Thematic Plot Appreciations in all four throughlines?

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Thematic Plot Appreciations in all four throughlines?

Postby Chris Huntley » May 28, 2008 4:42 pm

ogdencl -- Thematic Plot Appreciations in all four throughlines?

The theory book states (if I understand it right) that the Story Goal and the other Thematic Plot Appreciations "do not fall in any single throughline", but that most Western stories treat the Goal as part of the OS. I also notice that the Dramatica software treats the Story Goal as if it were part of the OS, and in fact, in the Query System it is listed under the heading of "More OS Story Points", together with the rest of the Thematic Plot Appreciations.

But isn't it better to consider the Goals, Consequences, Costs, Dividends, Requirements, Prerequisites, Preconditions, and Forewarnings as they exist in all four throughlines? For example, in Star Wars, the Goal is Doing. Thus, we know that in the OS throughline (Activity), the Goal (Doing) is to prevent destruction of rebel outposts and destroy the Death Star, and the Consequence (Playing a Role) is to live oppressed under Empire rule.

But couldn't we also say that in the MC throughline (Situation), the Goal is for Luke to physically do things to change his personal situation (ie, get off Tatooine, become a Jedi, impress Leia)? And couldn't we also say that the Consequence is that Luke will have to live (play a role) as a farmer on Tatooine or in some other mundane existence?

Couldn't we also say that in the IC throughline (Fixed Attitude), Obi Wan's Goal is to have Luke physically do things while guided only by the impulses of the Force? And couldn't we say that the Consequence is that Obi Wan will have allowed Luke to play a role different from Luke's "inner Jedi" (who is guided by the impulses of the Force)?

Is this kind of analysis what is meant by the fact that the Thematic Plot Appreciations "do not fall in any single throughline", and that they "represent the collective impact of all four throughlines combined"?

And if so, how would this affect the Plot Dynamics? Wouldn't the Outcome and Judgment have a slightly different meaning in each of the four throughlines if the Story Goal were distributed into each of the throughlines? And could the story be a Success from the OS perspective, but a Failure from the MC/IC perspective, or Good from the IC perspective, but Bad in the MC perspective?


Chris Huntley Re: Thematic Plot Appreciations in all four throughlines? #1

I think you're confusing the functions of the Overall Story (Objective) characters with the perspectives of the Main and Impact (Subjective) characters.

If the theory book more fully explained our statement, it would do two things.

-- The first would be to distinguish between the Overall Story Goal and the goal that seems to be most emphasized in the story as intended by the author or interpreted by the audience.

-- The second clarification would be that the Concern in each throughline can also be seen as the that throughline's Goal.

Hollywood tends to emphasize the OS Goal which somewhat "promotes" its status to that of Story Goal. This is a generalization with as many exceptions as examples. Some stories emphaize the Main Character throughline or that of the M/I Throughline. In those stories, the Story Goal might seem to be something other than the OS Goal.

The reality is:

1. All four throughlines have Concerns that--when strongly focused--appear to be a throughine goal. This means a single story may seem to have multiple goals, though each limited to the throughline. For example, you can set a goal for the relationship or the MC or IC as well as the OS.

2. The static appreciations (e.g. Consequence, Dividends, etc.) as determined in the Dramatica software presuppose a "Story Goal" in the Overall Story throughline.

Implied in point #1 is that each throughline can then have its own throughline Outcome (Success or Failure) and perhaps other dynamics. This is true to a certain degree. However, it is beyond the point to which the Dramatica theory has been developed. Perhaps someone will explore this part of the theory in the future. I hope so.

Chris Huntley
Write Brothers


ogdencl Re: Thematic Plot Appreciations in all four throughlines? #2

Thanks for the clarification. This makes a lot more sense. I would assume, then, based on how the Dramatica software now works, that if the Goal in each throughline matches the Concern, the Requirements in each throughline matches the Benchmark, which would be logical, since the best way to measure how close you are toward the goal is to look at how many of the requirements have been met.


Chris Huntley Re: Thematic Plot Appreciations in all four throughlines? #3

I don't think that's a safe assumption to make. This is one of the reasons you don't find it in the software. Not all of the relationships are linear or reciprocal. This is an area we have yet to more fully explore--theorywise.

The story points that appear in the Dramatica software is a conservative listing of possible story points identifiable within a single storyform. You may have noticed a lack of temporal story points (excluding signposts and journeys, of course). Built into the internal Dramatica story engine (and storyform) are all sorts of spatial and temporal story points not visible in the software. We chose to leave those out because they would futher complicate an already complicated story development and analysis system. That's all you need in Dramatica, more blanks to fill in and more choices to make! And that doesn't include the "plot points" for the other throughlines.

Chris Huntley
Write Brothers


ogdencl Re: Thematic Plot Appreciations in all four throughlines? #4

Thanks. That was just a guess, because I haven't yet been able to generate a storyform where the OS Benchmark differs from the Requirements. I appreciate the helpful comments. I'm continually amazed how much thought and research has gone into the Dramatica theory.

ogdencl Re: Thematic Plot Appreciations in all four throughlines? #5

I've just been doing some further thinking on the subject, and I haven't decided yet whether I'm on the right track, but I wanted to throw out an idea to see if anybody had any comments:

The present Dramatica software doesn't allow this, but I wonder if it's possible to have a storyform that makes sense, in which the Concern differs from the Goal. For example, maybe the OS Concern is actually in the same position as the Costs.

For example, I could imagine a story where all the overall characters have a goal relating to Changing One's Nature, but their Concern is actually with Innermost Desires, the same as the Costs.

To make this more concrete, say that the overall characters are Marines in boot camp and everyone's Goal is to change their nature to become killing machines. The Costs are that they have to contend with their basic drives (lazyness, fear of death, distaste for killing, mistrust of authority, etc.), which work against their Goal. In a conventional narrative, the Concern in this story would be the field of Changing One's Nature (same as the Goal). But maybe you could also tell a slightly different story in which all the Marines and other characters are more concerned about the Cost than they are about the Goal, so that the Concern, Issue, Problem, and Solution are all about Innermost Desires, rather than Changing One's Nature. There would be no "goal" in the OS throughline associated with Innermost Desires, but Innermost Desires would still be the characters' Concern. Achieving the Goal in such a story (becoming a killing machine) would be seen as more of an afterthought, once the Costs are paid.


Chris Huntley Re: Thematic Plot Appreciations in all four throughlines? #6

The first short answer is, "Sure, it's your story--do anything you want!"

The second short answer is, "You may chose to break structure, but understand the audience will sense the broken structure and, in the end, want to know why you did it--to what purpose?"

What you CAN do is give the Story Cost a greater emphasis in the story than the goal. "Yea, sure, we won the race, but look what it COST us. I'm not sure it was worth it." That's a completely legitimate way to use the Cost--one that shifts emphasis without breaking structure.

Something to keep in mind while mulling over the story points -- don't get stuck on the one work labels...look to the longer definitions for their true meanings. A Concern to the Objective Characters in the Overall Story throughline may not be the audience's primary concern, but that's OK because they're not the same thing. An audience brings its own baggage to the table and filters your story's argument through their biases. OS characters don't.

Chris Huntley
Write Brothers

ogdencl Re: Thematic Plot Appreciations in all four throughlines? #7

Thanks. I'm just trying to understand this area, where there isn't much documentation.

I guess I just don't see why disarticulating Concern from Goal is a break in story structure. Though I could be wrong, this idea seems to me to be another one of those ideas we inherit from Hollywood. I do understand that the way Concern is presently defined makes it essentially just a "blurry" version of Goal, but why does it have to be defined in such a linear, goal-oriented way? Isn't the Concern really (at its core) just the type in which the variation-level thematics take place and where the element-level justifications and problem-solving happen?

I'm not sure what the principle is that ties Concern rigidly with Goal, but doing so makes it so that you can't, for example, create a balanced story where the Issue and Counterpoint are in a different class than the Goal. Of course, the Issue and Counterpoint variations will always be within the Concern type, but I can imagine situations where the variation-level thematic issues and the character justification/problem solving are more related to the Costs, Consequence, or Dividend, than they are to the Goal.


ogdencl Re: Thematic Plot Appreciations in all four throughlines? #8

After further thinking, maybe I can answer my own question, at least in part. One possible principle that ties Concern to Goal might be the idea that problem-solving is inherently goal-oriented in Western culture. In the West, we generally understand that reaching the Solution is the same as achieving a Goal.

That explains why the class in which problem-solving occurs is the same class as the Goal in Western stories. But that doesn't rule out in my mind the possibility of balanced stories, or even Grand Argument-like stories where reaching the Solution is in a different Class than the Goal. I'd like to hear from someone with some experience with non-Western stories, who can identify a potential GAS example of this kind in another culture, or show why such a story would be flawed.


Chris Huntley Re: Thematic Plot Appreciations in all four throughlines? #9

Excellent observation. The expression of the Dramatica theory in its current form conforms to American, "male mental sexed," linear problem solving style. Other forms are valid though probably incompatible with the current view. Other cultures use different baselines and therefore see things differently. After all, one's givens define one's view point and blind spots.

Melanie and I have long discussed other "Super Classes" of story, stories whose emphasis is NOT based on the dynamic pairs in a quad. There are three other easily identified baselines: companion pairs, dependent pairs, and component pairs. And all these are based on linear, male mental sex problem solving. Try and imagine what storyforming might look like from a holistic, female mental sex perspective...and then try to "quantify" it so others can use it. It makes my head hurt, but I'd be very excited to see it done. I'm far too male mental sexed to conceptualize such a system beyond the bare abstract of it, though I imagine WORDS and DEFINITIONS would NOT play a big part of its implementation...more like colors, tones, and other analog means of expression.

Chris Huntley
Write Brothers
Chris Huntley
Write Brothers Inc.
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