Captain America Civil War Analysis - Main Character Question

Those two paragraphs contradict each other: if the story form is concerned with “how the problem in the story manifests itself” (and thus Civil War is in Activities), then you really can’t try to argue away the almost non-stop action in Princess Bride as being manipulations. I’ve read @mlucas’s analysis of the film and there’s lots to commend it, but it’s a swashbuckling movie – as much or more focused on activities than any superhero movie.

Well at least now you agree with me that the Overall Story is in Activities (since in order for the final act to be all about Gathering Information it needs to be in Activity).

Traveling to the Siberian Hyrda facility to find the truth about what happened does not describe the PROBLEMS in that Act. Obtaining, i.e. ending, destroying…does.

No they don’t.

It’s super clear to me that the problems that manifest in Princess Bride are the manipulations and dysfunctional relationships between the characters.

You’ve categorized it as a swashbuckling movie. Dramatica does not have a category for swashbuckling movie as that is a predominantly subjective viewpoint. Personally i wouldn’t cateogrize the film as swashbuckling, but then again I prefer to look at conflict objectively rather than subjectively as an experience.

Which is how Dramatica sees conflict.

We might be hitting the limit on the utility of me arguing these points, so I’m happy to back off on this topic, but with those four concerns you’re absolutely stretching the language to fit:

How does Act 1 begin? With the Avengers chasing down terrorists to stop them from using a WMD. Things blow up. It then transitions (journeys) into Understanding when they’re told about the Accords.

There’s a relatively brief period in Act 2 where they’re wrestling with understanding why things are happening (mostly Cap trying to reconcile his beliefs about Bucky with the evidence against them.) We spend almost no time gathering information: the answer is literally handed to the characters in one scene.

The airport sequence is one scene within the third act. It is, by the way, a desperate attempt by Tony’s side to capture Bucky and by Steve to escape with Bucky in tow.

The final act contains several key scenes – all of which deal with learning. Tony gets information that indicates Bucky didn’t set off the bomb. Cap leans about the use of the Winter Soldier compound. Tony learns that Winter Soldier killed his parents. Black Panther learns that Winter Soldier didn’t kill his father. Everyone learns why Zemo did all these things.

I don’t see how you can privilege one scene in an act above all others and say, “ah, see? There – he learned something. The act must be in Gathering Information.” Virtually all the conflict in act 4 comes from learning.

I’m agreeing that if you define a domain as the things the actors are doing on screen, then all action movies are in Activities.

What I’m not on board with is the notion that there’s an objective standpoint from which to say the problems in the 4th act are from obtaining.

Definitely an awesome thread. Super informative AND super entertaining! But clearly there’s only one way to solve this. (Opens Dramatica Story Engine) I’m setting Jim as the MC. Are these guys in a Fixed Attitude RS, or…?

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I’m pretty sure I’m the Influence Character here…

Actually, I think this is very useful. Many writers new to Dramatica misunderstand Domains and Throughlines, so the clearer I can explain it to you the more time I’ll save myself in the long run. So I appreciate you continuing to present your point-of-view.

I’m agreeing that if you define a domain as the things the actors are doing on screen, then all action movies are in Activities.

I never once said that. In fact, I’ve presented many action films that aren’t in Activities. But I am saying that in Civil War presented conflict as a series of problematic Activities

Tony gets information that indicates Bucky didn’t set off the bomb.

There is nothing inequitable about this from an objective point-of-view. An inequity exists between things and the story point defines the nature of that inequity. From a subjective perspective yes this appears to be inequitable, but the storyform is not subjective. This is also an example of using the appreciation as subject matter.

Getting bad information is not an inequity. Difficulty getting that information is.

Cap leans about the use of the Winter Soldier compound.

This is not an inequity. This is Gathering Information as subject matter as seen from a subjective point-of-view.

Tony learns that Winter Soldier killed his parents.

This is not an inequity. This is Gathering Information as subject matter as seen from a subjective point-of-view.

Black Panther learns that Winter Soldier didn’t kill his father.

This is not an inequity. This is Gathering Information as subject matter as seen from a subjective point-of-view.

Everyone learns why Zemo did all these things.

This is not an inequity. This is Gathering Information as subject matter as seen from a subjective point-of-view.

exacting revenge and splitting apart the Avengers

This is an inequity. Cap wants to leave with Bucky, Iron Man wants to kill Bucky. Both can’t exist at the same time. Therefore, conflict.

The airport sequence is one scene within the third act

All you need is one scene. In Star Wars Luke bemoans the loss of Obi-Wan, a sign of Ben’s Influence Character Signpost of Memories triggering Luke’s eventual growth.

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Hah! Princess Bride burn. I win, right?

Seriously, though, you’re using objective as a sledgehammer here, which is fine, but for something to be objective it has to be observable by others. In this discussion you’ve argued the Domain represents the manifestation of problems (e.g. your argument for Civil War – completely voiding the relevancy of whether or not those problems come from a fixed attitude), as the source of the problems (e.g. your argument for Princess Bride being in manipulation), and as the “nature” of the problems. At a certain point, those terms have to be defined for us to find some agreement on what you mean by objective.

The fact that it seems super clear to you that the problems that manifest in Princess Bride are manipulations is fine, but that’s not visible in the film or the script in quantifiable or qualifiable terms to the exclusion of other interpretations. I’d actually be in complete agreement that the source of the problems in Princess Bride deal with manipulation (as @mlucas argues in his case study for it), but it’s for that same reason that I’m arguing that Civil War’s OS is in Fixed Attitude. Every major conflict comes out of choosing sides in the question of whether or not you believe that super beings should be allowed to operate independently.

So you can argue that the source doesn’t matter because it’s the kind of things people are doing (e.g. fighting vs. talking) that defines the domain, or you can argue that it’s the source of the conflict that defines the domain. I don’t think you can switch between them at the paragraph level.

Every single superhero movie in the Marvel canon dealt with super beings punching and fighting enemies. In every one of them, people get hurt. It’s only in Civil War that the Accords come into play and thus a civil war breaks out between two groups of heroes over what they believe.

I leave the last word on this to you (I promise!), but mostly because I’m about to get on a plane for England and don’t want to get arrested by an Air Marshall and cause an onboard crisis by madly typing on my computer (OS of Activities, MC in Situation).

S.

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But I thought it was your Fixed Attitude that caused you to type erratically!!

Okay, definitely heading to the airport, but this last post is super interesting to me. Jim, could you elaborate on why those things (in your point-by-point response three posts ago) are not inequities but rather “Gathering information as subject matter as seen from a subjective point-of-view”? The two distinctions being, what makes them “subject matter” as opposed to inequity, and what makes them subjective?

I hope to be fully educated as soon as the air marshals release me from the airport cell.

Sebastien, wouldn’t you agree that there’s a way you could look at that as a domain of Activities? What I mean is, “super beings operating independently” is definitely an external process. So the conflict that comes out of differing beliefs about that, could still stem from that root conflict of super beings operating independently.

Definitely there is, as you say, “a way you could look at that as a domain of Activities”. The problem, as I’m sure we’ve all encountered at one point or another, is that you can equally look at it as the domain of Situation: all the Avengers are stuck in a situation in which they’re effectively forced to choose between becoming government agents or being imprisoned. A nasty situation, to be sure. We could also look at it as being in the domain of manipulation: not only is everyone trying to change the way people think about heroes, but if you simply removed Zemo’s manipulations, the whole Winter Soldier problem goes away.

It always comes down to the need to have a way to choose one domain to the exclusion of the other three. Traditionally the advice I’ve seen has always been to look at the other domains until you find the right configuration.

But sticking with the OS for now, all through the movie, people are being forced to choose. Explicitly, objectively, being forced to choose: side with the Accords, or side against them. The one thing virtually every character in the movie has in common (except Zemo) is that they are forced to make that choice.

I often see discussion of the story form representing the message the author wants to send. It seems pretty clear that the message the writers of Civil War want to send is that there’s no good or easy choice – that neither fixed attitude can be sustained for long. That’s why I think the story outcome is failure and judgment is bad: the Avengers break up (which sets the stage for the next Avengers movie, by the way) and Steve Rogers’ personal problems aren’t really solved – he’s ended up worse off than before, giving up his shield and the name Captain America (also explicitly referenced in the next Avengers movie, Infinity War)

Now someone with a J in the first letter of his name is going to tell me I’m wrong again, which is why I’m keen to see his way of distinguishing between things being subject matter versus story form, and between being subjective to the character versus objective to the story.

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Very interesting discussion.

Points being made in favor of OS Fixed Attitude revolve around the Accords. To which I ask: why do they exist in the first place? Because superheroes are causing collateral damage as they ‘solve’ crises.

The Accords are an attempt to solve the problem. They are not THE problem – the supers making a mess is.

Get rid of the Accords? The Avengers are still mucking things up.
Stop the Avengers from mucking things up? Now there’s no reason for complaint.

I agree with OS Activity.

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“Supers making a mess” = symptom (not the problem)
Enact the Accords = reaction (not the solution)

Where in the actual story on the screen is there a solution of the Avengers no longer going out to fight criminals? The end of the movie in fact enacts the opposite: Cap and his faction are going to keep doing what they’re doing, He even writes Tony a letter to that effect. The final outcome of the OS is that the split between the two factions of Avengers becomes permanent. We can see that as a solution to the problem of incompatible notions of how heroes should behave, or we can see it as a failure to come up with a solution, but the movie doesn’t give us any indication whatsoever that the heroes aren’t going to continue going around fighting crime as they see fit.

This is not a Situation.

From the character’s perspective, yes it appears as a problematic situation but this is not what Dramatica is concerned with.

We could also look at it as being in the domain of manipulation: not only is everyone trying to change the way people think about heroes, but if you simply removed Zemo’s manipulations, the whole Winter Soldier problem goes away

This is not Manipulation.

A Domain of Manipulation suggests problematic manipulations–not that someone is simply manipulating individuals. This is the mistake people make when they use Dramatica’s storypoints as storytelling, instead of Storyforming.

Problems with developing a plan, problems with playing a role, problems with changing one’s nature, or with the conceiving an idea–this is what Dramatica refers to. Difficulty in the conceiving or the conceptualizing.

Zemo kills innocent people in an effort to deliver misinformation. These are problematic Activities.

That’s why I think the story outcome is failure and judgment is bad: the Avengers break up (which sets the stage for the next Avengers movie, by the way) and Steve Rogers’ personal problems aren’t really solved – he’s ended up worse off than before, giving up his shield and the name Captain America (also explicitly referenced in the next Avengers movie, Infinity War)

This is a misunderstanding of both story points–from a Dramatica perspective.

From a fanboy perspective, it might feel like a failure (though I’m guessing many more liked seeing them go at it), but just breaking up isn’t an example of Failure in the Dramatica sense–that’s like saying it’s bad for William Wallace at the end because he had his guts ripped out.

In regards to the Story Outcome of Failure this suggests the Protagonist fails, the Solution fails to show itself, the Consequence ensues, and the Antagonist wins. Where do you see the Goal, the Consequence, the Solution, the Protagonist, and the Antagonist? I have a feeling you’ll have a hard time presenting a convincing argument for all of them that lines up with your understanding of the Overall Story.

Secondly, the Story Judgment isn’t about whether or not the Main Character is worse off, it represents whether or not the Main Character was able to resolve their personal angst and release their personal baggage (Good), or were they left saddled by the baggage, emotionally struggling to resolve their personal issues.

It also reflects the Author’s Judgment on the Main Character’s Resolve. Was it a “good” thing or a “bad” thing?

It seems clear to me that Cap did the right thing. He did “good”.

Besides that, I don’t see him maintaining deep emotional angst within a personal Throughline.

Then again, he’s the Influence Character not the Main Character. We don’t experience conflict from a personal perspective through his eyes, and besides–he has information we don’t know.

Which is why he can never be ‘I’.

I’ll answer the inequity/storypoint as storytelling in a bit.

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Okay, three things I want to accomplish with this post:

  1. Show what’s stopping me from coming to your side of the argument in broad terms (rather than just in reference to this movie)
  2. Answer your questions about what I see as the Goal, Consequence, Solution, Protagonist, and Antagonist
  3. Reset the context of this debate a bit so that I’m not in danger of sowing confusion in the Dramatica community among newer members.

1. Why I’m having trouble coming over to your side (a.k.a. that word, “objective” in its two contexts)

This, in a nutshell, is the problem I have with the stridency of how you’re presenting the notion of an objective story, identified through objective means: you can declare that “this is not a situation” and you can further declare that “this is not what Dramatica is concerned with”, but that doesn’t actually provide me with the means to come closer to your side of the argument. I need a framework that – in measurable terms – allows for the clear observation of one domain and the exclusion of others like situation.

There’s a frequent refrain here which amounts to: the storyform is not what the audience perceives but the structure underpinning the story (and please do correct me if I’ve phrased that wrong). The thing is, every time you then present the illustration, it’s coming from a subjective impression (yes, I know it looks objective and obvious to you, but that’s actually it’s still subjective until we can externalize the way we arrive at the conclusion). For example, very early on in the conversation, you said that 90% of the movie is just punching, kicking, and landing stupid superhero poses. Ignoring what I’m assuming is some hyperbole, I’d counter with the following:

  1. Most of the scenes in the movie don’t involve fighting, they involve people trying desperately to move the other person’s position. There’s a lot of debate scenes in this movie. When you choose one scene within an act and declare it the signpost, you’re privileging one scene over all the others. Which scene you decide to do that with has to have some qualifiable attribute that we can agree on. Otherwise we just pick the scene we “think” is important and fight over that – a highly subjective act.

  2. Furthermore, almost every fight in this movie comes out of a failure to reconcile very specific (and I’d argue, crucial to the movie) positions. You’ve cited the airport scene a number of times. Watch it again: almost every step of the way we see the characters being forced into conflict over the sides they’ve been forced to take.

Now, my take on the movie is somewhat irrelevant overall – what matters is arriving at a way of identifying what Dramatica refers to as the objective story through objective means (note the two different meanings for “objective” here.)

2. Goal, Consequence, Solution, Protagonist, Antagonist

For me, the story goal appears to me to be Impulsive Responses. Steve Rogers, as the protagonist, is trying to preserve the right of superheroes to act when they need to in order to prevent problems from escalating out of control. Note that he literally says this when the Accords are first introduced. Tony functions as the Antagonist in this story because he’s determined to put limits on what superheroes can do (for good reasons, of course – the death of a woman’s son explained early in the movie causes him to take on the belief that heroes must be reined in.) Before you tell me this is the relationship story, it’s not: everyone in this movie is dealing with this same problem, from General Ross (heroes need to be like soldiers) to Vision (we have to be reined in or people will fear us) to Black Panther (I don’t care about your rules, I’ll kill the man who murdered my father myself).

The story consequence is Playing a Role. If Steve can’t win the Civil War among the heroes, they’ll stop being heroes and end up playing the role of soldiers, following orders instead of their own consciences. At the end of the movie, what does he do? He drops the shield and gives up the name Captain America: he can no longer take on that mantle (i.e. play the role of the representative of American courage and patriotism.) The rest of the Avengers? Many have to give up the role of superhero.

I think the story solution is Trust. At any point in the movie, if either Tony or Cap (or the government, or the heroes) would trust the others, the problems would go away. All the way through, those in favour of the Accords are saying, “give it a chance, it won’t be so bad. We’ll fix the things that don’t work.” Cap’s side are all made up of people who don’t trust the idea of the benevolent government bureaucracy (Ant Man even says, “Hank Pym always said, never trust a Stark”, Tony begs Falcio to trust him – which he does, temporarily showing us how this thing could get resolved).

The end of the movie has everyone split apart – no more Avengers as we’ve known them – because they were never able to deal with their opposing positions (their Fixed Attitude).

3. This is not a debate between equals

I just want to point out – because a few times someone has said it’s great to watch this debate – that this isn’t two people with equal expertise debating. Jim is an expert in Dramatica with not just two decades of investigation and experimentation in it, but also a practice of teaching and applying the methodology.

I’m an amateur at Dramatica, fumbling around as best I can, but by no means an expert. I write novels for a living, so story is my bread and butter, but that doesn’t give me any qualifications to dispute a Dramatica analysis. What I’m arguing is not so much that I’m right about this movie and Jim is wrong (if you have to take bets, it’s likely the reverse), but that I can’t reconcile Jim’s reasoning in an objective and repeatable way.

So my goal here isn’t to prove myself right, it’s to find a means by which I can reconcile being wrong without having to just say, “Oh well, Jim’s the expert”, but rather, “Ah, following this set of steps, we can’t help but arrive at this through line being in this domain.”

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Was that a typo or did Marvel buy the rights to Greatcoats? :grinning:

Anyway, great post – a lesson in how to keep a forum debate on track and useful.

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Going to take these one at a time and hopefully answer your questions along the way.

As with all things Dramatica, a balance exists. The Goal and Consequence of a narrative work together the same the Protagonist and Antagonist do, the Main Character and Influence Character do, and any number of dynamic relationships within the model.

The balance between the Goal and Consequence manifest through their relative positioning in the narrative model. If the Goal of a story ends up in the upper right quadrant of a particular Domain, the Consequence will lie in the same upper right quadrant of the Domain diagonally opposite. This positioning ties the two Static Plot Points together, providing a natural harmony within the story.

So, a Goal of Impulsive Responses would need a Consequence of Progress, or How Things are Changing, in order to complete the narrative. A Consequence of Playing a Role would require a Goal of Doing in order to complete the narrative.

You likely didn’t know this when you pointed to a Story Goal of Impulsive Response and a Consequence of Playing a Role, but if you think of how these two story points relate logically, balancing them in the manner described above makes the most sense.

If we can’t fight the Empire, then we will have to live under their oppression (Story Goal of Doing, Story Consequence of Playing a Role - Star Wars).

Note: I know you requested for me not to provide examples from movies or other stories, but I think it’s an excellent opportunity to explain how these story points work in concert. Instead of speaking esoterically, I can point to specific examples, of stories that work, and explain how their individual Goals and Consequences play out.

If we don’t tear down the Matrix, then we will become batteries for computers (Story Goal of Obtaining, Story Consequence of Becoming, or Changing One’s Nature - The Matrix)

If we don’t consider that priests may be abusing boys, then the status quo will continue (Story Goal of Contemplations, Story Consequence of the Present - Doubt)

If we don’t get together, then we will be stuck wondering what could have been (Story Goal of the Present, Story Consequence of Contemplations - Moonlight)

If we don’t follow through on the deceased father’s plan for his son to live with his uncle, then we will come to the understanding that the uncle simply can’t be a father right now (Story Goal of Conceptualizing or Developing a Plan, Story Consequence of Understanding - Manchester by the Sea).

Hopefully, you can see logical relationship that exists when the Goal and Consequence are positioned this way.


Contrast the above examples with this:

If they can’t act impulsively, then they will play the role of soldiers (Story Goal of Impulsive Responses, Story Consequences of Playing a Role)

Actually, that sounds good…

…and that’s because acting impulsively is not Impulsive Responses, but rather DOING. It describes the process of engaging in problematic activity, not the state of mind that exists within the Preconscious (Impulsive Responses).

A Story Goal of Impulsive Responses would be someone pursuing a state of mind akin to panic or nervousness. When Impulsive Responses become a problem within a story, anxiety becomes an actual problem and animalistic instincts kick into play and wreak havoc (see Laura in Logan for an insanely great example of this).

Besides immersing yourself in film examples and reading the dictionary and contextual examples provided by Dramatica, another good learning tool (besides my Dramatica® Mentorship Program!) is the list of Gists provided within the latest version of Dramatica Story Expert.

There you will find references to being jumpy, being oversensitive, and being fidgety. On the other side, you’ll find being calm, and numbing oneself, and being unresponsive.

Yes, the Accords are a knee-jerk reaction, but the Accords are not shown to be problematic. They don’t create conflict, they just sit there. From the point-of-view of the characters, again, yes, they do like a problem and yes they argue about them the way they should when they’re looking at Symptom and Response, but they are not problematic in and of themselves.

In other words, the knee-jerk reactions do not overcomplicate things and there is no struggle impulsive response-ing to violence. Instead, they are depicted as responses to a symptom. The Avengers are free to do whatever they want and so, we need to lock them down (Symptom of Uncontrolled, Response of Control).

So the logic behind positioning Cap as Protagonist in a Story Goal of Impulsive Response begins to break down. If that was the Goal of the story, that would mean Cap would be trying to pursue an anxious state of mind or pursuing a calm state of mind.

That would also mean that Stark, as Antagonist, would be trying to prevent, or avoid this state of mind. So which one is it?

Is Cap pursuing a calm state of mind and Tony is trying to prevent it?
Is Cap pursuing an anxious state of mind and Tony is trying to prevent it?

Neither of these makes logical sense. In fact, if anything they seem to be on the same side when it comes to panic. The logical relationship between the Protagonist and the Antagonist breaks down and that’s a problem–because the Overall Story Throughline and the Static Plot Points are all about logic.

If the Story Goal is Impulsive Responses, then the end goal has to be this universal embrace of Impulsive Responses. Not talking about Impulsive Responses, but rather Impulsive Response themselves. This is what I mean about looking to the story points and their appreciations as indicators of storytelling, rather than inflection points of inequity. This is what I mean by looking at a storyform from the point-of-view of the characters rather than from the point-of-view of the story.

If the Goal is preserving the right for superheroes to act, well that’s an Obtaining Goal because the goal requires Obtaining, not Impulsive Response-ing. I use Impulsive-Response-ing as a means of illustrating the active nature of a Story Goal. I don’t believe there is a word in the English language that defines an active embracing of Impulsive Responses the way there is Contemplating, Desiring, Remembering, Understanding, Doing, Obtaining, Learning, Being, Becoming, Conceptualizing, Conceiving, and Progressing.

But neither is there a word in the English language for Past-ing, or Present-ing, or Future-ing. But Present-ing can be the Goal of a story. Chiron “present-ing” himself before Kevin at the end of Moonlight tells of a successful achievement of that Story Goal.


To further the logical breakdown, suggesting that Trust guarantees a lack of a state of anxiety or panic, means the Goal was a lack of anxiety or panic over the Avengers and the story ends in Failure.

But wait, isn’t everyone still in a state of panic over the Avengers? Was the Goal achieved or was it not?

None of this makes sense (and is very difficult to write, I might add!)

A Failure story means the Antagonist “wins”. The Antagonist, as the force for prevention and/or avoidance, is for the Consequence. So if the Goal is not met, and the Consequence falls into place well then, the character for the prevention of that resolution achieves the Consequence.

By this logic, this means Tony “wins” and because now things are in a state of progress.

What?

I’m not sure the story presents Tony winning at the end. I’m not sure Tony, in his attempts to follow along with the Accords, is somehow looking towards Progress as his end goal. And even if he was, I’m not sure that his version of Progress is the progress that is actually in place at the end of the story.

Once you understand the relationship between the Story Goal and the Story Consequence, and the relationship between the Protagonist and the Goal and the Antagonist and the Goal, trying to argue an illogical arrangement becomes almost impossible.


Contrast the above with this very simple representation of the forces at play:

  • The Story Goal is to exact revenge on the Avengers by tearing them apart
  • The Story Consequence of failing to exact that revenge is that the world will become a place where superheroes can do whatever they want, whenever they want, regardless of who they hurt or kill
  • The Protagonist trying to achieve that Goal of revenge is Zemo
  • The Antagonist trying to prevent that Goal and get everyone else to reconsider a different approach is Captain America
  • The Problem is everyone trying to Prevent and/or Avoid further casualties. As long as there is motivation to prevent violence, violence will continue to escalate.
  • The Solution to everyone’s problem is for someone to Pursue an end to the violence.

This happens when Tony turns on Cap in order to kill Bucky.

It’s all very logical and very simple.

Note how I’m able to describe them in short, clear sentences. Often when a writer takes paragraphs and paragraphs to describe a story point (not saying this is necessarily you), they are talking around the story point, rather than getting right to the point.

That’s why I refer to it as a “typical Revenge story” because more often than not, revenge stories end up examining issues of problematic Self Interest with specific problems of Avoidance, Pursuit, Uncontrolled, and Controlled. And by Self Interest I don’t mean selfish…I mean Self Interest in the Dramatica sense, as in “my way or the highway.”

I will address objectivity, subjectivity, inequity, and story points as storytelling in future posts. For now, I wanted to focus on a greater understanding of what Dramatica means by its concepts and terminology, and how one can simply and effectively determine these story points accurately within a narrative.

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Absolutely true – I had been playing with the model and ended up switching OS to Activities (Doing) which is how I ended up with consequence of Playing A Role (Sebastien problem of openness :wink:

Let me follow through with questions using your points, always with a mind to the overarching question “show me how Dramatica element of X is the only one that corresponds to this illustration”. If that doesn’t make sense, it will in a second:

You wrote: If we can’t fight the Empire, then we will have to live under their oppression (Story Goal of Doing, Story Consequence of Playing a Role - Star Wars).

Can you show me how “living under the oppression of the Empire” fits exclusively (or even predominantly) under the domain of Manipulation when the Dramatica for Analysis for Braveheart describes the domain of situation (in the context of the OS) as “England has taken Scotland for itself, attempting to suppress the natives through harsh and unjust laws.”

Doesn’t this sound almost exactly like what will happen if the rebels in Star Wars fail to fight the Empire?

You wrote: If we don’t tear down the Matrix, then we will become batteries for computers (Story Goal of Obtaining, Story Consequence of Becoming, or Changing One’s Nature - The Matrix)

I don’t have any difficulty seeing how this could explain the story goal and consequence of the Matrix, but using your oft-used axiom that the domain “describes how people are stuck”, would you say that the overall structural domain of The Matrix is that: “Humanity is trapped inside a virtual reality”. The OS Domain in the Matrix never feels like the problems arise from what people are doing (though you could reach for the rather poor offering of “robots are doing all this to use humans as batteries”), but rather from the situation of being trapped inside the Matrix? Again, I’m fine being told I’m wrong on this, but I need a clear way to differentiate between an OS Domain of Activities vs one of Situation, especially when so often the explanation for an OS choice of Situation is given as “everyone is stuck in this [prison, burning building, poverty…etc]”

You wrote: If we don’t consider that priests may be abusing boys, then the status quo will continue (Story Goal of Contemplations, Story Consequence of the Present - Doubt)

Hey, we agree on something!

You wrote: If we don’t get together, then we will be stuck wondering what could have been (Story Goal of the Present, Story Consequence of Contemplations - Moonlight)

Without trapping you in specific choice of language (i.e. tell me if I’m being too literal), why must the goal be “the Present” in this case? Couldn’t it as easily be “the Future” or even “The Past” (if we don’t break with what we’ve been doing – not getting together – then nothing will change)?

Maybe a better phrasing for my question would be: if the story goal is The Present, shouldn’t there be something about “right now” that is vital to the story goal?

You paraphrased: If they can’t act impulsively, then they will play the role of soldiers (Story Goal of Impulsive Responses, Story Consequences of Playing a Role)

I don’t think this is how I wrote it, but for the sake of clarity, I’ll rephrase: If the Avengers are forced to suppress their innate heroic responses , then they’ll be forced to play the role of soldiers.

Now, given I mucked up the domain for the Story Consequence, it would have to be in How Things Are Changing, which, again, I’d have no problem accepting as the Story Consequence (“If the Avengers are forced to suppress their innate heroic responses, then the terrible things they’ve been fighting will only get worse”)

Again, though, I’m just looking for a systematic criteria by which to include or exclude domains as possible choices in each of the throughlines.

You wrote: Yes, the Accords are a knee-jerk reaction, but the Accords are not shown to be problematic. They don’t create conflict, they just sit there. From the point-of-view of the characters, again, yes, they do like a problem and yes they argue about them the way they should when they’re looking at Symptom and Response, but they are not problematic in and of themselves.

The Accords absolutely create problems: they set off all of the government interventions that set off conflicts. The German military police are sent in with kill orders instead of capture, once Winter Soldier is brought in, he’s put in a cell with no legal recourse, Captain America and crew are ordered to be captured (Ross says earlier that if Cap doesn’t sign, Tony has to arrest him). Yes, the characters have subjective reactions to them, but the Accords aren’t imaginary or irrelevant: the second they’re voted on, the situation for everyone changes.

You wrote: Contrast the above with this very simple representation of the forces at play:

The Story Goal is to exact revenge on the Avengers by tearing them apart
The Story Consequence of failing to exact that revenge is that the world will become a place where superheroes can do whatever they want, whenever they want, regardless of who they hurt or kill
The Protagonist trying to achieve that Goal of revenge is Zemo
The Antagonist trying to prevent that Goal and get everyone else to reconsider a different approach is Captain America
The Problem is everyone trying to Prevent and/or Avoid further casualties. As long as there is motivation to prevent violence, violence will continue to escalate.
The Solution to everyone’s problem is for someone to Pursue an end to the violence.
This happens when Tony turns on Cap in order to kill Bucky.

It’s all very logical and very simple.

Your story breakdown relies on the notion of economy of explanation “It’s all very logical and very simple”. Okay, let’s consider that:

Defining the villain’s plot (the thing literally everyone watching wants to fail) as the goal, and the person trying to stop the evil plot as the antagonist, creates a gap between story structure and audience appreciation so wide that it risks rendering Dramatica unusable (to a novelist, anyway), because it completely reverses the way we think about story. Most Dramatica analyses have at least compatibility between the story structure as interpreted by the contributor and the understanding of the audience. But the “James Bond is the antagonist because it’s the villain who has the goal of destroying the world and he’s trying to stop them” provides exactly zero utility to someone writing a story.

Furthermore, virtually every thriller ever written and almost every murder mystery (modern mysteries most often have a killer who is continuing to kill or at least execute their plan during the story) involves the villain having and executing a plan – they’re the one with a goal. The hero in a thriller, like the detective in a mystery, is fundamentally reacting to the villain’s efforts, trying to find a way to stop them.

So there has to be a way to distinguish between “The story goal is to exact revenge on the Avengers by tearing them apart” versus “The story goal is to stop Zemo’s revenge plot before it tears the Avengers apart”

The “very logical and very simple” assessment also breaks down for me because the story points almost entirely ignore the most fundamental operating dynamic in the movie: Heroes are being forced to choose sides – coming to blows against their own friends – over whether they have the right to act according to their own conscience.

Continuing the counter-intuitiveness of the story points you gave (in other words, why it’s not “logical and simple”) is the fact that they communicate a story in which revenge will solve the world’s problems by preventing superheroes from fighting crime on their own. That would be an absurd moral universe for the writers to create – completely reversing 14 previous films, all executive produced (the “movie runner” if you will for the Marvel Cinematic Universe) by Kevin Feige.

You’re also communicating a story in which people just need to stop trying to prevent casualties in order to end the violence. On its face that makes no sense here. It could if we had a different movie (say one in which we had to allow ten people to die in order to save a million), but that’s not this movie.

The problem – what stops the overall story from being solved – isn’t that everyone is trying to prevent casualties; it’s that they can’t find a way to reconcile the opposing positions. They can’t find a compromise that would stop the conflict (and never do, which is why the story ends in failure and the Avengers break up.)

That, regardless of terminology, is what’s going on in this movie. You can apply an interpretation that privileges revenge over choosing sides, but doing so fails to describe the movie that ends up on the screen – certainly the one the Russo brothers seem to have envisioned.

On the subject of Captain America, a couple of times you’ve definitely excluded him by saying he knows something the audience doesn’t therefore cannot be the main character (I’m paraphrasing – feel free to correct me). Independent of the fact that I have no idea what this vital secret is that he knows and we don’t (is it supposed to be that Winter Soldier killed Tony’s parents? Because that isn’t remotely important to the story until the very end), you’ve said that therefore Tony is the main character.

He’s not.

Look, terminology and models aside for a second, nobody watching Captain America: Civil War, thought that Tony Stark was the main character. We do not see the story through his eyes, we see it through Cap’s. Tony comes into the story (after his first scene) determined to enact the Accords and rein in the Avengers, and never once does he waiver from that position until the very end. Cap is constantly dealing with doubt – as do we because we’re seeing these problems through his eyes – over whether to sign the Accords. Cap even at one point comes within a hair’s breadth of signing them because Tony, as the IC, pushes him so hard to change his approach (“just sign it now, we’ll work out the problems later”). However with everything that happens, Cap only grows into (to borrow a Jim Hull term) his steadfast determination that a hero has to be able to trust their own judgment and do what’s right, not just what they’re told.

Again, I’m happy to be wrong about the story form, but I arrive at the end with two very big problems:

  1. The story form you describe doesn’t read to me as “very logical and very simple” (sorry to keep hammering that one) but actually the opposite – it requires great leaps of logic that reverse out intuitive sense of story and thus aren’t simple at all.

  2. Most importantly, while the operating mechanics of the Dramatica model are things we can stipulate to (e.g. that a story goal of “understanding” dictates a consequence of “developing a plan”), I can’t extrapolate from what’s here the means to methodically include or exclude domain choices in a story form. It feels like received wisdom from a wise master rather than the means to arrive at the same conclusion as that very wise master.

Dramatica is a sophisticated and inevitably complex model to apply, and it takes time and practice – I don’t at all dispute that. But the steps for correctly identifying a storyform have to have a coherent process to arrive at the answer – it can’t simply be through endless examples. That would be like trying to learn long division by being give a hundred examples of “X / Y = Z” and being asked to thus extrapolate the method of long division.

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