Finding source of conflict at different levels-direct vs abstract

If the story is both constantly shifting perspectives AND taken as a whole, then wouldn’t all perspectives have to simultaneously describe the storyform?

Even accepting that you can’t lock your feet down on what the perspective is, you can still lock your feet down on “this thing is the root of that conflict”. I mean, whatever process it illustrates, I think you have to agree that Hadley beat the inmate to death because he wouldn’t shut up. Maybe I’m wrong, but…that seems pretty concrete. You don’t really need any other part of the story to tell you that that’s why Hadley beat him.

Totally agree with this and get it. But it seems like Mental Relativity would suggest that this is only half of the picture in that the storyform describes both the story as a whole (a state) and as a flow through various points in sequential order (a process). If that’s accurate, then it seems that in order to analyze a story you would need to view the story as both a single unit and a flow. Without both halves of the picture, the storyform would look both right and wrong at the same time depending on perspective. (can you tell i’ve reading that memo from 1992 or whenever that was posted earlier?)

What I mean is that if you look for direct, concrete connections-like making too much noise leads to death-then it becomes difficult to see the connection to the overall plot that’s looking at the Future. You start talking about things that happened before that, and before that, and then you start asking questions like doesn’t this just lead to an infinite regress and can’t you really point anywhere on the quad?

But then, if you’re looking only at the overall picture, maybe you start pointing to individual pieces and either forcing them to fit somewhere they don’t fit because of this overall picture, or start making unnecessarily long chains to show that actually it was the Future that caused Hadley to beat the inmate to death and not his present noise making.

Combining the two, then, should give the fuller picture. That making noise leading to death isn’t a process specifically rooted in the Future (and is therefore a better descriptor of Domain than Plot on an individual moment level), but that it does play into an exploration of the Future by looking at the Future in that, I don’t know, they’re seeing a man lose his future by being beaten to death? They’re seeing what kind of future things they can expect to deal with in prison?

So the danger, then, seems to be in taking one view over the other and getting it wrong. Like if you tried to take an overall picture view that they were all dealing with Past because they all committed crimes then you would ignore all the future conflict like the kid being willing to testify and Norton losing his number man or his corruption getting exposed. Or if you took a direct connection view that because present noise making is in the OS it can be used in isolation to describe the OS Concern and not be strictly an illustration of the Domain.

***hope that makes sense and didn’t ramble too much. I was going to go in a whole different direction when I first started typing, but I like this train of thought much better.

Except, I don’t think that the current form of Dramatica views much of the flow of the story. I think it only sees part of that flow, and otherwise views the whole structure at once. After all, there are four possible views on structure and dynamics:

  • Structural view of Structure.
  • Structural view of Dynamics.
  • Dynamic view of Structure.
  • Dynamic view of Dynamics.

If I recall correctly, the model presented to us with Dramatica is the first, with shades of the second. Thus, I would argue that Mental Relativity would tell us that, actually, we only get 1/4 of the picture with the current form of Dramatica, plus a little bit of the flow.

I think we are starting to scratch the surface of that remaining 3/4 with those unusual, and awesome, articles that Jim and Melanie are posting in their efforts to build the quads for the (currently) binary dynamic choices, though.

I’ve read that memo as well. It helped me significantly with the idea of Holistic Problem-Solving Style, but I’ll have to re-read it every time for that. From what I gathered, though, that memo was exploring how the few dynamics of current model work – how things actually get twisted and why. Due to that, I’m not entirely sure that it holds the answers to the questions posed here. Though, there’s always a chance that it does.

On this, I think it’s the difference between the experiences of the minutia of a large-scale event while it is happening and an understanding of the whole after all of the events that make it up have transpired. That is, within the moment, there are many possible interpretations for what is happening. However, once this experience has completed, and some distance is gained, a greater understanding of what has happened can be reached.

That’s probably why documentaries are so interesting. They show the in-the-moment interpretations that different people with different contexts had at the time, while also reviewing the large-scale event through the greater understanding that distance from it has brought.

It seems like Dramatica functions similarly to a documentary in the sense that it focuses on the overall event, while having the capability to see some of those smaller, in-the-moment experiences.

Now, I await to hear from Jim and/or Chris where I went wrong in the above.


Sorry for the double-post, but it made more sense, as this hits different concepts than my previous one.

Except, you do need it. I’ve never seen Shawshank. I can only trust you that the reason that Hadley beat him is because the inmate wouldn’t shut up. From my point of view, it could have been just as easily that Hadley beat the inmate because it was fun, or because he was dared by someone, or maybe he’s just mentally ill and didn’t actually know what he was doing. Any number of reasons would make total sense to me.

Without having seen the story, I have no context. I can’t tell why Hadley beat that inmate from these posts alone. There’s nothing that directly connects the blubbering to the beating. I must guess that they are connected or trust someone who has seen the movie when they tell me that those events are connected.

The context definitely matters.


But why was the inmate crying? Why were Hadley and the inmate both there at the same time? Refusing to explore past “he wouldn’t shut up” is like saying the bullet killed the victim, case closed, and not asking who pulled the trigger.

Now, if you looked at the story as a whole and saw lots of occasions of overabundant emotion causing trouble, then your conclusion might be correct (Problem of Feeling). But in this story you have to look a little further, to the idea that the inmates are looking for future pawns and this guy really doesn’t want to be their future pawn.

I know sometimes it seems like you can keep asking why forever, but the context of the whole story tells you when to stop.


Or, if you hear silence and see I “liked”’your post then I totally agree with you :slight_smile:


Pick any storyform, look at the sign post order. Then start a new form, pick a different sign post order, and try to recreate the first storyform. Order matters. Even in a structural view. That’s why there are dynamic questions.

It specifically describes a (story)mind as being seen as both a state and a process. It specifically describes observations being explored in sequential order. Of course that’s relevant to a discussion about Sign Posts.

Clearly you have to have experienced the story to know what’s in it. Watch the movie and then argue with me about whether Hadley beat him for making too much noise or because he thought it was fun.

This is a very bizarre argument to make, by the way. I’m trying to assume that you’re just trying to make the point that context is important—something we all already agree with—but you were doing the same thing in the August thread where you said you hadn’t read it yet and yet were somehow still trying to tell me why I was wrong.

When you know what the plot is as a whole, you can say the scene is an exploration of dealing with future prison corruption, but you have to have already figured that out to say that. If you are trying to analyze the story that isn’t helpful because it’s saying that you have to know the storyform in order to to find the Storyform.

Also, you can say that the FULL scene-the scene as a whole-is an exploration of future corruption. But that’s no reason to force this one moment within the scene to be about the future when this one moment might only be showing that conflict comes from being in a corrupt prison (or might only be showing Delay, etc). While the whole scene might be an exploration Futuring, he didn’t die because he was Futuring. He died because he wouldn’t shut up.

And finally, seeing the plot as a structure shows you the plot all at once, that the plot all as a single thing is simultaneously exploring Future Present Past and Progress and that the Concern is Future. You can’t take a simultaneous view and extract a sequential order. In order to determine which sign post this is in, then, you must necessarily look at the events in the scene in a way separate from the view of the plot as a whole.


Greg, are you saying that someone not shutting up could never be Futuring (source of conflict of The Future)? Or just that in this particular scene it isn’t?


There I was attempting to string together the context that was being provided through those posts along with the synopsis. That was more or less an experiment in attempting to be an “objective” viewer of the “subjective” experiences presented by the readers. I felt it was fair in that context because far more information about the plot/story is given within an analysis thread. Of course, it did not take much until I felt there was a point where I could no longer add to the discussion without having the full context, which is why I did start reading the book.

For the argument I made in this thread, it was meant to be taken at a much more limited, scene-level scope. As that appeared to me to be what the thread was about: How to use an analysis at the scene level to support choices for a greater context.

I’m not denying that. That’s the exact reason that I said “plus some of the flow” in my earlier post. Some order, some flow, is baked into the model. The way that I read the original question was whether it makes sense to attempt to suss out the flow during the experience versus trying to determine the flow based on the overall context. The whole context, is of course, needed at such fine-grained levels, which is again, why it came to a point that I felt I could no longer contribute to the discussion in the other thread.

For clarity, the above two paragraphs meant that I saw the question thus: How should a scene-level analysis be used to support the choices of a greater context, and should that be done using the experiential flow of the scene, or with the whole context of the story in which the scene is in?

Perhaps that was too limiting, considering the scope of the discussion, though.

Isn’t this another way to say, “Once you have seen the whole movie or have read the whole book”? In other words, have access to the whole Storyform, even if not consciously?

You can when it’s baked in. This made me think of concurrency and parallelism in software. Those are, in effect, simultaneous views of the system running all at once, especially on a multi-core processor. In order for a system designed in that way to run, in any way that makes sense, there must be order baked into the running state. Which elements should be taken care of first? Which elements and states are more or less independent from one another? Which elements need to be synchronized, and when? Without baking in that order, such a system isn’t possible.

Of course, that’s an extremely linear-based way of thinking, but it has holistic elements, as the system must be viewed and balanced as a whole to get any workable design.

I’d like to respond to this, too, but I don’t feel like anything but a real-time discussion would be conducive to my thoughts on this one, unfortunately.

And, just because it’s such a good question: I wish to ask the same thing that @mlucas did.

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I’m going to take this part of your question out and answer something else! :blush:

What I am saying isn’t necessarily all that clear because I’m still trying to see into the space between my own two questions. Lol. But I think there’s a couple things I’m saying.

I’m saying that this idea of context without a direct connection between conflict and the source seems overly complicated to me. Much easier is the idea of conflict having a direct connection to the source (blame it on my preference for linear problem solving!). While I can see how the idea of “the guy gets beaten to death as an exploration of Future” can be helpful, I can also see much more how it can be confusing.

And that’s why what I’m saying regarding the Future is that this particular moment in Shawshank doesnt need to be seen in terms of Future. The scene at large gives us inmates getting placed in the system where their lack of a future hits home and we’re told/shown that most new fish come close to madness on the first night. This is a direct connection between concern and Future.

And then the actual plot portion of SP1 is not just everyone getting checked in (work), but the inmates placing bets and rooting for their bet to win (attraction), The guards being attracted to the noise and telling everyone to shut up or get sent to the infirmary (repel), and Andy asking what the dead man’s name was (attempt). I’d prefer a better way to word it and connect everything, but the plot shows us that when a man’s future is taken away because of the brutal beating he recieves, the inmates tell the new fish that it doesn’t matter what his name was, he’s dead.

So that’s a direct connection for Concern and Sign Post 1 showing an exploration of Future by looking at Future. No other example of Future driven conflict is necessary. Therefore, it makes more sense to me to see if the inmate getting beaten to death would work as Element, Issue, or Domain, and leave it out of discussions about Future.

Now, I don’t know that that approach would be helpful to anyone but me, but it does seem to be pretty necessary to me to be able to look at scenes that way.

To be fair. The thread was probably as much about me trying to figure out exactly what I’m trying to get at as anything else. Ultimately, it seems it’s about me getting around this idea of needing multiple connections between conflict and source, or of saying ‘well, there’s not a direct connection, but the context of the scene is that they are exploring future’. Again, I can see the use of that, but if I have to rely on that, then it becomes practically useless to me personally.


Very cool Greg. This is exactly how I would approach it when figuring out the storyform – you definitely don’t need to see everything in every scene. So you just note down what you do see and move on. Later, once you’ve got a candidate storyform, that’s when you might go back and see how Future was there in the background of that scene.


This is really cool. Creating connections between the source of conflict and conflict itself has always been tricky for me, especially when writing my own stories, so I like seeing this practical example with “The Shawshank Redemption.”


I feel like I probably shouldn’t open this can of worms, but since the rest of this topic is out of my system now, here’s my answer to this question.

What I would say is that, as a source of conflict, no, someone who is currently crying and making a lot of noise could NOT be an example of Future. However, as conflict-not the source of conflict, but the actual conflict itself-yes, someone who is right now crying and won’t shut up could find its source in the future. The way it plays out in Shawshank isn’t that the future is making Fatass cry, but that Fatass crying makes Capt Hadley shut him up.

What are your thoughts, @mlucas and @hunter

I think I agree with this as stated, because of how careful you were to state it like that. But I think the more holistic view would include Future as a source of conflict, like this:

  • Future considerations (fresh fish = future pawns) leads to Fatass crying leads to Capt Hadley & guards beating Fatass to death.

Which can be simplified to:

  • Future considerations leads to Whole episode of prisoner getting beaten to death

So that second bullet is an example of the “zoomed out” Concern-as-source-of-conflict level. While if you zoom into the scene level you may not see the Future considerations as easily or at all, you see other story points (maybe PSR items or Problem quad stuff).

So, I would say it’s both.

EDIT: re-reading your post I think I sort of just repeated what you said? Seems like the only difference is that I’m saying something in the story can be both a conflict and a source of (another) conflict.


Worded like this, though, is it even conflict? There’s no noticeable inequity, just some guy balling his eyes out.

Together, you have made it sound as though the crying shouldn’t even be interpreted as just “plain ol’ conflict”, but instead, only as something that happens in between to allow for the later illustration of potential and actual conflict.

That is, only once we know that someone doesn’t want to see or hear the crying do we know that it is trouble. However, now you must ask why these two things can’t co-exist. Why is he crying, and why shouldn’t he be crying? That sounds like where the source of conflict lies. By both your posts, it appears that the generic answer to this question is “future considerations” (both for the dude who is crying, and for the dude who beat him up).

The above leads to the hypothetical question, though. What if “future considerations” were not the answer? Say, for example, that the answer were more akin to “due to prejudice”… That’s an exercise for later, though.

All of this is another way of saying what I think you both are saying. Some context, something where there can be a “between”, is necessary to find a source. But, I add to that, it seems to be that “leads to” is too specific and linear.


Sorry – I was not trying to describe why it’s a conflict or what makes it a conflict, only referring to the events/items from the story in as few words as possible.


I’ve typed out several replies and not been happy with any of them. I’m going to try to just keep this one simple. Also, even as i typed this reply, my view was still growing and changing, so keep that in mind. When writing the first paragraph,I didn’t necessarily plan on saying what ended up in, say, the fifth or sixth paragraph. Anyway…

The “whole story all at once” method is valid, and clearly works, but I think using it in isolation can lead to unnecessarily long connections being made in order to prove a story point. For instance, in the scene we’ve been discussing, saying that Future leads to the prisoner crying leads to the prisoner getting beaten to death seems to be starting with the Concern and taking the scenic route through one moment in one Sign Post in order to show that all of the conflict in the story is rooted in the Future.

But you don’t need every moment to be rooted in the future to have a Concern or even a Sign Post of the Future. In order to have a Sign Post with the “all at once” method, you need to be able to show that a chunk of about 7-8 minutes of screen time is rooted in the Future. To have a Concern, you need to have about 30 minutes worth of screen time.

Because you need a full 30 minutes over the course of 4 Sign Posts to have a Concern, one Sign Post can’t fully give a Concern. So rather than saying a Sign Post is rooted in the Future because that’s the Concern, it would make sense to say that the conflict of a Sign Post is rooted in X as an exploration of the Concern of the Future.

And since the prisoner getting beaten to death is only a minute or two, it can be neither a sign post nor a Concern. So it would make sense to say it happens as an exploration of the Future, but I see no reason to start building a chain of connections to the Future.

Think of it like this. Exploring the future takes time. It’s temporal. Therefore it makes sense to look at that as a holistic/non-linear connection. But being rooted in a process is a state. It’s structural. So it makes sense to look at that with as a direct/linear connection. If that’s accurate, the “all at once” approach would be best seen by making the shortest, most direct connection between conflict and source of conflict and would need to be used separate from, but in conjunction with the holistic connections. That would mean that, in any Sign Post, the conflict of the Concern would only need to be described as it relates to the whole plot while the conflict of any one Sign Post only needs to be described as it relates to that one Sign Post and the conflict of any one moment only needs to be described as what’s happening in that moment, but that everything can be described as an ongoing exploration of a more zoomed out level.

In that way, you avoid unnecessarily long connections that run the risk of creating more confusion while simultaneously keeping all of those connections in a description of how they relate both linearly and holistically to the storyform for what is ultimately a fuller, more complete picture of what’s going on.

Now here’s the thing about that. Where the “all at once” method requires you to view the storyform all at once, the other method forces you to view each part of the story as the tiniest chunk possible. The first should give you the best feel for the story overall while the second, if you can figure out where to place each of the smaller chunks, should give you the best opportunity to check your work and know if you’ve got a working storyform or not by measuring all the tiny direct connections.

No. Worded this way, it is only storytelling. It could be either conflict or source of conflict depending on whether it causes or is caused by something else. My argument is that within Shawshank, it’s the direct reason that the guy is killed, the source of conflict. Hadley doesn’t kill him because the guy has a bad future ahead of him, but because he wants him to shut up. If instead, Hadley had beat the guy to death and then the guy wouldn’t stop crying because he had lost his chance to live a full life, I’d say it was conflict.

Totally agree. Think of it as an approximation of what is actually meant.


So, only to be a troll, I’ll paraphrase you. :smiling_imp:

Hadley kills him because we wants quiet in the near future.

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Is this a good place to put the “It’s not about the nail” reference?

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