All is Right in the World--Inequity/equity and the Antagonist(s)

So @didomachiatto didn’t say it would be “personal” to the Antagonist and/or Protagonist. I can see why it matters to both, but personal is typically reserved for the IC and the MC.

But if you just want it to matter, then Star Wars. Possession of the plans changes the behavior of the antagonist and the protagonist.

Also, @didomachiatto, please note that even in the link @museful provides, it acknowledges that Dramatica doesn’t use the term, and then the answer doesn’t provide a direct answer–instead it says, “Hey, let’s look at drivers.”

There are a great many reasons to use Inciting Incidents but not in a way that ties into signposts or anything structural in Dramatica.



I think the question is a result of not sufficiently separating:

  • Protagonist and MC
  • Initial Story Driver/Inciting Event and “Inciting Incident”

I still think it is an interesting way to categorize stories:

  • the inequity is created by an action performed by the Antagonist (and, therefore, not relevant/personal; not an inequity)
  • the inequity is irrelevant (not personal) to the Antagonist, but created by an outside force
  • the inequity is relevant (personal) to the Antagonist and created by an outside force

It seems that the same rule probably applies to the AatMC (Antagonist as the MC) as it does to the PatMC (Protagonist as the MC). For an inequity to be relevant (personal), it must happen to them rather than be caused by them.

Anyway, I know that the Antagonist isn’t an MC:

  • except in their hypothetical, personal story or…
  • if the writer chooses to make the MC the Antagonist or…
  • if you have two MCs and one is the Antagonist and the other is the Protagonist

And, if the Antagonist can be an MC or is hypothetically viewed as the MC, then relevant/personal could be explored.

In regard to personal… I think personal is a fair synonym for relevant.

Also interesting:

by this I mean the initial inequity caused by the initial (inciting) driver

In my WIP, Trilogy, the Book One (ahem!) “Initial story driver” is a run of the mill action on the antagonist’s agenda. But it hits “the wrong person” in other words, it hits a girl who becomes a protagonist. Because of what he started, by his agenda, she makes a decision (Decision driver). The decision is what propels her journey, though the Action did not physically affect her.

In Subtext we are encouraged to use the antagonist in the OS, tied to the initial story driver, along the same signposts as the OS/Protagonist. But as the theory shows, the inciting incident leads directly to the first beat (for the Protagonist).

My question is tied to the first beat under the antagonist.

If I’m an antagonist–and don’t know I’ve created an enemy because I’m just happy I’m getting what I want, as always–the inciting initial act driver is not life-changing.

BUT…if it must do something to him OR his people, it does. It changes the IC, who his his right hand man (think Darth Vader). But he’s even unaware of that big impact on the IC.

He’s on his merry way Obtaining. But of course he’s the Trilogy Antagonist (think the Emperor). (Maybe I’ve answered my own question here)

This sounds a lot like an Action driver – an action that forces or causes your protagonist girl’s decision. Can you share a few more details? (@MWollaeger is really good with drivers.)

Regarding the Antagonist and how involved or not involved he is in the Initial Story Driver, I think you can do whatever you want, whatever works for your story. The key thing is that the Initial Story Driver sets up an imbalance or inequity, which creates the need for the Story Goal* as a way resolving that inequity. The Antagonist is on the side of reticence, the “nah, things will be better without that Story Goal” side.

* in the Storymind. It’s not required that any characters know or conceive of the Story Goal at this point.

I don’t see a question there. :grin:

Technically, the Antagonist’s function is reconsider/avoid. His function is to make the Protagonist’s life hard. You’re right, in another story he could be on his merry way Obtaining… but not this story. In this story, he is reconsider/avoid.

I agree with @mlucas that starting with an OS sequence is common but not required.

I also agree with @MWollaeger that using the drivers and signposts and avoiding the Inciting Incident is a less confusing process. I think that Dramatica does this part better (and many other parts) better than anyone else.

I recently ask myself, by spending the time to answer a question or studying this facet of storytelling, does it help me develop a better process? If I can’t say yes, I avoid thinking about it too much because… it is just procrastination in disguise.

It’s just like buying 500 books on writing theory. In end, it is just procrastination. You are either writing or you are being a student of theory.

I think that writing is a crappy experience. Ninety percent of the time, I don’t know why I try to do it. Maybe it gets easier for more experienced writers, but I hate it so far. But I’m not going to quit.

When I wrote screenplays, I hated it (I still write screenplays to use as a first draft for books; I still hate writing them), but I write 300 stinking words a night. It ain’t much, but it is what I can do working 70 hour weeks.

Yeah, so this isn’t a definition I’ve ever heard anyone use. One of the many gifts of Dramatica is a shared vocabulary–having been in a lot of conversations with writers, I can’t believe how much this is overlooked.

Anyway, back to your initial question. Drivers are frameworks for stories, of which the antagonist is a part. We need to understand the Antagonist and their actions, and that probably comes from backstory and goals. But those are not Drivers, they’re motivations and purposes.

But, if you want to think about them like Drivers, there is probably no harm in it.

There is a lot in my story about living with the results of other people’s decisions. This is a decision driver.

The PRO makes a (bad) moral decision, gets a punishment, and as she’s enduring that (in a hidden location), there is an attack and her family is abducted. She decides (again) not to rush out of hiding and join them/rescue them. What makes her the protagonist is these two decisions of her own. If she decides to join them, the story is over there. But we still have the Action driver of the attacks that had nothing to do with her decision.

What she is not aware of is that her father made a daring decision earlier in the day (into gear from a safe neutral) that resulted in his being finally located, then the attack/abduction.

The PRO notices her father and mother arguing about “something” but doesn’t give it much thought until later.

As far as I understand, as long as the sequence is right, the Mind will make sense of this DRIVER when the MC/PRO finds out or reconsiders that argument later. It looks like an action forcing decisions except the story keeps moving toward a series of decisions propelling the story’s actions.

If those decisions you mentioned (the Protag’s bad moral decision, and the father’s daring decision) weren’t precipitated by Acions, sounds like your story could definitely have Decision as the Story Driver.

However, even when you get most of the drivers right, it’s possible to mess one up. You might want to revisit the one you mentioned earlier as your First Driver (Antagonist’s action causes Protagonist to make a decision) and see if you can make that decision unforced. Or find another decision that spawns the whole thing.

I’ve been toying with the idea that you shouldn’t be able to add the word “so” in front of the First Driver and have it make sense.

I would be careful about assuming that a story’s driver type tells you what it assigns more meaning to. Action stories can be about, say, the terrible choices people make to survive, or to get ahead, etc.

Yes, this is correct, good call.


I don’t want to push for this driver if the story is not actually Decision, but my hang-up is that all actions are precipitated by thought and choice.

So the way I’m starting to see it is this.

  • Decision driver: internal compulsion of the will causing decisive (daring) decisions to act (Freewill)

“I’m gonna” —> X

  • Action driver: external propulsion resulting in reactive decisions of others (Determinism)

X --> “Now I’ve gotta…”

The story will move forward with this same logic, pivoting at the ACT DRIVERS --where this kind of moment turns everything around, nothing is as it was before.

I’m not sure this is correct – especially the part about an action driver being external – but I want to know from others, because Drivers are a huge blind spot for me.

Based on recent posts here and conversations in the Writer’s Room, my understanding is that Decision drivers require deliberation, yes, but also choice – a clearly delineated fork in the road, or some kind of selection process.

So (as I think @jhull said in a recent writer’s room meeting) “I decided to shoot him” is probably actually an Action driver.


Okay. The fog is lifting.

@Jhull wrote to me that “It’s not a decision that comes after an action, but rather a decision that is forced by the action.”

So for Action Driver [quote=“didomachiatto, post:13, topic:2518”]
resulting in reactive decisions of others (Determinism)

He added “You need to make the direct cause and effect association otherwise it doesn’t work as a driver.”

So I think, regarding Decision Driver:

And yet I agree with… [quote=“Lakis, post:14, topic:2518”]
I’m not sure this is correct – especially the part about an action driver being external

As I’m working through this…

  • the Action to kill is decisive. (I hate the guy)

  • The Decision to kill would be a dilemma. (Whom do you kick out of the lifeboat?)

  • Action to go (I’m hungry)
  • Decision to go (if I don’t risk my neck, the kid will die of hunger)

  • Action to escape (I’ve gotta get out of here)
  • Decision to escape (If I stay, I can help the other prisoners. If I escape, I can for sure live).

  • Action to eat (It’s dinner time)
  • Decision to eat (I’m giving up my hunger strike)

I’m not sure if the actions above are good examples of ‘drivers’ though. There’s tension missing. Let’s say…

Action to go, the antagonist has to find out where I went. When I see him I duck behind a dumpster…
Action to escape, the antagonist has to stop me. When I fall down the hill escaping, I have to now avoid the antagonist and limp toward freedom on a broken ankle …
Action to eat, the antagonist waits for the sedative to put me to sleep, then he abducts me. When I wake up, I think through my options and bribe the guard.


Decision to go, since I risked my neck, the antagonist gets a free shot at me from the tower and I have to decide how to survive his bullets
Decision to escape, since I didn’t help the other prisoners, the antagonist kills them and I have to decide how to get revenge
Decision to eat, since I gave up my hunger strike, the antagonist can no longer manipulate the President with the strike and instead he tries to get his way kidnaps Tiffany, so I have to decide if following him is more important than protecting the rest of the children

Is this the difference?

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I was following you, until your detailed examples. The best way to make something a clear Driver is to make sure it forces events of the opposite type (Action Driver, Actions force Decisions; Decision driver, Decisions force Actions). So:

Action to eat, a hungry dragon swoops down to attack me, and I just manage to duck into a cave to avoid it. But now it’s getting dark and I know there are Night Ghouls in this part of the wilderness. I’m not sure if the dragon is still out there, so I have to decide whether to venture out and risk the dragon, or stay in the cave and risk the ghouls. Neither choice is one I would’ve made if not for the dragon’s attack. (Or maybe I choose a separate option – send my pet hamster out to flush out the dragon…)

Decision to eat, I decide to give up my hunger strike, so my fellow hunger strikers are forced to lock me in my room without food, to keep me from breaking the strike.


Okay, so the Action driver in this case is the antagonist, and the responder is the protagonist.

I see. This is very helpful

I’m beginning to understand. Force. Forced.

edited after I thought it over.

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Now, can anyone illustrate or show an example of a completely internalized decision that acts as a driver?

For some reason, I always imagine the decision as needing to be externalized for it to work.

Maybe just stating the obvious?

Or maybe, there are some examples of non-externalized decision drivers:

  • The IC knows the MC won’t let it go so the take an action based on this predicted decision?

I’m not sure. Maybe that wouldn’t count.

And further, can an action indicate a decision?

David decided to sign the treaty that would change so many lives. He reached for the pen.

Tommy pulled a gun out of his jacket and pointed it at David. “Bad Decision.”

Is that a decision driver?

I went through my story, listing all of the BIG DECISIONS that happen, pushing the plot forward. There are a lot of decisions. But most of them are not “dilemmas.” In fact, most of them are the only reasonable option. Pushing for it to always be a dilemma, even though MC is mind, ma

Sometimes they are caused by something the PRO/someone sees, Sometimes by a way someone feels after some else does something, Sometimes they are brought to light because of natural disasters.

But in rethinking the BIG DECISIONS, it appears that they are responsive. If the story needs to be patterned according to the driver, it seems that decisions are responsive and not even considered except for the action that stirred up the emotions.


What do you mean by internalized or externalized? Like whether or not any other characters know about the decision?

If that’s what you mean, I think either could work for a driver, but I’d guess that a decision no one else knows about would be trickier to work with. It would still have to force actions.

After doing some googling and some bouncing around the internet, I’m back with my list of things that define a Driver:

The Initial Story Driver can either be independent of or dependent upon the MC.

  • Sometimes, the Initial Story Driver happens outside of the MC. Example: Star Wars and the Empire’s action of boarding of the Rebel ship.

  • On the other hand, sometimes a story begins in media res. Example: The Verdict and the MC’s decision to take the case to trial. This sometimes places the Initial Story Driver into the hands of the MC.

There are five Story Drivers. You can manipulate this number (kind of):

  • Although the responsibility of the Initial Story Driver shifts to the next major turning point in the story, in media res adds an “honorary” Story Driver that is in the backstory.

  • The Final Driver can be excluded in order to create an open ended story.

  • What would happen if we took out the Midpoint Story Driver? Something like Planet Terror and the missing reel?

Each Driver must fundamentally change the direction of the story from the last Driver.

  • Before this happens, a number of minor changes are made in support of the original action or decision (and a number of opposing decisions or actions). Only when those minor adjustments have been exhausted (think reasonable man doctrine; rule of fours; third time is the charm) will the story be ready for the next Driver.

Decision Drivers and Action Drivers will create a different kind of story:

  • Decision Drivers lend themselves sequels and the process of deliberation.

  • Action Drivers lend themselves to scenes and a frenetic pace.

Anyway, I’m not sure if this list is complete, but I learned a lot from this thread. Thanks. :smiley:

@mlucas I think the decision might need to be known – if it isn’t – how can the micro-shifts and minor justifications of tactics be implemented or how can the decision be resisted. Having said that, I want to think about it more.

Also, it occurs to me that the initiator of the Driver could feel as though they are on the offensive or defensive based on different factors. I’m not sure. Maybe that feeling would be dependent on the outcome of the scene (among other things):

  • success, but (judgement: good)
  • success, but (judgement: bad)
  • failure, but (judgement: good)
  • failure, but (judgement: bad)
  • success, therefore (judgement: good)
  • success, therefore (judgement: bad)
  • failure, therefore (judgement: good)
  • failure, therefore (judgement: bad)

By the way, is the movie “Unbreakable” a case of the Initial Driver (a decision to create accidents until a super powered man is found) being concealed in the beginning and revealed at the end (creating a twist)?

That’s a pretty cool way to think about “twist” movies if it is true.

Sometimes, it is confusing to understand what is backstory and what is considered telling the story out of order.