Does Bad Judgment Mean Personal Fail?

In the combination of options for the success/judgment of a story, does a Judgment of BAD mean, essentially that the MC made bad decisions?

Is there an inherent meaning behind this being called “judgment” that associates personal tragedy with the MC actions? Are we also saying that they had a moral/personal fail in some sense that CAUSED the judgment to be BAD.

According to

…it seems that her MC Solution has to be unsatisfied/a non-solution. Her angst continues. Consequence kicks in.

Spun another way, in my WIP (part 1 of trilogy), I see my bad end to be just a tragic discovery. The success learning (in itself) was good, but the knowledge gained is tragic and puts the MC at a worse place, opening up a need to keep trying, trilogy part 2. There is no relief.

In my story, the MC has been hunting for her family, to KNOW where they are; she succeeds to find where they are: Almost the entire family is dead. She’s glad she knows. But that’s not a good feel or good tone.

So as I’m framing this, does the storyform require an actual “judgment” of “if only___, then it would have been good”? Or is the term “judgment” not tied to anything but the tone of the end?

Which ties to the Consequence, of course. Does a bad judgment mean that the consequence has to be spun BAD?

Consequence is Conceiving-realizing they’re gone/coming up with a new idea for her life without them. But I don’t regret her finding out. She regrets the information, but is not regretting the search.

I think this is success/bad. That’s how I’ve seen it.


@didomachiatto Have you seen @jhull’s most recent article? I think it addresses exactly what you’re struggling with.

I think not necessarily. In the article, Jim gives the example of The Dark Knight which has a Judgement of Bad:

No one sees Wayne’s sacrifice at the end of that film as a bad thing. Maybe for him, but not for everyone else.


Success refers to whether or not the Protagonist achieved the Goal, and is represented by those Players achieving that goal.

The Judgement refers to the Author’s judgement over whether the story was a Good thing or Bad thing. It’s usually represented by the MC’s “personal failure,” even if they change.

Think of it more in terms of the four ways the Author could describe a story:
Is your story a:

  • Triumph? = Success/Good
  • Tragedy? = Failure/Bad
  • Personal Triumph? (But overall Tragedy) = Failure/Good
  • Personal Tragedy? (But overall Triumph) = Success/Bad

Remember that the MC is not a real person. It’s a proxy to represent one quad of the total 4 quads that make up the 4 POVs. The 4 angles to look at the same indescribable inequity.
And the totality of ALL OF IT describes what the Author is arguing about that inequity.

So in your work… are YOU saying the judgement of the story is Good or Bad?
If your story is a Success, why do you think overall that the story of that success is a bad thing?

In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare is arguing that “Romeo and Juliet,” is a personal tragedy. The lovers killed themselves. The ancient rivalry drove them to do that. Both houses lost their brightest youth… etc.

Silence of the Lambs, same thing. Personal tragedy. Thomas Harris/Jonathan Demm are arguing that while everyone captured Buffalo Bill, it didn’t stop the Lambs from screaming in Clarice’s head. Hannibal Lecter is escaped and at large. Clarice was perhaps used by the agency… etc.


I know this is the typical way of putting it, but the problem I have with formulating it this way is that in cases like this:

… clearly Harris/Demme are not arguing that catching Buffalo Bill is a “bad thing.” Catching him was a good thing, no matter what else happened. So how can the story judgement be bad? (Contrast with the Godfather where I think the author is arguing that achieving the goal is bad).

“While tragic to the individual” works, but I prefer @jhull 's new “while severe” formulation.


With that story in particular, I’ve always seen it that while she was able to catch him, the Authors ultimately label it a bad thing because of the side-effects of that particular process and outcome.

It’s like a “Sure they won… but at what cost?!” sort of feeling.


You bring up the Consequence several times. But what is the Goal of the story?

Also, is this a linear or holistic storyform? I ask because it sounds like the story isn’t necessarily resolved in a linear sense, but ends with the MC establishing a new intention. Is holistic a possibility?

Consequence is strictly connected to Outcome, not judgement as far as I can tell.

You say you that although it wasn’t good news in the end, the search wasn’t a source of regret. It was better to find out than not know.

That leads me to lean away from bad.


In your story, is that the MC’s personal source of conflict alone? The thing uniquely driving her in the story? Or is it her as protagonist, with everyone somehow involved in Learning what happened to her family?

I ask because it’s an important distinction to make… as one will have to do with the MC’s source of drive… and the other will have to do with the Success/Failure of the whole story.

Is your story overall about everyone involved with the hunt for the family? Or is it framed in a larger context of some other major goal?

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As a story dynamic, I’d think Judgment would apply to the whole story rather than just the goal—a judgment on the whole problem solving process taken. So maybe not saying that stopping Buffalo Bill is a bad thing, but more like saying that, while successful, the path the Storymind took will lead to Clarice still hearing the screaming of the lambs.


Right. It’s pretty clear that stopping Buffalo Bill is a good thing. It’s more that the story mind is still haunted and unresolved. There will always be more killers, more victims, more lambs screaming in the night.

@didomachiatto, you are a Subtext user, right? Have you tried “cheating” and saving out the different storyforms and uploading them all to Subtext? Then you can see which premise feels most accurate to your truth.

If you do try this I’d at least do Linear / Good, Linear / Bad, Holistic / Good, and Holistic / Bad.


Good question. The OS goal is to learn where everyone (like them) is hiding. The MC goal is to stay safe, and figure out how to get the family to safety when she finds them.

I am not currently. I have found the right premise that way.

From all this discussion, I think its sad but not tragic for the individual.

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So everyone has problems investigating, or it’s difficult to investigate? Difficult to physically collect evidence? And once they do learn what they need to learn, does that resolve the story?

I ask because if it’s more like the hunt for someone, and the story resolves at the climax of the actual hunt for the family, it could be an OS problem of Physics>Doing

A story that’s Learning would be more like… someone learning how to get along with each other. Learning about the family (who they are, what they do, etc.)[quote=“didomachiatto, post:10, topic:2693”]
From all this discussion, I think its sad but not tragic for the individual.

You can definitely still have a feeling of sadness without tragedy in a Success/Good story.
What about it in particular is making it sad?


Hidden information. A mystery of the disappearances. Learning it ends the protagonist’s drive. (She expects the info will change her present situation. It doesnt., so sad but not tragic). The MC is trying to avoid being known. She succeeds enough.

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Sounds cool!

So, everyone is caught up in the activity of finding out about the family. Why is everyone so interested in this family and learning what happened to them?

Is it just learning for learning’s sake or is there some bigger problem that learning would address?

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Yes, learning, gathering information, or covering up information. “What is really happening?” When that mystery is learned, the goal is accomplished in this part one. Obviously, when it’s learned, they’ll have to regroup and push forward to part two.

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Cool. Just wanted to be sure the negative feeling wasn’t coming from a failure with a different goal.

There was some discussion in the Writer’s Room yesterday about the “though severe” premise for Bad judgment stories. Some alternatives for severe were suggested like:

  • Extreme
  • Disheartening
  • Distressing

I don’t know if Jim will change severe to something else, but it was agreed that those were all valid ways to think of it. Maybe one of those will be illuminating for you.


Is this part of the new upgrade for Subtext?

It’s not updated yet @didomachiatto – success/bad for me is still showing “While tragic to the individual” but it will be updated. As @glennbecker said there was some discussion of alternatives so I’m not sure if Jim has settled on a formulation yet.

I voted for “severe” :slight_smile:


I’m still partial to severe, but an always willing to revisit it in the future.