Characteristics Quad for Justification

As I heard others reflect in the Conflict Corner episode 2, finding justifications has also been difficult for me. Today I tried something, which makes it a bit more concrete.

I wrote the following justification for a scene, where motivation needed to be established, using the conflict as I see it for this act of the story.

Motivation: You can support the established order and rules in order to pursue Justice unless to stay alive you need to passive-aggressively oppose the established order by avoiding notice/Conflict

I needed this for the beginning, to establish some context for motivations.

The MC issue is Obligation, which fits well with the justification as well. I had placed the justification somewhere in SP 1, and saw that the MC PSR placed an almost identical theme as the Resistance/Current early on in SP1: Becoming as it relates to Security leads to Becoming as it relates to Threat This tells me to angle the scene more to the MC.

It is an underlying conflict, a character/element-based conflict, to which I’ll add the PSR/gist justification. This motivation makes an appearance toward the end of the story in the changed motivation.

For me, it works, making a concrete contrast to work with, applying it to the story context on an element level.

In my story, the MC is in this scene, but the OC is the protagonist. And while it does hint at an on/off yes/no justification, it’s the starting point onto which to frame the deeper justifications that are more conflicting on an emotional level. Here we have Justice vs Peace. But on a deeper level, we need to bring in the emotion argument for justice vs the emotional argument for peace, tied in to his unique ability.

Update: for the end of the story, this motivation for the changing OC becomes

Motivation: You can oppose the established order and rules in order to pursue Justice unless to stay alive you need to passive-aggressively support the established order by avoiding notice/Conflict.

The amplification changes, from L/R to Up/Down, and becomes reason for the story outcome/judgment.

Doing this will give me 16 character/element-based justifications (or scenes) in context of the characters who represent those elements.

In general, I am finding these posts very hard to follow (or give advice on) because the lack of context and quantity of jargon makes me feel obtuse.

I have a question about this specifically:

Does this mean that your character enters the scene opposed to the established order but then changes her behavior to passive-aggressively support the establish order by the end of the scene/sequence?

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This would be an example of where going down into the quad below an Element to establish conflict for it only makes things more complicated. This Motivation:

Has lost all sense of being about Obligation, or Delay, or wherever it’s coming from. I would strongly suggest not trying to write conflict for a specific Storypoint by looking at the items underneath.


@didomachiatto I think you will get a lot more mileage using the PSR for your scenes. Characteristics elements can come out in any scene, sometimes in interesting ways (e.g. the Skeptic’s skepticism might show itself as “culling all your dumb ideas” in a scene with Reduction as the potential or resistance).

Make the second part of each justification the “being” part – thought, knowledge, ability or desire. Part of justifying is to hide away something deeper so that we don’t see/consider it anymore.

Also, it works WAY better when both halves of the justification statement employ the same element/Method. Oppose vs. Oppose, or Delay vs. Delay, etc.

The formula you used was:
You can oppose in order to pursue UNLESS you can need to support in order to avoid.

Instead use (for example, for Oppose):
You can/want/need/should oppose in order to thought/knowledge/ability/desire
You can/want/need/should oppose in order to thought/knowledge/ability/desire

For PSR based scenes, you can start with the PSR Variation to get a feeling for the entire scene’s high-level conflict. e.g. Delay vs. Delay
Then you can do an opposing justifications statement for each of the child elements. Pursuit vs. Pursuit, Support vs. Support, Oppose vs. Oppose, Avoid vs. Avoid.
Generally it will follow that natural quad order for Potential, Resistance, Current, Outcome:


I hope that helps!


I think you will get a lot more mileage using the PSR for your scenes. Characteristics elements can come out in any scene, sometimes in interesting ways (e.g. the Skeptic’s skepticism might show itself as “culling all your dumb ideas” in a scene with Reduction as the potential or resistance).

Finally reading through the Subtext manual I saw that @jhull was suggesting that for OS characters instead of using the characteristics (at least in the first draft), to just identify their story function e.g. Luke is a “Whiny Farmboy” and Han is a “Space Pirate”. I thought this was interesting as I’ve read other non-Dramatica advice to this effect (not sure if it comes from Swain initially or someone else – I think I read it in one of Bell’s books). Bell’s formula is “adjective of manner + noun of vocation” e.g. “Suicidal Cop” (Lethal Weapon). This approach suddenly made much more sense to me seeing it as a shorthand for dealing with OS characters, and it makes even more sense when you tie this description or function to the OS throughline.


There seems to be some confusion with the approach I’ve been demonstrating in Conflict Corner.

The heart of my method seeks to generate a conflict, make sure it IS a conflict and then break it down so I can rebuild my original conflict while getting to a more universal conflict that can be used in ANY context. For me, this method not only proves that I’m dealing with a legit conflict, but also enables me to better understand what I’m saying. I feel that if you understand something regardless of context, it empowers you to control what you’re saying and represent it in more creative ways.

To verify that something is a conflict I first simply pit the two halves against each other and make sure I’m not a) saying the same thing twice b) just saying the opposite, and c) that both halves of the conflict each describe a truth about the Element you’re working with.

Only then will I boil down the conflict so it can be rebuilt without context–which, for me, also proves that it IS in fact a conflict. Usually if I run into problems there, I know something was off with my original context and I will be able to spot it once I’ve stripped away the context. It just won’t make sense. It won’t look like anything, or it will look like I’m repeating myself.

Whether or not you look at the quad below the Element for help, the main point is to come up with a conflict that’s to do with Element itself, not mini conflicts for the elements below. I don’t think this method resonates with everyone, but it really works for me as a sort of failsafe and way to strengthen what I’m saying.

Another trick that’s helped me is to not use the term to define the conflict, but using the term is a totally viable approach. For me, it just usually makes for a less meaty, less deep sort of conflict.

I agree with @jhull that your example has lost all sense of Obligation (or Delay). It seems like you were going with the element under Delay, but I fear that using a plug-and-play approach has ended up with a mad-libs version of the element you’re supposed to be defining.

This is not the way I have found success with my more analytical method.

Assuming you meant Delay, Subtext defines Delay as putting off until later.
How is “Supporting the established order to pursue justice” another way to say delaying?

I would suggest looking at illustrations of Delay first to get the gist of a truth you’re going to argue. Then (and this part is never easy, as you have to be your own Influence Character), come up with an opposing truth. Seeing that first bit in a different context which makes the two existing at the same time impossible.

This isn’t EXACTLY what you had written, so forgive me if your context is way off, but maybe something like:
People should wait for the authorities to handle a crime
People shouldn’t wait for others to solve things to avoid feeling useless

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Thanks for your explanation.
In my case, delay is built into the entire story. In my case it’s like blue pill/red pill. He’s putting off choosing a pill. But by putting off choosing, he’s supporting the establishment, allowing it to continue.

can be said:
People should wait (avoid/delay) to “take the pill” so that the world keeps (support) the status quo and have peace and order
People should risk (pursue) “taking the pill” in order to change (oppose) the status quo and maybe find justice

(as a note, by waiting he actually plans to try again later, not fully rejecting)

I think what this exercise did for me was to hash out perspectives and attitudes during the course of the story, not necessarily conflict for a specific scene. It’s playing with the tool, not the justifications, but a different kind of character-based tension.

I’ve built into the scenes’ conflicts according to the PSR.

I’m a little confused. Do you mean to say that your MC Issue is Delay? Or the OS Issue?

“avoiding to take the pill so the world keeps the status quo vs. pursuing taking the pill in order to change the status quo” does not look like a conflict to me. That looks like the opposite. Simply plugging in the elements of a quad into both halves of the statements does not automatically yield a conflict.

There’s two things going on with that inequity:
First, there is a critical step here being overlooked… and that’s to look at one of those truths from an alternate perspective.
Secondly, neither one really feel like a truism. If you boil down the essence of what you’re saying there by stripping away the context, what would you be left with?

Looking from the outside, I see something along the lines of:
People should wait to do something in order to support peace and order.

Does that feel like a notion which anyone could really relate to and get behind? Does it explain some sort of justification for waiting?

I think there is probably something about what “taking the pill” means in your story which will unlock the heart of your conflict. What does that signify or enable characters to Be?

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