Star Wars debate

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Chris Huntley
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Star Wars debate

Postby Chris Huntley » May 30, 2008 9:26 am

Aspiring Novelist -- Star Wars debate

I've been exploring Dramatica for about 2 months now.
The first month was the demo, the second when I purchased it.

I loved the book and I WORSHIP the software, but I'm having problems (that I could happily fix with a button that disabled Dramatica's auto-elimination of options) but I am looking into my understanding of theory, just in case. As a paying customer I will suggest that while I appreciate Dramatica's convenient elimination of choices, if I could turn it off I would be writing my novel instead of writing this. I am addicted to the reports and chapter-writing pull-down menus or I would abandon the software. So I'm trying to make it work as you intended.

To that end, I am hoping to debate some of Dramatica's theoretical characteristics in the hopes of understanding it better, using the Star Wars example.
From reading many of the threads, it appears that others might gain some insights as well. I hope I don't sound argumentative. I'm just trying to apply your theory and it's actually harder than both Russian and Arabic grammar, no lie. I've been studying fiction and foreign languages for about 20 years.

I don't think Test describes, accurately, anything significant in Star Wars, beyond Luke looking at things as an opportunity to prove himself.

The fact that the Empire tests the Death Star is more for exposition and cool special effects points than the indications of anything significant shared by all the Objective Characters. Lucas shows what it can do so that we all know (Reader and Rebel alike) what the consequences for Rebel failure are.

I can see it being chosen for Luke, perhaps even Obi-Wan (he is, after all, testing the boy) but the Empire is really beyond testing...they've pretty much had it with those pesky rebels and are taking the proverbial gloves off with their new toy.

I think Control, Security, or any number of other Issues are at least the equal of Test in terms of involving EVERYONE involved with the OS.

Control seems to be what everyone is really after. Luke is struggling to control his barely-detectable Force powers, the Empire seeks to Control the universe, and Ben Kenobi is trying to ensure that Luke gains control and the Empire doesn't.

Anyway I look at it, I just don't feel Test is true in this case. The description under 'CONTEXT' in the storyforming menu seems to change from the Dramatica definition to the standard definition in order to justify/explain that selection, which is mandatory under the software's unmalleable elimination of choices. But it seems a bit of a stretch in any case.

Of course, I fiddled with the choices for Star Wars, but in order to change one little thing, like Test in the Overall Story section of the Engine, or within the Storyforming area, the entire web comes unglued. It seems...forced, pardon the pun.

Isn't it possible that not every issue in a Grand Argument Story needs to be opposing or complimentary in order to be effective, moving, or entertaining?

Chris Huntley Re: Star Wars debate #1

I'm always open to and welcome debate. Have at it!

I'll address your questions in reverse order.

1. Isn't it possible that not every issue in a Grand Argument Story needs to be opposing or complimentary in order to be effective, moving, or entertaining?

A: Yes, it is possible. There are alternate ways of evaluating the "Story Mind." We chose the dynamic pair model because it most closely represents the bias found in most modern, Western, American-style stories and culture--a focus on relationships that create the most conflict. One could create models based on companion pair, dependent pair, or component pair relationships, but EVERYTHING in the Dramatica model would be different--including most (if not all of) the labels. Then, of course, one could create an entirely different model based on the holistic (female mental sex) way of seeing the world. I can barely conceive how that might work much less develop a plan for implementation. We'll have to leave that to someone else to do.

2. "I don't think Test describes, accurately, anything significant in Star Wars, beyond Luke looking at things as an opportunity to prove himself."

A: I've got several repsonses to this. First of all, I think Star Wars is VERY SIMPLISTIC at its heart. I think George Lucas was more interested in exploring GENRE material (and special effects) than he was in creating a comprehensive "grand argument story." What I mean is that I think he was more worried about the big stuff than fiddling with character elements. His use of character archetypes (at least at the Motivation level) indicates as much to me. They are a form of storytelling short hand.

Here are instances in the movie where I see instances of TEST as the Overall Story Problem creates conflict:

--Testing the Death Star on Alderaan kills millions of people.
--The Empire tests the validity of testimony through torture and murderthe cruiser captain, the Jawas, Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru, and Princess Leia to name a few.
-- Darth Vader tests his skills against his old master, Obi Wan, and kills him.
-- The Empire provides a simple test of might which the Millennium Falcon wins but which leads the Death Star to the Rebel base.
--- Though untested in an actual battle, the Empire brings the Death Star to the greatest concentration of rebels fully believing in its indestructibility.
-- The Rebel command sees Luke as an untested recruit instead of the skilled pilot he is. Only after most of the rest of the fighters are destroyed does Luke get his opportunity to blow up the Death Star.

Some of these examples are stronger than others, but I think the storys genre, plot, and thematics are far stronger than its element level exploration.

Chris Huntley
Write Brothers

Aspiring Novelist Round 1 to Chris #2

Ok, I'll cede the first round to you, Chris. I will ask, since you ARE in the lead, to answer this question: Are the dramatic problems and issues explored in Dramatica's Story Mind important because they are important in the story, or because they happen frequently in the story? (I will proceed despite the risks of debating a Dramatica expert without knowing that)

And I've been wondering about IC things: Are all the IC's choices made in reference to the MC, or are they his/her issues alone? Or is it either/or?

My next issue in our debate pertains to the Overall Story Consequence of Star Wars: "Playing a role".

Granted, if the Empire wins, the rebels are going to be playing the role of ex-starfighter pilots working at the local coin-op speeder-wash and laundromat.

Far more urgent is the consequence of being fried like Gweedo, in most instances, or the betraying your cause in exchange for...fewer visits by the floating robot of pain.

I am surprised that 'Survival' (for onesself or others) is not a Dramatica term - it seems incredibly popular. Granted, there are more forms of survival than leap to the eye, but corporal continuation for you and your georgious date is an almost universal theme.

I do agree with your overall assessment of the movies, and I agree Mr Lucas paints in broad, technicolor strokes and uses Archtypes that still have bits of foam packing material from their shipment from Joseph Campbell's attic. That's not really a BAD thing, but it does lend for a somewhat shallow pool to swim in. (NO DIVING)

I re-read your response several times. Dramatica is one of the most all-encompassing solutions to an extremely complex constellation of problems that I have encountered.

For years I have been reading books by various authors on Plot, Theme, etc, and complaining that there is NO UNIVERSAL VOCABULARY. Everyone is using the same terms to describe different things, or different facets of the same thing, or similar facets of different...Gah! Call the whole thing off.

Your approach is beyond refreshing and as I mentioned in the Practical Dramatica thread, I've profited from it greatly as an Aspiring Novelist already.

Thanks for your feedback and I am enjoying this debate - that doesn't come from any certainty of victory, just a love of dramatic theory. (Should I blush when I admit that??)

I am open to a change of venue, if Your Honor believes Star Wars too flimsy to support a proper discussion of Dramatic Theory.
Would you care to take a crack at...The Lord of the Rings? That ought to be deep enough, I should think. (Evil laugh)

Be well and take care,
Aspiring Novelist.

Chris Huntley Re: Round 1 to Chris #3

1. The problem elements are tied to the underlying inequity that exists BETWEEN the four throughlines. The problem elements are essential because they are what the inequity looks like at the smallest, closest places to the inequity itself.

How the Problem is illustrated in a finished work is completely up to the author. Sometimes the problem is like a fat kid doing a cannon ball in a small pool. The splash is huge and noticable and seem to overshadow the waves that spread from it that flow over the sides of the pool and wet everyone's towels. Other times the problem is like a submarine earthquake whose action goes barely noticed at the surface above it but which creates huge tsunamis that wipe out entire coastlines. Both accurately describe the source of "conflict," but are illustrated differently.

2. The IC choices are made in reference to the MC, the OS, and the MC/IC (or SS). They're all interrelated. We just happen to present them as Main Character and Overall Story-centric. That's a bias to the questions but not the interrelationships between the throughlines.

3. With regards to a Consequence of "Playing a Role" in Star Wars, the ones suffering the consequence would include EVERYONE under the rule of the Empire, not just the Rebels. Anyone that wants to live a reasonably "normal" life would have to pretend that everything is hunky-dory under the totalitarian rule of the Emperor or risk torture or worse.

4. 'Survival' and other topics like that are not found in the Dramatica model because they are the stuff of Subject Matter--that which is being examined. Dramatica provides a structure to provide commentary ABOUT the Subject Matter. What do you want to say ABOUT Survival? Or Love? Or Greed? Or Totalitarianism? That's why terms like Truth, Falsehood, Self Interest, Morality, Committment, Responsibility, Senses, Interpretation, and more are used as the thematic standards by which the Subject Matter is evaluated. For example, is Survival more a matter of Instincts vs. Conditioning or Attitude vs. Approach? I suppose it depends if you're in a jungle or a corporated board room. The Dramatica terms work equally well in either context but nature of the exploration is completely different.

Thanks for the kind words about Dramatica. Melanie and I worked hard to find a vocabulary (WITH definitions) that took abstract concepts and made them more tangible, more concrete...more discussible with other writers. It's far from perfect, but it's a pretty good start.

Chris Huntley
Write Brothers
Chris Huntley
Write Brothers Inc.

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