of goods – a priori – does not necessarily imply that they are attainable, for this person/character, and even if they are attainable and actualizable, they may not be so in this time, for this person, or in the way this person originally conceived.
Part of the reason this is so is because time and space and experience are “subjectively perceived” and subjectively interpreted. Everybody knows this – in part because it’s such a fashionable and modern idea. To apply the same concepts, we’ve previously discussed; two people can look upon and exist within the exact same moment or period of time and construe that moment with entirely different significance depending on the conjunction of that which is most germane to them and their worldview and their extent psychological set or station. A character, as we say, experiencing an “Abstraction Crisis” and preoccupied by “a lack of social standing” is liable to understand their reality differently than is a character experiencing a “Community Crisis” and preoccupied by a “sense of betrayal.” More germane, still, however, is the fact that whatever is this pre-extent psychological set or station (Worldview), it is also a prism which biases the character toward the belief and convinces them of the conviction that time/space and circumstance are meaningful insofar as they are furnished by the presence of an available set of particular and definable and personally-actualizable goods.
But this notion is, at least in some respects, inherently problematic because insofar as each character brings to a certain terrain his/her own sustentative and valent concept of what “is” and what “meanings” that terrain is composed of, this terrain is liable to be composed of all kinds of different and unproven and potentially quite unaligned ideations. The philosopher, Hegel, to whom our concept of Conflict is much indebted, called this a state, field or throng of “Disputation” and believed it was essentially the incumbent state which precedes any really constructive process of co-creative or generative dialogue.
Perhaps another way to phrase this same idea is that an active character believes and understands that their experience is or affords something which is “opportune”. To say I have “ideated” some good is also to say that I am asserting that this experience – whatever it may be – is not only an experience, but in fact, to varying degrees of valence, an opportunity (or not an opportunity) to serve my ends. It means that this character does not interpret their experience from a perspective of total impartiality and that this character can be said to have a preferential relationship to the set of possible outcomes – some of which will more robustly vindicate or prove the legitimacy of his/her worldview than others, and some of which, in point of fact, are liable to “disprove” or undermine the legitimacy/credibility of that worldview resulting in some measure of psychic disintegration.
- Pitfalls and Lessons
One of the virtues of having an articulable and referential ideation of the “good” or set thereof which is being advocated, appealed to, or would be exemplified by a character’s actions is that known “goods” map consistently and repeatedly onto particular psychological and mental clusters composed of dominating ideas which must be both reconciled and brought to bear by an actor whose actions are – or would be considered – viable “candidates” or potential exemplifications of that good. To identify the dominant good ideated by a character is not so different than identifying which “game” they are playing – and thereby the constituent parameters of that game.
For example, lets’ say a character intends by the course and tenor of his/her actions to exemplify an idea or advance an initiative which communicates the known good of “Compassion” – and thus illustrates the requisite ability and merit of that individual as a person who is able (perhaps above all things) to apply personal virtue and strength of character in a way which communicates the illusion of or triumph over an axiomatically and reflexively self-interest in “self” and the genuine desire to promote the well-being of others, then it is endemic to this basic notion that this same character must also be able to mediate between – for example – seemingly dualistic impulses or necessities of being sensitive to one’s own ”Personal Needs” and more generalized “Societal Needs”.
Perhaps more to the point: we can largely infer that every “good” entails a constituent set of the ontology and deontology and perhaps even the epistemology which are relevant to that good.
Another item which may germane is that when we describe or conceive of a character, and account for things like a registered “personal history” and a definable occupation, a significant aspect of this process is the subliminal identification and drawing of associations between that character and the goods which merit can be inferred to evoke. For example – a character who is an “up and coming magazine publisher” may be inferred, constitutionally, to be not only familiar, but more familiar with the concepts and themes which are derivative of the general Ideated goods of say “Confidence”, “Versatility”, “Study” and we would expect this character – insofar as he/she is, in point of fact, an exemplary or noteworthy or even “valid” evocation of the ideals native to their terrain, to be not only familiar but well-versed with what these things mean.
The flip side of any good is that the apprehension of it – and the formative or generative power it can play/exert in one’s own personal life, or on the world, generally – is a significant thing exactly because goods have such attractive, motivational power and because most all people know (either from their own life experience, or simply from experience as an audience member) that invoking or being aware of any good can be a source of either real edifying meaning, or, in fact, the degradation of meaning. A character who holds that “Study” is a pre-eminent guiding idea and virtue may forget to “live” or fail to appropriately share and apply knowledge; a character who holds the “Compassion” as a super valent guiding idea may so greatly blur the barrier between him/herself and others that he/she uses the idea of doing the “charitable” thing as a crutch or means of avoiding personal insecurities and/or bankrupting other domains of his/her life – etc.
The point is that part of the reason characters can and do and will register as engaging is because they are positioned within paradigms and convictions which require – again – real strength of character and a genuine, comprehensive understanding to be maturely and constructively applied.
- “Available Goods” & “Dramatic Aperture” & “Premise”
That being said, not all “goods” are available in equal measure at all times and not all goods which are available are available in equal measure to different actors. Time is “relative” (to itself) and dramatic context is not a sandbox.
One of the basic tasks a writer will do is to use “character” as a vehicle around which or a “person” around whom to constellate particular character traits, or profile (see “Archetypes). Insofar as a person has a profile or set of innate features – be it that they are brainy, studious, serendipitous, pragmatic – these qualities are not “conclusive” in themselves and do not in themselves contain the answer as to what degree of esteem, approbation, or legitimacy we ascribe to the character as an “Actor.” Qualities are not, in themselves, virtues – but only the basic aspects by which certain goods are made plausibly available to particular actors. It can be inferred, intuitively, that whatever a “virtue” is, it is a virtue because it is something about a person (or set of people) which allows him/her/them to regularly bridge the divide between an ideated good and an actualized one. If qualities are ascribed to Mind and Body, Virtues must be ascribed to Will.
At the same time as we are learning about a character and witnessing them interact with their world, we are also learning about their world. We are observing, for example, things like public mores and value sets; we are observing who the germane cultural idols are, and what goods they exemplify – and hopefully also coming to appreciate on some level the conditions or preconditions of this time and place and what is requisite with “success”.
The conjunction of what we learn about a character (or germane set) and what we learn about the narrative world creates what we know as “Dramatic Aperture” which is a “Space” or “window” of which characters can variably acquit themselves of the pertinent goods available to them in that space.
The important thing about a “Dramatic Aperture” is that it is a meaningfully “discrete” space, and that it is not present forever. It is a window which not only can but will “close” – for any number of factors, not least mentionable of which is the fact that time and experience exert an influence on other characters. One way or another, most “stories” will begin by indicating that an “Aperture” of some kind has “opened”- and we often refer to this idea as a story’s “Premise.” A Dramatic Aperture is, to use something of a mnemonic, not so different than a “plot of land”, insofar as that land can be harvested for particular crops (“goods”).
Another important note about aperture is that the existence of an aperture creates – not so different from say the conditions of an experiment – again a discrete period during of observation of which, again, characters attempt, in acting, to acquit themselves of/by – though the effort entailed to do this, essentially axiomatically (see Stakes) has an effect of magnifying pre-extent conflict because effort requires the investment or “divestment”, “Staking” or “leveraging” of previous commodities and resources. Heightened conflict magnifies the possibility that a character will “lose”
As a narrative goes on, a well-conceived character comes to represent what we understand to be a “Proposition.” A Proposition, more than an assertion, is a mediated expression or argument regarding “worth.” It is one thing to believe that it is possible to take a particular course of action which is construed as the means of achieving a desirable end at a particular time. The tricky thing about acting on an assertion is that the translation of a particular claim or idea into the realm of what is actual and demonstrable is that the entities which mediate between that which is idea and that which is demonstration include things which are intrinsically valuable, including time, effort, material resources, and the strength or grace of one’s previous important bonds.
To make a proposition is therefore to “put things on the table”; disputation in the dramatic form cannot be settled by “talk” alone and as consequence, most, if not all, successful stories entail risk – risk which, if it is to be construed in its ennobled sense, is risk because to “lose” or to conduct oneself with less merit than is demanded/expected to achieve one’s ends, is also, quite possibly, to “lose ground” in one’s own understanding of oneself, and to violate the tenants or presuppositions of one’s own actionable worldview.
One of the reasons it can be useful to give a character a meaningful backstory is that often, what a backstory “does” is to “equip” a character with things which can be “staked” which have been “earned” or cultivated through previous action and conduct. It stands to reason that one of the first things we really “learn” about a character is what they “have” at their disposal – i.e. where the “value” in their lives lies and what assets it is “held” in. Many stories are about characters who are meaningfully “on their last leg”, or have somehow outstripped the grace or esteem held in other relationships – and thus have nothing “of this Earth” to stake except for some aspect of their soul and their desire to “do good.”
Regardless of one’s exact standing or “situation”, one has something which can be meaningfully leveraged for the sake of an ideated good. Again, a well-rendered character is one whose description or considerate characteristics and history essentially imply – in themselves – both what this character stands to lose, gain, or “play” and why they would be pushed to accept or take on risk. In some larger marketplace, characters can be said to “hold cards” or, again “assets” – some of which are more or less “liquid”.
This gives rise to one of the very interesting recurrent ideas of narrative drama; nobody’s condition or standing can really be presumed absolutely “secure.” A lot of fiction trades in exactly this notion – see “Frameworks” including very apparently those of the “Rise and Fall” or the “Tragedy” – and it has a lot to do with what we come to recognize as a character’s “Fate” insofar as Fate implies some kind of governing authorizing hand which is pushing a character into action sets and endeavors which will “call for” them to leverage certain pieces of or ideas about themselves for the sake of another claim.
- Resistance and Opposition and Dramatic Culpability
Determinative action entails a valent existential claim; action, as we see, has signification and the signification bears meaningfully upon our understanding of that character’s relationship to existential parameters.
Characters are significantly stronger when they can be held in status over the course of the narrative in which neither they, nor we, can be exactly sure of what kind of “figure” they are, or are liable to become as consequence of their actions.
Resistance or opposition to a higher claim or assertion is a native fact of having the gall to make a certain claim about who/what one is, and one’s “ability”, fitness or ableness to, as we say, give form to that claim. The Philosopher Hegel referred to this idea as “Skeptical Attack” and believed that the process of generating and supporting claims to selfhood against skeptical attack is the basic and immutable fact of what it means to be conscious. He believed that the reflex of “Mind” is to subject proffered ideas to scrutiny.
A common dramatic idea is that of the “Antagonist” – who is in some paired down conception the basic “source” of forces which would impede or be to the detriment and disadvantage of the Protagonist. Many strong and compelling stories – particularly in film – leverage an Antagonist; even in episodic Fictional formats, some antagonist, if not the “same” antagonist, is a fixture.
But having an “antagonist” is not – for obvious reasons – the only way to have “antagonism”. If the different features we’ve identified above about a character have been well-established, and there is a clear and definitive claim/proposition, that claim or “thesis” seems – in metaphysical space – to imply it’s own “anti-thesis” – and the personified antagonist who can be meaningfully vanquished becomes, in fact, exactly that; the personification of the counter-claim or anti-thesis which would exist independently of whether that exact person were there to express it in consolidated form, or not.
This is an abstract idea – but a writer can find this compelling and appropriate and still want to know how this can be efficaciously translated into building interesting or valent antagonists. The important thing seems to be that the antagonist is not actually the “antagonist” but the “perspective on” the Protagonist – and on the general “Field of Disputation.” That is to say that resistance originates from an interpretation of the Protagonist – and he/she “is” or “can be” and in our algorithm/system we take recourse in the idea that these contrary perspectives must themselves be rooted in or perceive the Protagonist as being motivated by some germane hang-up, delusion or misconception. For example – some antagonists are antagonistic because they believe that the Protagonist’s actions bear some kind of “threat” to the basic sanctity of their world and their identification with established order; other antagonists are antagonistic toward the Protagonist because they believe on some level that the protagonist, in acting or attempting to act “autonomously” is violating some previous contractual idea which makes that character/protagonist’s will and efforts beholden or subservient to the ownership and dominion of the antagonist (this, for example, is essentially the basic tenor of most stories which deal in Slavery). These counter-claims and perspectives can be articulated – and often are – on screen and if they didn’t have at least some clout or validity within the Protagonist’s worldview, then they would not be very interesting.
However, as it is, these claims do in fact matter – and they do in fact have an impact on the Protagonist and on their experience. The basic reason is because a counter-claim is itself a derivation or expression of its own worldview – and this worldview has, if it is to have any legitimacy at all, some basic compulsive force.
It is perhaps easiest to model the resistance a character encounters by referring to the above concept of a “Field of Disputation”. We understand that a particular character is oriented toward or motivated predominantly by a good – but this basic vector becomes significantly more meaningful or complex once we take into account the basic fact that his/her interpretation that this “good” is not only available, but absolute, and that it exerts an exacting and urgent influence – is an interpretation of the present dramatic milieu which is composed of essentially the same matter as the other characters who populate that field, except that these characters are furnished by and made germane through their own basic assertions about what which is, again, absolute, inviolable or most pressing and urgent. Furthermore, to be really compelling, it is often highly useful if these propositions are interpretations of reality which advocate the use of “reality” itself – be it man power, resources, etc., which could and would otherwise be used in service of the Protagonist’s claim.
One final interesting note is that a counter claim is an interpretation of a character – and one which is usually in some meaningful sense “degrading”, reductive or derisive toward the protagonist. Not for nothing do many stories conclude or “climax” in some kind of ultimate confrontation or “showdown” where the character hears and must “face down” someone who (even if they have little positivist content themselves) is personifying a very direct affront to what the protagonist hopes, desires, or wants to believe about themselves – i.e. the core tenants of their personhood or worldview. The Psychologist CG Jung introduced many concepts which influenced our thinking and which have become established and respected within our times; the one which applies here is probably the concept of the “Psychological Complex”. Jung believed that a complex was a replicable and interpersonally recurrent force.
So, at root, perhaps the single irreducible counter-thesis which every meaningful character must face is that their actions are not, in fact, autonomous – and do not reflect a reasoned interpretation of the world.
One consequence of the fact that characters face substantive resistance to their ends is that it is necessary for characters to enter into relationships which appeal to, are predicated on, perpetuated by and grounded in mutual self-interest – defined by the suitability of these relationships as means to consistently mediate in positive ways a character’s relationship to desired goods.
It’s probably worth noting/acknowledging, that some relationships – particularly when they entail new meetings – have an effect of introducing to a character’s reality a cognizance and a prioritization of goods which theretofore had largely been unconsidered.
Characters bring with them their own values and ideals and worldviews, and what plays out between characters is largely a process of coming to terms with how these features may be synthesized in ways conducive to respective ends – or in recognition of new ends.
One important note here is that there is an economy to relationships – even to very intimate ones or those which have longer histories; the relationship has terms which can be either violated, on one hand, or fulfilled on the other; and this is significant because when we witness characters interact, we are essentially wired to start interpreting what the terms of this relationship are and what the status of the relationship is.
Another valuable note is that many – many – plots will build into their “Premise” the occurrence of a meeting with a new character and what this causes is a genuine shift or alteration in a given character’s reality because of what is made “available by” or may be made available by that relationship in light of the different authorities and specialties characters embody, and the resources they are able to bring to bear.
By virtue of character authorities, relationships fit particular “molds”. Some characters have very sympathetic world views and complementary value sets or authorities and an appropriate mold for such a relationship may be the mold we refer to as “Work to do” or “have some fun.” Conversely, characters who do not have complementary values or authorities may fit a relationship mold known as “Nowhere to go.”
This concept of character conjunctions comes to us from a larger work known as the “Human Design” Project – though our collective model may be more applicable and informative as a means to determining what actually “goes on” within relationships because we account for other ideas listed here including “worldview” and “ideals.”
Because character relationships entail some contractual basis and because relationships exist of transactions, we also can profitably refer to the field of “Contact Theory” to characterize what the state and character of these contracts. For example, some contracts may be defined by the Economic Principle of “Asymmetric Information” or have “Signaling problems” which suggest that these contracts could provide greater benefit to both parties (better furnish each with their ideated ends) were terms to be renegotiated or were new information to come to light; this is valuable information because it’s going to influence how dialogue appears on the page between particular characters.
Relationships are slightly different than “Bonds.” Bonds – which fit familiar conformations including say “the bonds between” “mother and child”, “peers”, “colleagues” or “friends’ – are, above all things, holds of identity and extensions or expressions of a character’s worldview. Typically, a character’s bonds are the things which are most important to them at a particular time – and we can infer a great deal about his/her worldview based on not only what his/her bonds are, but also on the joint ideas these bonds regard as currency. For example, some bonds are intended.
Where relationships are largely construed as means, bonds (strengthening, preserving or validating) often are something of an end in themselves.
This is a valuable thing to recognize for a couple reasons; one because a character’s preterit bonds are often “holds of value” and they exemplify the resources a given character can bring into the field to serve ends.
Another is that, we know a character through their bonds – and characters know themselves through their bonds – so if characters are to change or shift in their worldview, or if a character is going through a period in which he/she is more malleable, available or open to change, then the “cost” is often his/her standing within and relationship to his/her own bonds. For a character to change, it is usually incumbent that this character’s identity be “shifted” within or from one set of bonds to another over the course of a narrative.
This can happen for any number of reasons – but one of the main ones is that as characters come to actualize goods, or contribute toward others, their personal worldview starts to shift and as it does it may create pressure on the core aspects of the unifying basis of previous bonds; for example, many bonds between friends which begin in youth form around the notion of an Ideational “We” are people who are generally of say a “participatory” worldview or a “Zero-Sum/Competitive” worldview and as such, the value of these bonds to each member is that they act as support, ballast, and a perpetuating influence on that worldview. But during the course of a narrative – if one or more of the characters who had previously identified on this basis start to enter into a more concrete or realistic relationship with goods they had previously only known in the abstract or “at a distance’, their worldviewsnare likely to evolve – perhaps into a “Contributing” or ‘Contextualizing” framework.
One of the basic features of bonds is that they survive and are strong insofar as they can endure or are immune to Envy – which is, again, immediately correlated to the degree to which the ideated “We” of these bonds ceases to be a germane and acceptable idea to all those within the bonds groups/scope. If the basis of this “We” starts to corrode, the bonds will need to shift – and many of the most interesting stories in our cannon are about the pain, discomfort, and trials associated with exactly this process.
We find it meaningful to distinguish between an “Object” (objective) and a Goal – and the distinction is often fairly critical to writing really strong material.
Where an objective or endeavor (see above) is the object of an individual to translate and actualize of the goods this individual knows and regards as constitutionally valid, a “Goal” is a co-creative entity which represents a reformulated – and emergent – notion of how that good can, as consequence of and in concert with the effort and influences of other germane actors in the narrative world, be actualized. To describe another way, an objective can be conceived of – but a goal is “formulated” and becomes known in a meaningful sense only when whatever objects a character previously held as constitutionally valid have been subjected to the scrutiny associated with their validity as propositions which require the real use and application of limited resources and cohabited space.
The goal is therefore something of a “remainder” of a process of “division” which occurs between viewpoints, but it is also multiplicative because – where an Objective (and this is perhaps the critical point) is an achievement associated with usually one (possibly a few) goods which are pertinent and valuable from one viewpoint, the Goal provides cumulative value and may – if achieved (see Contracts) – honor and give expression to the wishes and desires of multiple contracting parties and thereby vindicate the Contracts as having done what they were meant to do.
Goals are, therefore, derivations of some degree of “Synarchy” or “Synergy” in the sense that the cooperative co-informative effort of multiple transacting parties often makes possible outcomes which the individual actor either could not conceive of, or could conceive of but could not really “believe” in the possibility of. This is important because the emergence of these types of outcomes have a substantive impact on characters worldviews, which provide the basic substrate matter of a narrative. The worldview, again, is a system of accounting for what is possible – and the calculus of the character is going to be the calculus of that worldview which indicates “products” which essentially preserve and perpetuate the basic features of that worldview – and these products would remain essentially internally valid, and self-perpetuating that is until a character’s ideals and personally germane goods are (either en actuality or en potential) translated into some achievable harmonic good. When this happens, the worldview likely will require adjustment.
This is an interesting thing to note because it’s a way to explain why stories with definable goals are seemingly axiomatically more psychologically engaging; we want to see worldviews shift, and we know goals (in their proper sense) are probably the most reliable dramatic or psychological device which makes such a shift or re-consideration not only plausible, but likely.
- Drama Types; Operations and Phenomena
The body of a script is largely occupied by what we refer to as “Drama Types” or “Drama forms.” The basic idea is that – accounting for all of the above – there is still an incumbent process of applying effort – of exertion which is necessary
One way to think about this is the idea that every goal entails constituent “tasks” and, again, operations, which shift reality in significant though often smaller scale increments through generated outcome. An operation, like a mathematical function, takes as its inputs the preterit reality and attempts to shift, distort or transform that reality “toward” a more cogent, lucid, and favorable form – which is also to say “toward” the agreed upon ends and actualizations which serve as unifying matter among contracting actors.
Another way to think about this is that stories – like life periods – consist of “micro-dramas” and these micro-dramas comply with a basic framework or “form” specific to that micro drama. We use 32 different micro-dramas – which themselves are derived predominantly from the curriculum/material known as the “I Ching” which consists of 64 hexagrams which are intended to model and serve – en totem – as a survey of the constituent phases of generalized human life process.
Readers will be familiar with these operations almost immediately because we go through them – iteratively. Although it stands to reason that certain occupations or modes of life consist more heavily of one drama form over another – and that different human lives and different human ages are well characterized by different distributions as to the frequency or recurrence of particular dramas, these drama types and phenomena provide referential constants of human life.
In our algorithm, we take the liberty of dividing the different operations (drama types) between 4 different “planes” of human experience, referred to respectively as “psycho-emotive”, “psycho-social”, “psycho-intellectual” and “psycho-spiritual” – each plane of which implies an essentially particular form of salient interaction or “ground”, scale or medium at which the drama occurs. For example, “psycho-emotive” drama types and phenomena deal in what people communicate generally on a “one to one” basis and the gratification available in these drama forms is largely the gratification regarding what one “feels” about oneself and about the people to which one relates in close proximity. By comparison, “psycho-intellectual” drama types and phenomena deal in, quite actually, cognitive processes or undertakings including, for example, that of “structuring” one’s efforts and surroundings, or of “concentrating” on a particular task.
Again, the important thing about these phenomena seems to be that they represent very actionable undertakings which produce “scene to scene”, periodic or episodic outcomes. A character may be motivated toward a higher “good” (which is critical to know and appreciate) and believe that this good can be actualized in a particular end or achievement or result – and this end insofar as it exemplifies a good can be continuously appealed to as a source of morale and/or motivation, but when it actually “comes down to it” negotiating conflict requires more micro-scale action which complies with the mold of these phenomena which are made germane insofar as they are constituted as valuable, useful or, in fact, contingent to the ultimate directives.
As consequence; actions are not merely actions, but elements of processes and operations, which entail their own calculus and set of variables and considerations. In subsequent content, we will provide examples of the different genre forms – but for the sake of introduction, we can briefly touch on a few “Drama Types” or “Operations” which, again, ought to be pretty immediately recognizable.
For example, the above “psycho-intellectual” drama type of Concentration; concentration is essentially a mental function and an application of will; concentration implies, axiomatically, the existence of a certain opposite force, stimulus set or influence –anything which would disturb the processes which are vital to and constituent of the phenomena of rendering concentration which include; a. Being determined about focusing attention; and b. maintaining internal stillness through restraint. The outcome or generative effect of successful Concentration – though this may look different in different settings/applications – is the evocation of what known in Oriental mysticism as a “siddhi” which are perhaps well thought of as ideas commensurate with fulfilment and achievement; the siddhi’s which are associated with the Concentration phenomena/operation are, for example, “Invincibility” and “Stillness” which means something very relatable when constituted in the context of the demands to Concentrate; Invincibility is the triumph over the pressures and influences which would cause diversion or distraction; Stillness is the triumph over the pressures and influences which would cause or tend toward Stress, Restlessness and becoming stuck.
We all know really “doing” or achieving this isn’t “easy” – and this seems to, in point of fact, in common life it is in fact uncommon to experience “peak performance” in regard to any particular drama type. So when we experience characters go through these different drama types, it says something to us about who they are, what caliber of actor, and how seriously we are meant to take them. It also – again – if well-applied, will be the vehicle of generating an outcome which bears substantively on the ideated “good” and a character’s relationship to the actualization of that good. For example, we can infer that a character – as a person – who is able to concentrate when he/she is called upon to do so will be someone who is able to generate meaningful momentum – and in a nut shell a person who is able to reliably and consistently bring to bear certain gifts which are applied through phenomena is a person we expect to be able to actualize their own beliefs about what constitutes a meaningful life.
One’s ability to express a “Siddhi” is often characterized as “A Gift” or “Faculty” and it is meaningfully something someone “has” or “does not have”; “can channel” or “cannot” with comparative difficulty or ease. A character may be meaningfully equipped with certain gifts or authorities, or not adequately equipped with others which are, or are likely to be, critical if this character is to perform certain tasks and operations which represent contingencies to achieving his/her ideated ends/goods. This is perhaps one of the primary reasons this character must be Self-aware enough to enter into contracts.
In application, Concentration could mean a lot of things; a scene in a film where a Sniper must take out an important target will almost assuredly be a concentration drama – whether the writer chooses to pull greater attention to this particular scene or not. But so would a scene in which a character, or a group of characters, have to study for an exam. Or a scene in which the captain of a space ship is docking that ship at a port. Or a writer who needs to cut himself off from distractions to finish an important piece. Or someone trying to learn a difficult dance piece etc., etc.
So one very salient thing to a writer about knowing “Drama types” is that knowing which drama types there are, and which one is rendering at any particular time, allows a writer to really embrace the “what’s going on” i.e. characters are applying this particular function (which they hope will produce these ends) and communicate with very high degrees of intention what we are supposed to perceive about characters vis a vis their traits, decisions, gifts, etc. This is also a very germane idea when one wants to create dramatic tension – because knowing the operation or process one is rendering is also (see above) to know how and why in articulable terms one is most likely to fail or unable to overcome certain blocks or difficulties.
- Traps, Blockages and Impediments
Another germane concept regarding “Drama Types” – which follows naturally from the above is that there each drama type creates and implies its own kind of “gauntlet” associated with particular challenges and concepts which are part of the matrix pertaining to that concept. For example, the phenomena of Concentration, one can instinctually imagine how Concentration is “more” – or can be broken down into constituent sub-elements – including say “attention to detail”, “division of labor”, “preparation,” “allocation of time”, “collaborative effort”, “self-restraint” “resolve” “prioritization” etc.
Each of these concepts creates an idea which the very act of engaging with the phenomena and drama entails cognizance of and interaction with. Someone who is masterful or exemplary within a particular drama form is, on an even more granular level, someone who understands and controls the constituent sub-concepts. Many screenplays and films generate interest from exactly this fact; one unusual example of the “Concentration” phenomena, for example, is the “Wolf” scene from Pulp Fiction. Part of the appeal of using micro-dramas is that there is a visceral pleasure to seeing characters work through the same steps we know through different contexts.
Appreciating these sub-concepts as composing a familiar gauntlet also helps give us a clear understanding of how every Drama-type implies its own set of stakes – i.e. what happens when and if a character struggles to skillfully navigate that gauntlet.
The intuitive response is that the character would be unable to capitalize on their circumstances – which may be banal enough in itself.
On a deeper level, however, characters become defined by their relationship to these drama/activity forms and phenomena – defined both in negative and positive terms. Although better preparation, more discipline, etc. may for example help a person concentrate – it’s going to be hard for a person who struggles with concentration activity forms to just change themselves and become someone who can do this – at least without considerable training, which is seldom forthcoming, and may require some kind of genuine “intervention.” But the snag is that in most situations, to really “actualize” a good – the good a character knows – a character must engage in a variety of drama forms which become germane at different times or “seasons” simply within the flow of one’s motivated activities.
Activity forms which pose particular difficulty – be this difficulty a mental, spiritual, emotional or social sort – start to create the basic parameters of a character’s life; and characters become enclosed within these parameters.
The consequence is that characters become meaningfully psychologically “Trapped”. Most stories – though writers do not always know this – will indicate as “Subject” a character who has a longer-term orientation or affinity for a particular good, but is facing some kind of trap – even if this trap is totally understandable given a certain set of considerations or underlying cultural parameters. It’s part of who they are and also defines their relationship to the goods they most avow – be that relationship intimate and actual, or more distant and theoretical, or genuinely frustrated. The trap may be that posed to a middle-aged boxer who is being used as a “palooka” in rigged fights; or of a paleontologist who is struggling to continue to fund his dig; or of a high school student who fears being typecast as the “jock.”
Most stories will also, one way or another, give characters the chance and the “push” and the opportunity to create a life for themselves beyond their known blockages. However, the cognizance of this trap remains salient and provides some basic apprehension of the stakes of the narrative.
Although we allude to the concept that a well-established character is established within a set of “preoccupations” and fixations – which suggest the absence of the good – its valuable to understand that preoccupations are, or can be, in fact, somewhat misleading as to the real “source” or cause of a character’s present strife.
A character’s crisis is a causative source of the psychological phenomena of rationalization; to have a definable crisis is to identify, on some basic level, with the presence – threatened or actual – of a genuine psychological trap and to recognize that there is an urgency to one’s life and affairs associated with that trap.
If worldviews represent relatively stable self-perpetuating and self-fulfilling equilibria – even if these equilibria have undesirable features, the stability they offer biases characters toward decisions which preserve the worldview. The crisis generally forms the basic injunction or recognition that it will be necessary for a character to change his/her mentality or approach to life and to the making of contracts in a way which may have a greater appreciable impact on the basic implements of his/her worldview – which is also “to allow” change into one’s life.
Enmeshment within a crisis is humanizing; it makes characters relatable. It’s also causative. Substantively, a crisis pertaining to a particular drama type designated trap (or a few of them) illustrates to us the dimensions of a character’s life in which he/she is experiencing a disadvantage or feels handicapped/impaired. Characters who do not have clear and definable crises are difficult to identify with – but they’re also difficult to understand because having a pressing personal crisis is such a fundamental piece of why we act in particular ways and open ourselves toward particular influences or relationships. A character without a definable crisis often gives the impression of being an agent without a definable vector or constitution – and it can be difficult to understand where the urgency of their choices comes from.
p.2 Drama types as “Cross-Sections” and the “Narrative Charter”
Although “Drama Types” can (and perhaps ought) to be used periodically throughout the course of a particular narrative, in the algorithm we make a deliberate choice to introduce writers to the concepts on a larger scale by characterizing the entire work of a particular screenplay as consisting of 4 particular drama types – 1 from each domain/sphere (emotive, social, intellectual, spiritual).
This is very useful for telling in a few phrases what’s going on in a particular story. In combination with the concepts of dominant narrative conceit and motifs (below) – as well as basic feature of the protagonist’s worldview – knowing the 4 predominant Drama types tells us immediately what challenges, trials and operations are being used to compose the narrative.
This “Profile” of a particular story also performs an interesting function of putting any particular work in a very specific “tradition”; many scripts – and existing films – for example could be called “Mafia” films, but only a few Mafia films are likely to have (for example) a Protagonist who has a “Contextualizing” worldview and with, respectively 4 predominant drama types of say, Desire-Leadership-Optimization- and Experience.
Another salient thing to note is that each of these drama types is a succinct description of what’s “going on” in a particular sector of the narrative; In the above case, for example, we would immediately infer that the difficulties a character or set of characters are experiencing psycho-emotively relate to the issues of “Desire dynamics” which may include the need to identify worthy objects or subjects which promise some possibility of Release, fulfillment or Rapture in their obtainment; psycho-socially, the difficulties would include the issues of Leadership which include appointing or organizing under modest leaders who are charged with justly and commensurately allocating roles; Psycho-intellectually we would infer that the mental operations characters are working within are largely – across the narrative – those associated with trying to improve one’s condition through moderating and adjusting inputs in ways which are meant to maximize outputs, etc. etc.
This should give writers a lot to go on because already, you can observe how scene types can be divided or combined in ways which touch on different difficulties. Simply alternating between scenes which place an emphasis on the germane drama type – and the subplot or group of elements which are pertinent to it – would be an immediate way to diversify the flow of information which is occurring on the page.
Drama Types also start to provide us what we call the “Dramatic Charter” – which is a kind of consolidated abstract form summary of the narrative. Mostly ineluctably, the stacking of these 4 drama forms creates constituent sub dramas which have to be both aggravated, progressed and resolve to bring the narrative to a satisfying conclusion; each poses its endemic difficulties and these difficulties must be coped with or meaningfully reconciled. Take the above example (Desire-Leadership-Optimization-Experience in a Mafia film); one way to conclude this narrative would be to write a character arc of a character within a system about a character who gets into the mafia in search of some greater Life Experience due to the restlessness of a mundane life; is employed in optimization processes which require this character to perform duties which manipulate or manage inputs critical to the mafia’s vitality; negotiate trials associated with appointing a strong leader, and with complying with these leader’s mandates or edicts; and settling on one particular thing, maybe a woman, who evokes Desire. (And in point of fact, some of you may notice that such a film would probably look a lot like say “Goodfellas”). These plots – in cross section – ought to be resolved in ways which create actual change in the pertinent dramatic system which can be attributed to characters interaction with these drama types.
…All of which will only be made more germane and meaningful in light of the protagonists and the supporting casts agendas and orientations toward particular goods and ideals.
Drama types (also, to repeat or revisit an earlier point) consist of proceduralized “steps” and ideas. Once we know what drama types a story is using, improving that particular branch or sphere of the story is made a lot simpler by isolating the beats and scenes in the story which correspond to that drama type and cross-referencing what is happening there with the genericized form and constituent ideas of that Drama Type.
- Ideals and Conduct
One of the most important concepts in our theory is that of the presence and active influence exerted by “Ideals.” An “ideal” – the way we conceive – is a personified archetypal form which exemplifies what exemplary conduct/behavior or performance “looks” like regarding both the roles that characters take on – and the goods they hope to actualize.
A basic way to understand an Ideal is that an Ideal is the potentially attainable (and potentially embodied) expression to and template of a person who enjoys an essentially immediate and actualized and venerated relationship to particular goods. If the ideated “good” is that of “Artistry” then the germane Ideal is “The Artist.” If the ideated “good” is “Reform”, then the ideated good is “The Reformer”. If “Discipline,” then “the Disciple” etc.
If the impetus toward giving actual form and expression to goods provides the basic inputs of “Motive”, Ideals or “Ideal forms” and characters cognizance of them provide the basic personological reference point.
Characters are aware of Ideals – but, as or more importantly, so are we. Whether by virtue of the people, or stories we know, or an a priori understanding of the thing, the audience is aware of ideals and we process in very visceral ways when a character has “entered into a correspondence” with a particular ideal. When this occurs – and it occurs in every narrative, because this correspondence is in fact, largely, the content of the very concept “Narrative” – the Ideal creates the penumbra or outline of what the character “can become”, “must live up to” and sets the standard to which he/she and much of what he/she does is compared.
One will note that an Ideal is not a social idea or construct. It would be a tautology to say that this character is informed by what it would mean to be the ideal “Son” or “Daughter” or “Employee” or “Worker” or “Writer’ or “Politician.” These phrases “ideal Son” or “Ideal Employee” suggest content, but they do not demarcate it in the same way because these terms change in regard to their content depending on the context in which they are use. The “Ideal Employee”, if working for a marketing company may be someone who is virtuosic “Amplifier” or “Extender’ – but if working as a teacher, or car salesman, may need to be less an “Amplifier” and more an “Instructor” or “Devotee.” It depends on context.
This is an important idea because social constructs don’t – and cannot – really “circumscribe” to an individual what “must be done” or where possible higher-level fulfilment lies for the individual. Stories often really “begin” exactly when a character dares, or is compelled to “Look Beyond” others projections about what they need or want or value in the character, or what they expect him/her to do and be, and start to apprehend what Ideals can be served best. Apprehension of Ideals has the power to make one independent of one’s “circumstance” or “station” because Ideals have Transformative Power.
That being said, the presence of Ideals is essentially universal and most engaging characters – even if they’re just supporting characters – ought to be “Informed” by some Ideal because the Ideal is what gives this person a sustainable existence and sense of “Self-Purpose.” He/she, in fact, could almost be said to take directions from the Ideal – because the Ideal represents the icon indicating the path available to a life beyond strife – and out of ones known personal traps. So – one basic and reliable way to “gauge” the strength of a cast is to inspect the question as to whether each important member of the cast has been rendered with sufficient care to account for their cognition of the Ideal which is most salient to them – which, again, is where Conflict really comes from (i.e. the positing of the higher value or supremacy or absoluteness or irreducibility of particular “goods” in context).
To use a previous concept, the Ideal is the a priori cognition of the Person who “would be” if that person were to have a masterful understanding – both theoretical and practical – of a particular good (see the above note on ontology, deontology and epistemology). The Ideal “Instructor” for example is someone who “knows what it is to Instruct” which also means that this is a person who is able to exist between the balance’s endemic to the act of Instruction – particular the balance between “Learning” and “Education.” It also follows that, fundamentally, the Ideal is the person (or idea of a person) who is able to consistently, vigorously and life-affirmingly bring to bear the “goods” pertinent to that Ideal and to apply Activity/Drama forms to this process.
If it’s not implied, this is a really interesting and valuable thing to know about a character or a set of characters – whether those characters are “yours” or someone else’s – because knowing the pertinent Ideal ought to immediately create expectations about what this person’s fate or course could look like. At the end of the narrative, a character may be totally out of touch with his/her ideal, or have “failed” miserably in his/her efforts to service it – but the existence of the correspondence provides the benchmark of our processing of them and their conduct. So it becomes incumbent on the writer to furnish the narrative with a structure, and the narrative world with a set of facts, which allow to the character the opportunities to express or alter their correspondence with their ideal because this allows the reader – and the character – to already begin filling in what the apotheosis of that correspondence would look like. If It’s Lawrence, it’s the Liberation of the Arabs from the Turks; if it’s Luke, it’s the destruction of the Death Star – etc.
A last note is that to assert a correspondence with an Ideal is – always – a controversial and tricky and active thing. The existence of an Ideal means that a character is given the positivist idea to assert that they are or can be something – and something specific. They may not know what exactly this looks like, but they know they can be that thing and that this thing is a decidedly more fulfilling than what they currently are. But it also seems instrumental and true that this claim does not exist in a vacuum. We’re revisiting a point here from the Resistance section (see above) but the claim that one “Can Be” is valid exactly insofar as it evokes skeptical attack and creates resistance. If there is not some voice or some perspective in the narrative which replies, skeptically, with the question “you?” then, it’s going to be hard for the narrative to really engage – or for the plot to create the kind of obstacles we associate with a real process of “Becoming” or progressing toward anything meaningful.
- Actualized goods and composite Proof and Balance Points
One perhaps very important thing to note is that to actualize some goods is, on a larger scale, a form of argument – not so much with “another person” but with one’s own existential appreciation of “self.” We might suggest that every “good” of the 48 we identify is itself a form of argument about who “I” am and my relationship to existence.
We’re revisiting an earlier point here – but an actualized Good is a corollary to and proof against the existing attack on the validity of one’s existential claim. The Instructor must overcome the existential claim that he/she is “Naïve” and has nothing worthy of being “taught.” The Disciple must overcome the existential claim that he/she is capricious, undisciplined and that there is nothing to human existence really worth “learning” or devoting oneself to.
So to achieve the “Goal” is really a “Creative” Act – in all cases – because the Goal creates an identifiable reference point which is an expression of the positivist claim; the Goal is the actualization of the “Good” and therefore the “Proof” that although the correspondence with the given Ideal may have been difficult, or costly, or have carried with it trials and unexpected surprises – it was nonetheless possible to achieve the Good, and that in achieving the Good, one definitely communicates about oneself that one is on the “right side” of existential forces.
This doesn’t mean that every narrative has to result in achieving the goal; hardly. But the goal has to be present somewhere in the narrative (even only in the characters head).
- On “Gestalt” or “Discourse” and “Cross-Purposes”
One idea which starts to emerge once we understand that well fleshed out characters brings to the dramatic playing field their own conceptions of that field, the goods which are available there, and the meaning thus ascribed to it is an appreciation for the multi-valent and co-creative nature of “Drama.” It stands to reason, due to the aforementioned points about the limitations of tangible space time, that not all goods are in fact available in equal measure, or can be realized simultaneously. The commitment of resources – time, personal energies, etc. – to one is liable to be a divestment from others. And again, this means that the interaction between characters is substantively dominated by arguments – arguments which are, in the pure sense, “interpretations” of the dramatic playing field.
Dialogue implies rationality. Real dialogue presupposes of the assembled actors by one another of one another that each actor is capable of seeing things “objectively” – or at the very least in a manner which lends credence to the worldviews of other actors – and therefore can be swayed or persuaded by a reasoned argument in a way which bears substantively on their own designs. They can, in short, be convinced that – in point of fact – “this is a time” for “Good X” (say Reform), and thus not in equal measure a time for “Good Y” (say “Instruction”). The most comprehensive “argument” can win – or win with some compromises, “riders” or provisos – and the argument/interpretation which does win has compulsive force insofar as its legitimacy can be used to “call upon” other actors to contribute and leverage resources (including, perhaps, their lives).
Ultimately, stories are largely composed of “Dialoguing” and as much as there may be a modernist impulse to use dialogue as a ground for colorful observations, purposeful dialogue is purposeful insofar as it recognizes that which was just described and shows us who characters are by virtue of the goods they attempt to advocate and the interpretations they leverage on the field. Whatever action ensues on screen and whatever outcomes play out – the real differentiating element between that which seems meaningful, and that which seems senseless or can only be appreciated as spectacle – is the notion that which is happening is both an expression to and consequence of previous Dialogues; which again – in its most basic form, is the leveraging of interpretations of the Dramatic Aperture or Narrative “Field” which assert that availability, the relevance, and the economy of particular goods over others.
This concept is also the basic way we can build characters; because the combination of personal qualities, interpretive modes, crises, preoccupations and known ideals is going to collectively form the “Lens” through which a given character is going to supply meaning to reality. Often times, the best basic way to start to make sure your characters are sufficiently fleshed out to engage in these kinds of dialogues is to build a very complete protagonist who exists within a very complete setting.
- On “Genre”
One of the main things a user new to Scriptmatix is likely to notice is the diminished emphasis placed on some more conventional ideas of interpreting the intention of a screenplay. Many – if not most – stories of previous decades have derived their market identity by constituting themselves under the banner of a particular genre which biases and informs the audience’s expectations about what will occur in the film and what types of audiences or sensibility the film is suitable for or will most appeal to.
Certainly, each genre seems to entail its own “game rules” regarding certain barriers of evocative phenomena which are going to be approached, and crossed – and there is a method of interpreting screenplays which perhaps
We tend to pay less attention to genre.
In the above, we talked about the concepts of “Dramatic Aperture” – in the sense that there is a “window” made available by the Premise of a narrative which typically provides a character with the basic “push” to apply their attention and their energies to something which holds in it the potential to pull them out of and into an existence beyond their known crises – and affords the opportunity to either; a. continue their correspondence with previous goods and ideals; or b. to enter into a new or renewed correspondence with another good and ideal.
The undergirding idea here is that time is not a monolith, and dramatic time is not “always the same.” Time is variable – and by variable we mean that each block or unit of dramatic time within a character’s life is meaningfully “pre-loaded” with some kind of implicit hierarchy of what that time is “good” for. Some “times” in people’s lives are times in which it is prudent to “vie for power” and attempt to assert oneself within social hierarchies. At other times, it is more favorable and necessary to seek partnership; Dramatic Aperture is a concept which suggests that it is a window in which – at least for that character, in some basic objective sense – it is more “favorable” to pursue or “tryst” at particular endeavors over others (“a season for all things”).
To encapsulate this idea, we use in the algorithm a concept we refer to as “Conceit.” Conceit is a term which comes to us from traditional literary and dramatic theory; the “conceit” of a work is often referred to as “the ideas” or presuppositions that a reader needs to accept in order to “buy in” or “suspend disbelief” in the narrative; for example, that “there was such a person” as “Character x”.
Our use of this concept is perhaps a bit more specific – and we use it in a manner not inconsistent with the idea that there are “types of story” or “story types” – and, furthermore, that these types of stories are designated by the type of aperture or window of dramatic opportunity a writer makes available to a character for particular goods through the premise.
To appreciate a conceit is to “buy in” – and to buy-in in sufficient measure that one’s mind – the mind of the reader – interacts with the basic infrastructure of the narrative “as though” it is not so dissimilar from a reality one is able to experience either personally or through the story/testimony of someone we know (be friend, acquaintance or otherwise). To engage is to frame mental conjectures and expectations about “where things are going” – so to use a “conceit” is to indicate a subject emphasis and establish certain infrastructure which both promotes buy-in and governs mental engagement by way of the manner in which this information creates expectations.
This seems to be intuitive – and to accurately represent how the reader’s mind is engaging with the narrative. Most conceits become apparent within the first Act of a narrative – and perhaps as early as the 15-page mark. The conceit is the unifying framework of the narrative. Instead of needing to authorize or promote buy-in to each of the scripts individual elements – “there was a character named x” etc. – the basic task is to convince the reader that these characters are collectively organized and made germane insofar as they can be expected to have a credible and salient impact on a particular form of outcome – and that they have been assembled around a particular dramatic “question” or cause of dramatic ambiguity which it is their collective covenant to contest, negotiate and resolve.
We designate in our system 16 conceits or story types – and they include ideas like a “Vying for Power” conceit, a “Leveraging of Opinions” conceit and a “Unity conceit” each of which creates its own set of expectations which are associated with and derivatives of underlying sources of tension and causes of dramatic ambiguity. A vying for Power conceit for example deals in the ambiguity of who will exercise influence over or control the instruments of social power, and how – or to what ends – that power will be used. A Unity conceit deals in dramatic ambiguity about partnerships and pairings; who will end up with whom, and what different intimate conformations would mean.
Whatever the conceit is, the important point is that it circumscribes or indicates the basic boxes or set of parameters the narrative is operating within; some narratives will employ 2 conceits, or 3 – but the idea remains that the drama “ends” or “concludes” only when the ambiguity and tension associated with these respective conceits has been essentially satisfyingly resolved.
Creating expectations isn’t a mere triviality or formality; stories with clear conceits are engaging because the reader buys into the notion that this is a time for x, that there is ambiguity about y, and that the characters can resolve this ambiguity by moving into conformations abc. Stories without clear conceits tend to suffer because it becomes difficult to “track” what the source of tension is.
Knowing which conceits, you’re using as a writer or developer is fairly imperative because the core ambiguities of your drama is going to create the basic framework in which readers construe your characters. It’s also going to help a writer push the plot toward particular benchmarks or conclusions. Great writers know how to manipulate audience expectations.
The relationship of Conceit to “Genre” and “Tone” or “Treatment.”
A lot is made in the field of film about the “Genre” of a particular work. Genre as we understand it, however, is a somewhat nebulous term which implies conjunction of more discretely manageable notions – particular conceit, tone and treatment.
One interesting thing about “Genre” is that although there are examples where it would seem to map onto or correlate in high degrees with a dramatic “Conceit”, they are not the same. For example, a “Unity” Conceit would seem to entail most “Romance” and “Romantic Comedy” films – but the use of the Unity conceit is not specific to this genre and can be repurposed elsewhere, including in “Action”, “Suspense” or “Horror” films.
The crossover into the terrain of Genre seems to require additional factors – in particular an idea well-articulated by the idea of “treatment” – which means that to all the things above, the writer “applies” a treatment or “spin” which is meant to “play” the elements of the narrative in one way or another. This would include conceit – certainly – but it likely, to be really convincing would benefit from being applied in a more or less consistent manner to most of the dominating ideas and phenomena; if the genre is Humor, that means embellishing or distorting for example the “goods” a character is oriented toward, or the “way” they interpret a correspondence with an Ideal – or the parameters of the applied sub-dramas. A Concentration drama, for example, can be pushed toward the comedic if, for example, the presence of distracting influences is played to the absurd.
The idea of genre implies the patterned application of information – particularly patterns which “push” the experience of the film into a particular emotive register. Most writers writing in a particular genre will have a fairly intuitive handle on what this means in terms of the types of moments they want to create on the page or certain sources they want to pull from or build upon – but the instinct to justify substantive dramatic choices through their genre appeal alone is one of the main ways to logically alienate an audience from the basic coherence of the plot; we see it all the time that a script with an interesting concept and an appealing set of characters will subsume or lose the core of its own story by relying too heavily on genre tropes which are tethered to the “substrate” of a character’s reality.
So – another reason knowing the things above about a writer’s screenplay is so potentially useful; if the writer’s basic leanings and intentions regarding tone, genre and treatment and patterns of evoked meaning can be picked out, then the story can be meaningfully reverse engineered by consideration of what the “take” consistent with this tone would mean or look like when applied to the composite ideas of the story. This should allow or assists writers to achieve a greater harmony between the important/pivotal psychological ideas of their story and their genre inclinations.
Motifs – like conceits – are organizing principles. In basic terminology a “motif” is a dominating or prominent idea in a dramatic work.
We provide and ask our analysts to make reference to a set of over 50 known motifs. Motifs often really constitute the prism through which characters conceive of one another and their own circumstances.
Classic motifs include, for example, “the escape” motif, or “the rescue” motif or the “ascension” motif. Some of these motifs have been known for centuries – and one of our influences here was the writer “George Polti”.
Motifs provide a meaningful addendum to governing conceits. If conceits circumscribe (see above) the general period of endeavor and what we can expect to see therein in an abstract way, motifs communicate things about which skeletons a plot will fall into. Like all the pieces mentioned heretofore, motifs can be combined, swapped, or applied within different contexts with other dramatic pieces. An Escape motif could be used equally well in a Vying for Power “Conceit” as with a “Unity conceit” – it just depends on the writer’s desire to set that up. Likewise, the escape motif could be used for a character whose dominating Ideal or good was that of “Discipline” or that of “Artistry” or any of the other ideals – and the process of escape may entail a greater emphasis on drama forms of, depending on what the writer does with it, “Structuring”, “Optimization, “Conception” etc.
That being said, motifs do not seem to be arbitrary; they imply some basic semblance of pattern and part of the reason we ask analysts to identify them is because the very name of a particular motif implies potentially rather significant quantities of meaning. For example, an Escape motif intuitively shifts attention into a particular register of available or mandatory goods including those of “Resolve” “Intention” “Freedom” “Release” “Liberation” and “Extension.” It also shifts attention onto certain micro-dramas including for example “Structuring” because of the importance an Escape would seem to pose on the ability of characters to organize their own efforts, “Influence” because of the value of collaborative effort and recognizing a common influence, “Leadership” and “Emoting” (among others).
So, part of what designating certain motifs does is circumscribe or suggest what we expect the plot to look like. Another basic fact about motifs is that people recognize them. Writers “use” motifs – and the emergent psychological and aesthetic language associated with particular motifs is familiar to most people who have experienced stories. In point of fact, the motif, or set of motifs, a writer is using often provides some of core content of what becomes the “logline” and part of the intrigue of experiencing any story, told by any writer, is the question of “how” a writer will choose to twist, evolve, or maximize the motif they are alluding to or pulling into the field. One of main responsibilities of the writer, therefore, is both a. to select and capitalize on motifs which lend themselves organically and evolve coherently within the parameters set by everything we have previously discussed regarding character worldview, preoccupations, crises, relationships, etc.
Often times, the substance of a motif is the creation of some kind of dramatic entity, which holds value. “Escape” motifs, for example, rest on the dramatic value of a space the existence beyond which designates freedom. “Pursuit” motifs imply that the payoff of the narrative resides in a few possible outcomes – including eluding the pursuer, or the pursuer capturing his/her mark. And in fact, a writer simply knowing what motifs they’re working with and committing to it/them will often be a fairly natural way of unfolding narrative action.
But because we’re dealing in concepts of “value” and “worth”, appreciating the actual subjects who are constituted by the motif is strongly aided by a deeper psychological understanding. An Escape motif means an entirely different thing for a character who is of a “Passionate/creative” worldview than a character whose worldview is subsistent – different not only from a standpoint of motive, but also of the quality of payoff or incentive achieving freedom might provide, as well as the means they might employ, the urgency with which they will employ them, and how their worldview stands to be adjusted. Conversely, an escape motif, again, entails something different for a character who is experiencing a “Fertility” crisis, than one who is experiencing an “Understanding crisis”; one character may want to escape to get back to his wife; another may want to escape to get answers about, for example, who was responsible for his incarceration in the first place.
- Application – Development and Revision tool
The fundamental thing we’re trying to impress on writers here is that becoming more conscious of what is happening in your narrative is good. A full or complete “consciousness” of a writer’s story is also a consciousness of the choices which have been made. Every one of these concepts provides options. If you divide a story into its basic perspective set, and appreciate that the perspective every character is bringing to bear is composed of the same elements, which themselves are identifiable from a set of options of that element, it becomes quickly apparent how; a. first, no matter how intuitively composed a story was/has been, it is still derived largely from a combination of this idea set and what is playing out on the page/screen is an expression of these things. What may appear as two characters eating hamburgers is – actually – a layered phenomena involving 2 people of different resting worldviews or acting dispositions, oriented toward different dominating goods, with different ideations of the narrative aperture. Hamburgers become the implement of the higher-level dialogue; the decision to eat with one another becomes an instantiate proposition of what they value.
In the back of our field – and behind what we do as a company – is the notion that experiencing a movie/screenplay is a subjective experience and that a narrative content can be read to varying degrees of pleasure or enjoyment by different audiences. While this may be true in some measure, this notion is often used – from our perspective – as a means of disengaging. One of the basic tasks our system allots to analysts regarding any script they encounter, however, is to stake something of themselves in the process by leveraging an interpretation and a claim about the story and about what is happening in the story. This means identifying the things we’ve discussed above – and making an argument as to why this is the reasonable and justifiable interpretation based on what is happening on the page.
Narrative/dramatic writing is largely an act of accountability. Imagination may be a fundamental resource in the composition process, but the viewer/reader buy-in correlates and maps onto essentially the degree of trust that reader is willing and able to “vest” in the storyteller, regarding how they will handle pieces. Fates should not be allocated arbitrarily; events should not occur haphazardly – and the changes a writer proposes are occurring should transmit as not only viable but “correct.” If the purpose of narrative is at least in part to draw attention to the human capacity for choice and dramatic agency, characters must be coherently enough rendered that their choices register as means “toward” and “away” from legitimate psychic thresholds, for which we can hold them accountable in their conduct. If a reader/viewer can have some measure of faith in the writer as a guiding intelligence of the narrative which will simulate a treatment of characters which is simultaneously fair and ordered, it promotes buy-in and the suspension of disbelief – in part because then the viewer/reader does not have to concern him/herself with the process of trying to parse, correct, or ignore certain internal fallacies or sources of inconsistency.
So a critical part of our script analysis process – and why we ask analysts to do what they do – is because it’s a means of “pulling out” and making articulable and disputable what a writer must be considered accountable for – and we do this on a fairly granular and specific level. If a character – even a side character – is supposed to go through an arc from one worldview to another, say “Subsistent” to “Contextualizing”, this becomes an idea which the writer is responsible convincingly execute; the explanation as to how this process occurred ought to be lucid. It also means that if a character has a “Subsistent” worldview, then that character needs to be equipped with a set of psychic landmarks which essentially “hold” or constitute ideas which bias the character toward such an outlook or manner of perceiving, and explain (in this case “Subsistent”) why the character has – either temporarily or protractedly – fallen into a frame of mind which is predicated on a lack of personal aspiration, or ennobled self-worth, and “Why does he feel this way?”
Likewise, if a writer is using a particular conceit – then the writer is accountable for leveraging the associated expectations and using them to generate either twists or dramatic payoff. Or if a writer falls into a particular drama type – let’s say concentration – buy in is going to be incumbent on the writer’s ability to commit to that piece for the associated pages, and draw attention to the features of the situation which make of it a concentration drama – for example the factors and stimulus sets and influences in the environment which would pull a character’s attention away from the salient task or objects at hand. It might also require providing viable – and relatable – explanations for why this character “has to cope” with these things.
Typification is one of the more powerful human mental tools or faculties. This is largely because “mind” is dominantly formed by the concept of “Ideal Types” or “Ideal forms” – and a mind appraised of what the salient type or form is for a particular sample can reverse engineer that sample in ways which make it more clearly approximate or borrow from or adapt the Ideal form. To wit; analyzing a whole script may tend to be impressionistic, but analyzing or evaluating its segments becomes a more manageable task, and because manageable, one to which our analysts can bring to bear a different and more precise set of tools. Instead of telling writers whether their piece was generally enjoyable, we can pull the piece apart and identify which elements were stronger – and weaker – and how the weak segments might be made stronger, in light of the ideal forms.
So fundamentally, what our system does is participate in an evaluation, revision and development process which is not – as many will be – a process of trying to simply polish up what’s already there; nor is it a process of substituting our own creative intuitions for the writers. Having recourse to a language of ideal forms is recourse to a language which provides a neutral and abstracted basis for discussion, because these terms imply their own set of principles. Concentration dramas must entail the threat of distraction. Exchange dramas, the threat of disengagement or obscurity. Mechanistic worldviews are poised above the threat of disintegrating into subsistent ones, but informed by the possibility of integrating into more participatory ones. This manner of approaching stories leaves a developer/writer not only with a story they are proud of, but over which they have a robust and purposeful understanding.
- Narrative as Psyche, first; and Narrative Builders
So a final important thing to acknowledge is that, for us, Narrative is Psyche; we essentially say with Hermetic philosophers that Universe is “Mind” – and that “plot” is the process and depiction of Mind as a mechanic, reflex and response apparatus – and that if there is – as most people who see films in theaters will observe – a kind of underlying collective sensibility of what is “credible” in a film, this sensibility is largely informed by a generalizable and generally accessible apprehension of how mind works. This understanding should allow us to help – and to give writers the tools – to write and conceive of comprehensive stories which are built from the “ground”, “up” by recourse to all the basic constituent elements the we would refer to as a “complete’ psychic gamut.
So, although imagery is perhaps the basic unit of the cinematic form, psychic insight and acumen are probably the basic medium and prerequisite of “drama” – and each side implies the other. Within our system, a writer can start from a set of images or interactions or observations, and build backward – or the writer can start with a basic plight, or abstracted arc, and build “outward.” As a developer/writer I might know that I want to write a scene of a teenager feeding birds with bread – or of 2 friends buying a new car; but I still have questions or am operating largely on intuition about what are these things, and what do they mean? – and what function they are serving in the general schema of the narrative I am trying to create. However, I might also know that I am trying to write a story about a person who is sad, and uncertain about his/her prospects in the dating world. Or I might know that I want to write a story which features an escape, or an amusing concept about a boy who goes in search of pirates (or the combination of these things) – and in any of these cases, the creator would be strongly assisted by knowing what other pertinent choices are available to them – and how these particular ideas fit into a generalized schema or process of dramatic action.
Having our framework available is therefore a viable – and perhaps very useful – means of “narrative building”, even from abstract forms (some readers likely started to do this mentally while reading through previous sections). From abstract forms, the burden is put on the writer essentially to decide things like “what I want this to look like”, what tools I want to use, and how I want to sequence, arrange or prioritize. I might say for example – in the pure abstract form; that I am writing a character informed by a Devotion ideal in a subsistent worldview interacting with a character informed by an Artistry ideal in an aspirational worldview over an Exchange dynamic, and including the contents of an Ascension motif; knowing the details of character qualities, ages, appearances, etc. is only going to add color to this basic subtextual system of relations and meanings. Furthermore, I might be strongly appraised about the purpose or nature of this interaction by suggesting that – although neither character exactly knows it – they are interacting within the basic temporal dramatic context or aperture created by a Unity conceit – and that, as such, the dynamics of this scene will be strongly informed by which of the characters is able and willing and amenable to the ideas of what it means to enter into a romantic union, and that in retrospect the thoughts they exchange here are going to become clear in “function” on the basis of how they may or may not have biased each characters concepts of partnership.
- Recourse to/Use of Precedents
Writers within our system will likely start to wonder about how their use of certain devices compares in execution to other stories using similar – or the same – devices.
In reference to the previous idea of “Ideal types”, cinema is fairly unique in terms of the robust number of samples the history of film provides. Part of our active project as a company is to apply our framework and terminology sets to these samples so that writers will be able to use cinematic tradition as a referential set of visual and psychological language to see where and how the ideas, they are writing have been constituted before.
This should serve multiple functions – one being to allow writers to engage in viewing experiences which are targeted and made germane insofar as they share real building blocks with the story a writer is conceiving. A writer will be able to, for example, identify scenes where stories pivot away from certain ideals – or how filmmakers and writers of previous decades have chosen to modify similar tropes.
Such cataloguing should also help writers control precedents and bias themselves toward the instincts or features in their work which “stand out” – and which notably push the tradition – not so different than the manner in which a Judge or Justice pulls attention first to the family/category of a certain case, then to its most germane precedents, and then to the factors which make that case distinct or worthy of independent consideration. Insofar as culture is an evolving set of propositions, each film – particularly prominent film – represents a proposition about the time, and writers appraised of this information will be more aware of what they want to communicate – and what is necessary to do so.
For example, worldviews of different strata may be largely based in different landmarks depending on era – even if the worldview is fundamentally the same. Similarly, the constitution or application of certain “goods” or ideals – and the creative threats these pose, or skeptical attacks they field, will continuously evolve in context and across time. Knowing the story of characters with active reform ideals from different decades, for example, may allow a writer to trenchantly compose the narrative in such a way which delves into the particular features of their own characters use of this ideal – and also to give this character greater self-awareness of the tradition their actions are advancing.
- An “Active” Vocabulary and “Subtext”
On a final note, perhaps the foundation of our system and vernacular is an effort to understand and process real human experience at a deeper level. Our effort to reconstruct a comprehensive gamut of determinative psychological action is as much a consequence of the study of human narratives, as of human experience – and the same ideas or vocabulary can be used to relate, observe, and draw parallels between one’s own experiences – present, or past – as to existing stories. Strong writers are often strong observers – who are able to pick out the underpinnings of communication – and this degree of insight and attentiveness is largely a thing which, if known, can be trained.
When learned over time, our vocabulary should intuitively cross presumed barriers which exist between real experience and written interactions. People, as characters, will couch communication in definable ideals; people, as characters, create multi-perspectival phenomena which fit within basic dynamic “Frames” and suggest their own gamut of outcomes – and periods of life often feel organized around predominating items of focus which would bring that phase to a measure of completion, including unity, tribulation, or the subordination to an existing system or structured life form.
A fundamental purpose or proposition here is that a writer equipped with this knowledge can participate in and actively create a richer apprehension of life as composed of discrete idea forms – and thus build through experience an understanding of communication forms which can be brought to bear in service of their stories.
We’re also largely inspired by our desire to create and furnish writers and viewers alike with the tools which may lend themselves toward more thoughtful engaging conversations about existing contents. Ultimately, narratives do “speak” to greater and lesser degrees and provide some of the more potent and interesting mirrors available to us as means of greater self-comprehension. A textured and multi-valent interpretation of films lends itself to a textured and multi-valent interpretation of life – and a deeper appreciation for the ideas and potentials of which it is actively composed.