Contextual Subgenres

As mentioned in the ‘Consequences that are Playing a Role’ post, my trek through the Dramatica and Narrative First analyses has been a rewarding and enlightening process. Having watched 64 out of the 400+ analyses thus far, I’ve learnt a lot. However, yesterday I discovered something I didn’t even know I had picked up: ‘Contextual Subgenres’ (got a nice ring to it, right?).

My theory goes like this: contextual subgenres are children of the ‘type’ level; umbrella definitions that house a number of story type ‘types’ beneath them. While they don’t represent ‘tones’, there are some similarities in the kinds of stories beneath them (Black Swan, The Devil Wears Prada and Whiplash, for example, all focus on the efforts to appease a taskmaster ‘boss’; while Star Wars, Grave of the Fireflies and The Imitation Game all have consequences focused on pretending to be okay in the midst of a great war). Obviously, every story has its own tone and content but there do seem to be a few ‘contextual subgenres’ that share quite a bit in common, to say the least.

Here, I’m going to focus on the OS concern or goal and the consequence, but these subgenres work for the MC throughline too. IC and RS, I’m not so sure just yet. I’ll look into that at some point.


DOMAINS

Psychology (Below)
Physics
Universe (Coming Soon)
Mind (Coming Soon)


Psychology

##Becoming
As a Concern/Goal

MAKEOVER STORIES: stories where characters are actively seeking or experiencing change either in themselves or others.

The Makeover Story frequently deals with transformations such as a renovation or change of image, such as a derelict church being transformed into a youth centre for the underprivileged, or a diva actress attempting to soften her public image. Helping The 40-Year-Old Virgin change his life; the attempted renovation of the Moulin Rouge and its artistic inhabitants, and the efforts to renovate a failing Network all explore the difficulties in trying to change the established state of things into something revolutionary or new.

EXAMPLES: Brokeback Mountain; Chicago; Harvey; Moulin Rouge!; Nebraska; Network; Pinocchio; Pretty Woman; She’s All That; The 40-Year-Old Virgin.
DYNAMIC PAIR: Evolution stories, stories where characters are experiencing a natural or unplanned transformation.

EVOLUTION STORIES: stories where characters are experiencing a natural or unplanned transformation.

The Evolution Story often deals with the transformation that comes with traditional life events, such as a homophobic mother becoming more tolerant as her son marries, or the changing family dynamic after the death of the strict patriarch. Being Moonstruck into finding romance where one never expected it; becoming more confident as one learns to dance in Shall We Dansu?, and experiencing growing familial changes in Terms of Endearment all explore the experience of growth through change and the many struggles along the way.

EXAMPLES: A Room with a View; Arsenic and Old Lace; Brooklyn; Four Weddings and a Funeral; Jane Eyre; Moonstruck; Notting Hill; Pillow Talk; Shall We Dansu?; Terms of Endearment; The Santa Clause.
DYNAMIC PAIR: Makeover stories, stories where characters are actively seeking or experiencing change either in themselves or others.

SOCIAL CHANGE STORIES: stories where characters are attempting to change a society’s way of thinking.

The Social Change Story is one in which characters attempt to change a society’s way of thinking, such as a group of activists attempting to get a law changed, or Flat-Earthers fighting to change the contents of scientific textbooks. Professor Marston and the Wonder Women’s attempts to change the way that the world is actively thinking about the male-dominated power structure is a way of exploring the challenges faced when attempting to change an established way of the world.

EXAMPLES: Professor Marston and the Wonder Women.
DYNAMIC PAIR: To be confirmed.

As a Consequence

DEATH CONSEQUENCES: consequences where characters will lose their lives or something inherently personal to them.

The Death Consequences, despite being in an internal domain, are almost always in their portrayal of death, such as the destruction of a beloved family home, or the melting of a magical talking snowman. Zombieland’s killing of humans to turn them into the undead; the assassination of witnesses as Collateral, and the potential for the City Slickers to die on the trail all reflect the experience of life-or-death scenarios.

EXAMPLES: Back to the Future; City Slickers; Collateral; El Mariachi; Forbidden Planet; Hacksaw Ridge; Kingsman: The Secret Service; Mad Max: Fury Road; Raiders of the Lost Ark; Serenity; Thor: Ragnarok; Team America: World Police; The Terminator; True Grit; The Wild Bunch; Zombieland.
DYNAMIC PAIR: Change Consequences, consequences where characters will encounter fundamental changes for better or worse.

CHANGE CONSEQUENCES: consequences where characters will encounter fundamental changes for better or worse.

The Change Consequences are always dealing with the changes of characters, such as a young woman becoming jaded as a result of divorce, or a pair of anthropomorphic shoes becoming overly-fond of a new owner. Becoming a loser due to a failed Election; witnessing the love of your life marry someone else at My Best Friend’s Wedding, and no longer living a naive life after one’s Roman Holiday all reflect the experience of positive or negative change.

EXAMPLES: Big; Blade Runner; Breakfast at Tiffany’s; Bringing Up Baby; Election; Enchanted; The Godfather; Hunt for the Wilderpeople; Jeffrey; Kramer vs. Kramer; My Best Friend’s Wedding; Pitch Perfect; The Quiet Man; Rain Man; Roman Holiday; Rosemary’s Baby; Se7en; Trainwreck; What’s Up, Doc?
DYNAMIC PAIR: Death consequences, consequences where characters will lose their lives or something inherently personal to them.

ENVIRONMENTAL CONSEQUENCES: consequences where the environment will be changed for better or worse.

The Environmental Consequences deal with the transformation of the internal story world, such as the gentrification of a small village, or the transformation of a river into a sewage system. A tiny dictator becoming king in Shrek; the galaxy turning to ash in Star Trek; the Nazi occupation growing in Casablanca all reflect the experience of an enforced change in the status quo of the story world.

EXAMPLES: Black Panther; Casablanca; Captain America: Civil War; Moana; Shrek; Sicko; Star Trek; Star Wars: The Force Awakens.
DYNAMIC PAIR: To be confirmed.

##Being
As a Concern/Goal

PERSONA STORIES: stories focusing on characters pretending to be something they’re not.

The Persona Story tends to deal with people adopting a character or persona completely at odds with their true identity, such as a billionaire posing as a homeless man, or a lion disguising himself to pass as a ‘vegan human’ in Brooklyn. Paying people to pretend that Florence Foster Jenkins is an excellent singer; taking on the role of a Midnight Cowboy to impress people, and playing roles in an effort to con the mark in The Sting all explore the falsehoods that come with being someone you’re not.

EXAMPLES: Annie Hall; Big Eyes; City Slickers; Down and Out in Beverly Hills; Florence Foster Jenkins; Ingrid Goes West; Lolita; Midnight Cowboy; Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day; My Fair Lady; Sideways; Sing; The Sting; Tootsie; Victor/Victoria.
DYNAMIC PAIR: Expectation Stories, stories focusing on characters trying to live up to (or be) what is expected of them.

EXPECTATION STORIES: stories focusing on characters trying to live up to (or be) what is expected of them.

The Expectation Story often deals with characters trying to pull off the act of trying to be ‘good enough’, such as a slacker attempting to ‘fit in’ with his hard-working colleagues, or an amateur footballer trying to keep up with the intense expectations of his team. Regular woman Andy’s admirable attempts to live up to the expectations of the fashion industry in The Devil Wears Prada; Bertie’s continued effort to be the king that his kingdom needs in The King’s Speech, and the overwhelming expectations placed on the musicians in Whiplash all explore the challenges one faces when trying to be what is ‘expected’.

EXAMPLES: Black Mirror: Nosedive; Black Swan; Dead Poets Society; Harold and Maude; I, Tonya; La La Land; Rebel Without a Cause; The Devil Wears Prada; The King’s Speech; Whiplash.
DYNAMIC PAIR: Persona Stories, stories focusing on characters pretending to be something they’re not.

As a Consequence

COPING CONSEQUENCES: consequences where characters will have to pretend to be okay under oppressive or unwanted conditions.

The Coping Consequences tend to deal with feigning happiness or complacency to some degree, such as a failed actor maintaining a smile as he works soul-crushing shifts in a Subway restaurant, or a group of politicians forced to tolerate and defend the whims of a dictatorial leader. The guys being forced to remain in their drag personas longer than they have to in Some Like It Hot having to stay silent to please the brutal Empire in Star Wars, and the bleakness of innocents pretending people aren’t dying all around them in Grave of the Fireflies all reflect the experience of feigning tolerance in an unacceptable or unwanted situation.

EXAMPLES: All That Jazz; Grave of the Fireflies; The Imitation Games; Some Like It Hot; Star Wars.
DYNAMIC PAIR: Condition Consequences, consequences focusing on characters trying to live up to (or be) what is expected of them.

CONDITION CONSEQUENCES: consequences where characters will be forced to live in conditions expected of them.

The Condition consequences often deal with the turmoil that accompanies the attempt to live in set conditions, such as a formerly-radical revolutionary trying to follow the rules of prison life, or a screenwriter attempting to write a script under strict studio boundaries. The Producers being sent to prison; Gotham being a city of disgrace if The Dark Knight fails; and Eddie the Eagle returning home to a life he wants no part of all reflect the experience of living under otherwise enforced conditions.

EXAMPLES: Bull Durham; The Dark Knight; Eddie the Eagle; The Producers.
DYNAMIC PAIR: Coping Consequences, consequences focusing on characters trying to live up to (or be) what is expected of them.

Conceiving

As a Concern/Goal

EXPOSÉ STORIES: stories where characters are attempting to expose or reveal something of note.

The Exposé Story frequently deals with characters’ fighting to expose corruption or inaccuracy of a manner of thought, such as a whistleblower attempting to warn the public that their government is lying to them, or an advertising executive trying to show a company the flaws in the way they’re marketing their product. Attempting to make people realise that computer-based firing is impersonal in Up in the Air; trying to expose the corruption of congress in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and working to figure out the truth behind a brutal crime committed In the Heat of the Night all explore the opposition and resistance met when trying to expose the truth.

EXAMPLES: In the Heat of the Night; Mr Smith Goes to Washington; Up in the Air.
DYNAMIC PAIR: Inception stories, stories where characters are working to plant ideas into the heads of others.

INCEPTION STORIES: stories where characters are working to plant ideas into the heads of others.

The Inception story often deals with psychologically manipulative efforts to convince others, such as a con artist gaslighting a painter into thinking that their work is terrible, or a spin doctor steadily giving the public the idea that everything is sunny all the time always. Amélie crafting elaborate scenarios to help people find happiness; the Prince’s dastardly plot to get Florin to view Guilder as their enemy in The Princess Bride, and the continued efforts to give the idea that anyone can cook in Ratatouille all explore the challenges faced when trying to influence another person’s ideas.

EXAMPLES: Amélie; Ratatouille; Sweet Smell of Success; The Princess Bride.
DYNAMIC PAIR: Exposé stories, stories where characters are attempting to expose or reveal something of note.

IDEA STORIES: stories where characters are trying to come up with a new or ‘fresh’ idea.

The Idea story often deals with the journey that ultimately leads to a conclusion, decision or idea, such as a writer struggling to come up with the next great American novel, or a judge attempting to conceive of a suitable sentence. Arguing over who came up with the idea for Facebook in The Social Network; coming up with a way to continue a Brief Encounter, and trying to come to a decision on what to do with a family legacy in The Descendants all explore the difficulties encountered when trying to come up with an idea.

EXAMPLES: Brief Encounter; Captain Fantastic; The Descendants; Nightcrawler; The Social Network.
DYNAMIC PAIR: To be confirmed.

As a Consequence

WRONG IDEA CONSEQUENCES: consequences where characters will risk people getting the wrong idea about something.

The Wrong Idea consequences often deal with the effects of people being misled (intentionally or not), such as an actress being painted as a bad human being after a comment is taken out of context, or the public buying into an intentional distraction technique by a corrupt government. The public getting a bad impression of the Spotlight team, and the intentional scapegoat created to take the blame for a murder in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri both reflect the experience of a misconceived notion.

EXAMPLES: Spotlight; Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.
DYNAMIC PAIR: Failed Idea consequences, consequences where characters will be forced to confront their initial failed ideas.

FAILED IDEA CONSEQUENCES: consequences where characters will be forced to confront their initial failed ideas.

The Failed Idea consequences tend to deal with the effects of characters confronting how their initial ideas are no longer accurate or tolerable, such as a talentless reality star forced to confront the idea that their fifteen minutes of fame is over, or a cult member finally starting to accept the idea that their faith in an ideology has stolen years of their life. Wonder Woman confronting the fallibility of man, and the failed ideology of Doctor Zhivago both reflect the experience of a failed idea.

EXAMPLES: Doctor Zhivago; Wonder Woman.
DYNAMIC PAIR: Wrong Idea consequences, consequences where characters will risk people getting the wrong idea about something.

NEW LIFE CONSEQUENCES: consequences where characters will be forced to conceive of a new way of life.

The New Life consequences frequently deal with the effects of characters that are forced to come up with or find a whole new lifestyle, such as an ex-fighter looking for a new outlet for his anger in a caring environment, or an English-speaking racist attempting to come up with a new lifestyle in a foreign country. Reliving Groundhog Day over and over again with new ideas, and conceiving of a new way to live alongside dragons in How to Train Your Dragon both reflect the experience of coming up with a new way to live.

EXAMPLES: Groundhog Day; How to Train Your Dragon.
DYNAMIC PAIR: To be confirmed.

Conceptualizing

As a Concern/Goal

LEGACY STORIES: stories where characters try to envision their place and legacy in life.

The Legacy Story usually deals with the devastation or questioning of family, social or professional legacies, such as an Ethics professor trying to figure out his place in the faculty hierarchy, or an ageing pick-up artist attempting to envision a new family-oriented direction for himself. Attempting to determine the heir to the throne in The Lion in Winter; trying to maintain family unity while going in an individual direction in Eat Drink Man Woman, and trying to eradicate the skinheads’ presence in American History X all explore the challenge of envisioning one’s mark on the world.

EXAMPLES: 45 Years; American Beauty; American History X; Being There; Eat Drink Man Woman; her; Inside Out; Sunset Boulevard; The Lion in Winter; There’s Something About Mary.
DYNAMIC PAIR: Conspiracy stories, stories where characters are knowingly or unknowingly part of a plan or conspiracy.

CONSPIRACY STORIES: stories where characters are knowingly or unknowingly part of a plan or conspiracy.

The Conspiracy Story typically deals with secret plans, schemes and manipulations designed to push the characters into uncomfortable or unwanted scenarios, such as a film director discovering that the movie he’s been hired to make is propaganda for a controversial underground movement, or a performer discovering the bizarre brainwashing behind-the-scenes of the Eurovision Song Contest. Attempting to outmaneouvre a brainwashed Manchurian Candidate; uncovering the strange racial proclivities of a family in Get Out, and trying to figure out the intelligence of an AI in Ex Machina all explore the challenge of trying to piece a conspiracy together.

EXAMPLES: Conspiracy Theory; Dark City; Ex Machina; Flightplan; Get Out; Laura; Rear Window; The Manchurian Candidate; Westworld (Season 1).
DYNAMIC PAIR: Legacy stories, stories where characters try to envision their place and legacy in life.

As a Consequence

WORST-CASE CONSEQUENCES: consequences where characters will be forced to prepare for the worst possible outcome.

The Worst-Case consequences often follow characters forced to prepare for the absolute worst possible outcome, such as a deranged mayor attempting to plan retaliation for a long-shot nuclear attack on a small town, or Santa making plans in the event of the potential death of Rudolph. The misguided imaginations of those in charge leading to plans of attack in Arrival; the killer’s plan going ahead to identify the wrong person in Scream, and Lucy’s envisioning of a future with a lack of trust in I Love Lucy all reflect the experience of attempting to come to terms with a devastating outcome.

EXAMPLES: Aliens; All Good Things; Arrival; I Love Lucy; Scream.
DYNAMIC PAIR: Circumstance consequences, consequences where characters will be forced to figure out a way to go on, given challenging circumstances.

CIRCUMSTANCE CONSEQUENCES: consequences where characters will be forced to figure out a way to go on, given challenging circumstances.

The Circumstance consequences tend to deal with characters trying to find a way through their devastating or otherwise unwanted new circumstances, such as a new mother forced to envision a life for her children in the midst of war, or a group of writers trying to find a way through a life of endless rejection. Coming up with a plan to live alongside the bizarre goings on in the house in The Others and trying to conceptualise a life filled with loneliness in The Station Agent both reflect the experience of trying to figure out one’s life, in the midst of challenging circumstances.

EXAMPLES: The Others; The Station Agent
DYNAMIC PAIR: Worst-Case consequences, consequences where characters will be forced to prepare for the worst possible outcome.

ISOLATION CONSEQUENCES: stories where characters will be forced to envision a life without someone or something important.

The Isolation consequences frequently deal with characters attempting to envision a life without something beloved, such as a new mother trying to figure out how to go on after her newborn is stolen, or a dog attempting to envision a life without her beloved owner. The police will have to imagine the killer in Mother; Morell and Candida will have to envision a life without the other, and Torvald and Nora’s envisioning of a life apart in A Doll’s House all reflect the experience of finding a way to survive without something important.

EXAMPLES: A Doll’s House; Candida; Mother.
DYNAMIC PAIR: To be confirmed.

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I haven’t read through your whole post yet, but I just wanted to say that the lack of 4s is giving me the creepy-crawlies. :stuck_out_tongue: In case you haven’t noticed, Dramatica loves the number 4; everything complete comes in two complementary pairs. I’m going to want to spend the whole time reading your post trying to complete your quads. :stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

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wonderful. Can you make a framework for Universe, mind and physics too.

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Oh, believe me, I tried to find the fours! I spent the whole morning trying to find the complementary ones. It’s why I’m convinced there’s more to this than what I’ve found so far – I’m only working from the stories I’ve seen or heard on the DUG, there’s a lot of stories out there unaccounted for at the minute because I just haven’t experienced them yet.

At the minute, it’s just a loose exploration of something I vaguely noticed. If it becomes anything of note, it’ll be revisited over time and others will discover things of their own, no doubt. If enough people want me to look at Universe/Mind/Physics, I’ll get to those, too.

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I was trying to do the Being ones to start with. “Pretending to be something you’re not” sounds most like Desire underneath it, which would make “expectation” Ability, which I could see. But then Knowledge and Thought… I’m not sure.

Yeah, those are the two I’m thinking, also. And for Becoming, I think Makeover is Desire and Evolution is Ability; Social Change might be Thought (not sure on that).

I’m not an especially strong academic/mathematic/scientific/etc. thinker so I get very confused with the TKAD fractal stuff. I tend to leave that for others. Trying to think that way for me is like trying to paint with a spaghetti brush – there’s probably gonna be one or two things that are right, but otherwise, it’s just gonna go wherever it goes.

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Well, under Becoming is Rationalization-Obligation-Responsibility-Commitment, but yeah, I get you.

I was just referring to TKAD generally, rather than what’s under the specific quads. I’m not sure they’d actually line up at the thematic level, but I imagine they do apply to TKAD somehow. I’m just not smart enough to do all that stuff.

This is fascinating work, from both a theoretical and an empirical point of view. I’d love to see what you come up with for the other types.!

Holy s%#*! This is easily the greatest post ever on these boards in 20 years.

You now have to finish all of it.

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GREATEST POST IN 20 YEARS?! I’ve peaked.

Just kidding. I’ll take a look at the other Domains as soon as I can. Glad you all found it interesting! :blush:

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I already have it on my todo list for today to add a “Subgenre” column for the Storyforms in Subtext…so get to work!

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@jhay . This is absolutely fantastic. Was just reading through and I must say it is awesome. Please keep going. I want to see what you have for Progress Goal and The Preconscious consequence.
Godspeed friend!

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Its kind of wrapping back around to Georges Solti :thinking:

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Howdy friends, and happy (late) fourth of July to you all from this limey bast-- Anyway, I have a little update for you all, and a question. There might be a couple of interesting things in here somewhere:

Almost finished the Physics Domain (not as easy as you might expect!), and can confirm: one of the types has a full, completed quad. I’ll let you take a wild guess which of the four Physics types has all four subgenres identified…

Some interesting patterns are emerging. The big one: as @actingpower spotted initially, the subgenres do, in fact, appear to line up with the thematic issues below their individual Types. I didn’t look to the issues when researching, but they do appear to be lining up in hindsight. However, the Issues of the stories themselves don’t line up with their subgenres (which I expected). For example, Collateral and Finding Nemo share a storyform but are in different subgenres. So that’s interesting.

I’m also starting to think these contextual subgenres work as ‘sub-types’ to some degree and have some form of fractal logic of their own, but I’ll explore that theory a little bit more when I come back with the Physics stuff.

Right. A question:

  • I’m considering skipping the consequences this time as I’m finding that the Consequences, by and large, are just reflections of the concern subgenres with very small variations and can feel a bit repetitive. So it’s up to you guys, and I’ll only ask this one time: do you want the consequences? (EDIT: My lawyer has advised me to stress heavily that this is NOT a threat.)

I also intend to go through the Psychology types and polish them up a little bit to reflect the stuff I’ve learnt while researching all of this, so look for that at some point this week.

Thank you for reading this far.

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I don’t have much to add, but I just wanted to add a thumbs up to this work – super-interesting and useful. It was timely for me too, as I was just reworking a thriller outline from Physics to Psychology, and noticed that the vast majority of psychological thrillers actually have a concern of Conceptualizing (as your analysis suggests). So just having that in mind could have saved me some time.

Not sure how to connect it, but that recent post that @Rachel_Blot started a little while ago about the personalities of different Concerns was really instructive as well – like a different lens.

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That’s the kind of result I’m hoping for from this big experiment. I really want it to help people ‘locate’ their stories in an easier way. It can be so hard to define from just a list of Dramatica terms and analyses, and sometimes can become overly confusing. Very happy to hear this would have helped.

That post was actually what made me look into this stuff. Seeing so many different interpretations of the types inspired me, and then I discovered the two ‘Being’ stories I had seen over and over. I give all credit to @Rachel_Blot for the inspiration.

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I definitely got something out of your descriptions of the Consequences, but I also understand what you’re saying. I don’t want to ask you to do extra work since you’re doing so much already (which is SO helpful), so I will be happy with whatever the consensus. Thanks again for doing this!

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Same feeling as @Jain – the Consequences stuff is great, but it’s kind of the icing on the cake; you could always add it in a second pass if it’s giving you trouble.

Incredible work so far!

It’s got to be Obtaining!

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Nopes @mlucas, it’s Learning. LOL. Great work @jhay. I really love the consequences. I’m not insensitive to the amount of work you have to do but with these things I’ve found that one gets fatigued at some point. So imho I’d say give it a single thorough passthrough. Thanks again for your great work

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