Constructing a conflict

I am applying Dramatica & Subtext to writing a memoir about my mom’s struggle. Each quarter of the story will have several chapters, each of which has scenes.

My OS is in physics. I’m wondering if this would be a good expression of conflict within the signpost of Doing: “I need to comply with my mom’s mental illness … complying with her version of reality, except that it inflicts pain on me.”

That does not sound like conflict, but acquiescence. My vision vs her vision sounds like conflict. There would be pain, either way, most likely. Outside her world/home vs in her world/home might be a conflict. What she wants vs what is good for her life might be a conflict. Then, there do develop conflicts between family members about how to continue things. just thoughts


It’s hard to tell for sure without more context, but “complying with someone’s version of reality” doesn’t sound like either Physics or Doing to me – more like Psychology or maybe Mind.

1 Like

I think she fits in Mind, which puts me in the situation of being someone born and raised with a mentally ill parent. She fits in mind because she is stuck in the belief that what she perceives is reality. Our relationship would be in either psychology or physics, depending on the activity. I’m also in the situation because it’s affected my childhood and resources.

That was my first thought (assuming you are the MC and she is the IC) – MC Universe, IC Mind. If the Element quad involves Perception (possibly, just based on what you wrote initially – a problematic vision of reality) then the Concerns would be upper left.

In that case, I could see the OS being in Physics/Understanding if everyone is trying to understand what is going on. But Conceptualizing could definitely work as well.

1 Like

I can see the buds of a conflict in there, but it doesn’t sound like Physics to me.

Physics is all about a conflict over the physical activities.
I need to play baseball in order to achieve my dreams, but swinging a bat pops my shoulders out of their sockets.

It sounds like possibly Universe or Mind might be that throughline… and I think if you start thinking of it in one of those terms, the real mental dilemma will surface.

Just for info for me (haha): If someone was building a house or room to accommodate the ill person’s life, and family members argued about that: would it be in physics, then, or still mind or universe?

With every instance of conflict, you want to ask yourself … what’s the thing that makes you go “UGH! I wish I could do both” or “How can it be X, if it’s Z?”

Then identify the nature of that conflict.

I don’t have enough info from your example to pinpoint.
Is the family arguing dysfunctionally about the construction of this house? Are they arguing over who is hammering while they should be sawing? Do they think the builder is unqualified and that they should hire a contractor? Does the house being a physical box cause some sort of situational dilemma?


What I want to focus on is, initially, the experience of being mocked or put into awkward circumstances with peers because of my mom being convinced of her paranoia. This caused a lack of resources. So, that backs up my suspicion that I’m in Universe as a Main Character. I believed and supported her. Maybe that puts our relationship in Psychology. She was pretty adamant about her perceptions.

That sounds right – you were “stuck” in an external situation (having a mentally ill mother).

Having your mother in Mind also fits – she was stuck internally in her Mind.

This sounds like an OS of Psychology. If you look at the Psychology gists on Subtext, you’ll find a bunch that fit – “Being Mocked” etc. It sounds like everyone in your story is dealing with problematic ways of thinking, manipulations, etc.

Somewhere in all of this is a dilemma, but I’m not totally seeing it yet.

If your focus is on the experience of being mocked/awkwardness with peers… why was that a problem for you? Obviously, this is a personal thing so if you’re not comfortable talking in a public forum please PM me…

For some people, mockery might just roll off like water on a duck’s back. So if it bothered you–why? What’s your justification for why being mocked/feeling awkward is a problem?

That’s a good question. It forces me to look back on it objectively. I don’t have a qualm about sharing publicly, but it will probably be a protracted discussion. I’ll see how I can PM you.

I remember hearing about a relative being upset because she came home from work and two older kids had duct taped the ‘mentally disintegrating’ father’s mouth shut, so they could watch TV without hearing his repetitive vocals. She was upset because she felt he should have dignity. Isn’t there always an understandable and inherent conflict when loss of dignity is involved? I can’t even imagine the rolling of the back like water. Now, that would be a challenge as an actor, much less a writer. Very interesting.

1 Like

So the part in that which seems like a justification–the “why is it a problem for you?” … is feeling like the father should have his dignity. Which is probably Fixed Attitude. So that’s one half of a full source of conflict.

The father should not be treated like that so he can maintain his dignity,