Be-er / do-er in Three Billboards Outside Epping Missouri

Hello folks,
Just watched this film, which surprised me with how funny it is, given the subject matter. Loved some of the dialogue.
However, comparing my initial thoughts about the story form to the storyform on Subtext, I’m feeling soooooo confused.
Primarily, I would have had the MC pegged as a do-er, not a be-er.
This is a woman, who, faced with her daughter’s murder case going cold, hires billboards. Who, impulsively drills a hole in her dentist’s hand, who kicks teenagers in the crotch, who torches a police station, and sets out to murder someone. All of this behaviour causes conflict because it alienates her from her community and her son, but she cant let go because of her drive to blame someone, hold someone responsible and punish them (a drive to fix her problems by doing?). She’s prepared to trample over civil rights and the law in order to find the truth.
I’m sure I am about to find out this is a massive blindspot of mine and so I would really love it if anyone who has seen the movie could make the counter argument for her being a be-er.
Also, the drivers.
It really feels like it is decisions that drive the plot.
SPOILERS First story driver: She decides to put up the billboards. Second story driver: The Sheriff decides to kill himself. Third story driver: she decides to torch the police station. Concluding story driver: Dixon and the MC decide to head off to Idaho to find the wrong rapist.
Again, would love to hear the counter arguments for my own edification.
Also, I feel the IC, is a huge Beer. The letter he writes to dixon is all about how to be a good cop you have to use love…

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A secret shortcut in Dramatica:

All Do-ers will have problems in the External realms.
All Be-ers will have problems in the Internal realms.

Part of the problem with understanding the four throughlines is people so often conflate the Main Character with the Protagonist. The archetypal “Hero” role… which I think most people think of when they talk about stories.

But what’s so great about Dramatica is that it separates the two to give more clarity and meaning to the story and often complex way the author blends throughlines together by having Players take on multiple roles.

It probably feels like decisions drive the plot because you’re in her shoes as you experience the story, and she’s a Be-er. Be-er’s are internal by nature, and Decisions are internal by nature.

But when you look OBJECTIVELY at the plot… the thing that everyone is concerned with–The Investigation of the Murder, you can see how it’s Driven by Actions. What you described as far as…

… sounds to me like her Player as Protagonist. All of that stuff surrounds dilemmas of Physical Actions, Learning, Strategies.
Her PERSONAL issue (the thing she’d carry with her if you dropped her into the Plot of “Star Wars”) is an internal dilemma. So she HAS to be a Be-er.

There’s a newly forming meter to help determine the Driver, which I won’t totally spoil here (tune in to the Writer’s Room in the next coming weeks), but it has to do with identifying whether the Main Character or Influence Character are better suited to face the Drivers.

But with all of this, I would suggest always returning focus onto the sources of conflict at play rather than “what happens in the story” … that’s the storytelling, the encoding, or sometimes you’re looking at the Benchmark, rather than the Concern or Issue.

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Ahhh that protagonist point could explain a lot…
But one thing that struck me is that despite appearances, the OS wasnt about investigation except for the fourth act. The OS seemed to me to be about manipulation. The thing causing conflict for everyone in the story is not the investigation, but their conflict between one of their community wanting the police department to do more work, and everybody else feeling bad for a guy they respect, who they know is dying…everybody in the community is at war over which is more important. The billboards are there to manipulate. The priest. Dixon intimidating the advertising guy.
The MC’s conflict that she would take away from this is the universe:
“Hey baby. Yep, still no arrests. How
come, I wonder? Cos there ain’t no God
and the world’s empty and it don’t
matter what we do to each other? Ooh, I
hope not.
How comes you came up here outta
nowhere, looking so pretty? You ain’t
trying to make me believe in
reincarnation or something, are ya?
Well, you’re pretty, but you ain’t her.”
Her conflict is between order and chaos in the universe. On the one hand, accepting the chaos would probably allow her to let go. On the other, she needs to be a force for order. She needs to put things right.
If she was in Star Wars, her problem would still be that the death if her daughter and noone having to pay, suggests there is no God.
And the IC is all about the conflict caused by his memory, it’s EVERYWHERE. And if you consider the possibility that the daughter shares the IC role? Even more so.
I actually think that Dixon shares more with the MC than the IC (Woody Harrelson).
I will take on board what you’re saying though and try to see the alternative perspective, because I know you’re WAY more insightful into this than I can pretend to be. I’m just a bit dismayed by how differently I see this right now!

While the 4th Signpost is the one with the specific dilemma of Learning, the entire OS is about a conflict of Learning.

All those issues you said… the process of wanting them to do more work, intimidating the ad guy, etc… are all Physics problems. The process of Learning can go many ways. Learning is just as much Teaching as it is Finding Something Out, or Schooling someone, or Being Schooled, Gathering Clues, etc.
It’s also good to consider the full spectrum of Learning. Lack of Learning, Learning, Surplus of Learning.

The woman wanting the police to do more sounds to me like an External conflict of Lack of Learning. They’re not going to investigate?! WTF? As protagonist she’s pissed about the lack of investigation (Learning) going on… and there are forces that are pro-lack of learning. The billboards themselves are a way to teach them… show them… maybe even teach them a lesson.

All this and more illustrate how the OS is caught up in a Concern of Learning. Dilemma’s from the POV to do with Learning.

Try not to think about the characters as real people, and think of what the Author was trying to convey.

This is a source of conflict of Mind. Her appraisal is that someone should pay! Or else, there is no God. Both of those are fixed attitudes… a dilemma. She’s caught up in the thought that there should be justice and a reason for what happened and that someone should pay! Unless… there is no God.
And yeah, that’s the thing she’d take with her to Star Wars.

As far as the IC, it’s been a while since I saw it, but on Subtext they have it shared between Willoughby and Dixon (Woody and Sam)


Ah thanks John, this extra input from you has helped immensely to see how I had it twisted! Thank you so much for being so generous.
Will I ever get this I wonder!? Maybe in twenty years!?
Haha, well, I’m enjoying the ‘learning’ anyway.
Seriously, thanks so much!
Edit: and the next prequel of Star Wars sound interesting ha.

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Haha, definitely more interesting than whatever we got before!

I’m sure it won’t take that long for things to click into place. It’s really just tackling stories from a more objective viewpoint, as an author first… and creative character explorer second.

Not to say you can’t produce work the other way around.

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Having slept on it, it now makes so much sense! When you think about how the IC influences the MC it is his situation, that he is dying, that has the most impact and potential to make her not be steadfast.
Separating out the player as MC and player as protagonist is something I knew, but couldn’t see. Yay! So grateful for your help.
And as a be-er in her MC throughline, that would mean looking for examples where she would prefer to meet challenges by ‘being’, internally, rather than doing, externally. So…things like her being bitter, her being irreverent, the moment when her slippers have a conversation to get her out of her lack of hope, the moment she has a chat with the doe (quoted above)…she’s trying to find hope and gumption internally first, and then that allows her to meet the challenges that require her to do stuff.
Does that sound accurate as a description of a be-er?
Edit: adding this bit of the screenplay because it is so cool…and I think shows her BEing even though it is all about what she is going to do, in that it’s her working things out with a soliloquy (handily making internal processing visible to us).
MILDRED lying awake, thinking. She slowly sits up, slips her *
feet into her fluffy BUNNY RABBIT SLIPPERS at bedside, and
sits there a while; worn out, angry, depressed.
I’ll crucify the motherfuckers.
I’ll crucify the motherfuckers.
She flexes her toes in her bunny slippers, and the bunny
noses look like they’re sniffing. It hits her how incongruous
the image is in regard to what she’s saying. She smiles.
MILDRED’s POV: of rabbit slippers, noses sniffing again.
(rabbit voice)
What are you gonna do to ‘em, Mildred?
You’re gonna crucify ‘em, you say?
(normal voice)
That’s right, I’m gonna crucify ‘em.
(rabbit voice)
Who you gonna crucify? The
(normal voice)
That’s right, the motherfuckers.
(rabbit voice)
Jeez! Well, I guess those motherfuckers
better watch out then, huh?
(normal voice)
Fucking A!


Oh my! Sounds exciting!

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