Drivers and Concerns

When working through illustrating story forms I’ve almost always put great efforts into illistrating Concern and almost none into story drivers. Drivers were really an after thought, if a thought at all. And they always felt a bit like putting together a piece of machinery and finding there were a few parts left over. Surely they were important and belonged somewhere, but darned if I knew where or how to force them in without taking everything apart again.

Having already illustrated the concerns, the story drivers always left me feeling like I was really stretching for a way to cause an action to lead to a decision (or vice verse) that would let me deal with whatever Concern is already illustrated. But the last few days I’ve been toying with a side project and decided to look at the drivers first. It just makes sense, after all, since the drivers are what drive the story into the next set of concerns.

What I found was that coming up with the drivers first allows for one to more naturally push the story toward, say, a Plot Concern of Learning whereas the previous method of illustrating Concerns based on the Domain often felt random or disconnected. It’s easy to say “Learning is going to look like this” and then discover that what i’m trying to set up doesn’t really explore Learning as a source of conflict or doesn’t really seem to match the message I’m tryimg to get across. But when I illustrate the story driver first, how the story is naturally driven to explore Learning as a source of conflict, things no longer feel random or disconnected from the domain, and the conflict feels more natural to both the story and the story message.

Anyway, there’s no big revelation there or anything, just a personal breakthrough, I guess, that I was excited about sharing.


To share an example, my OS of Physics could be described as something like “searching for the Last Battleground”. This search pits the majority of OS characters against multiple beasts and obstacles. For the Sign Post of Learning, I would normally think about the Domain and what Learning would look like under that and come up with something like “Learning that the enemy is amassing it’s forces”. Okay, I can see how that could create conflict for some characters, but not for these characters. That doesn’t really fit the story I want to tell or the message I’m working toward here.

But when I look at the Driver first and come up with “a decision by the Bad Guy to go after the magic item forces the villagers to abandon their homes”, I start seeing how abandoning their homes can lead to all sorts of situations where gathering information about the mystical magical lands they are entering becomes a source of conflict.


Actually, the way you just put this is a big revelation for me. I’ve always had exactly the same problem with Drivers. I don’t know why it never occurred to me that it makes more sense to start with the Drivers as the context for what happens in the Signposts instead of the reverse.

I’ll be interested to hear what others say.


Awesome, glad to hear that it may be useful for you, Lakis. I’d love to hear if making this change helps you out on future projects. I thought maybe I’d end up being the only one doing it backwards this whole time and almost didn’t post.

To be honest, it only occurred to me how helpful it was to start with drivers when I was offering advice about drivers vs sign posts in another thread:

That example is how I always try to look at drivers and sign posts and how I try to use them, but they have never been as easy to illustrate as when I just sort of typed that example out starting with the driver without even thinking about it. When I took a moment to consider why that one example had been so easy, it was obvious. The driver drove the story to where the sign post would need to be explored. It was one of those smack-yourself-in-the-forehead moments because I’d been being a dummy for so long.


Same here! I’ll want to try illustrating the Drivers before the Signposts from now on. Thanks, @Greg!