Finding source of conflict at different levels-direct vs abstract

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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This isn’t the first time I’ve suspected you of playing skeptic and/or contagonist! Lol. But to be firm in my position, no. He wants silence right now! :grin:

Okay so I actually was thinking about this again when another way of looking at it hit me. I left it alone, but since you bring it up again, I’m going to go find that thread and post on it again. See what you make me do?!

The antagonistic-y roles are usually my favorite, at least as a writer.
I’m a rebel at heart, though you wouldn’t know it in real life.

Well, Thought does eventually leads to Knowledge, but will it fulfill your Desire to amplify your Ability?
Sorry… That was a horrible pun.

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Greg, I’m not sure if you are misinterpreting what I’m saying or not (?) but in my head what I’m trying to do is extremely simple, while you seem to be seeing my method as something highly complicated. (?)

Look at it this way – in the Pitch Perfect analysis, there’s a moment where Chris asks everyone what the OS is about, and it’s like “oh, a singing competition”. I think that was about about Domain (Physics obviously). So now you look at the story and say, geez, everything in the OS is about singing acapella and trying to win an acapella competition (Concern & Goal: Obtaining).

Now, with that in mind, you can suddenly fit the whole OS story in your head and realize that everything in it stems from that Physics+Obtaining source of conflict or more accurately, drive. Events, scenes, groups of scenes, acts – none of that conflict would exist without this drive; there literally would be no story.

That’s what I mean by “zooming out” to see Domain/Concern, and I think it’s important to be able to do that.

I agree with Signposts it’s not as simple – sometimes you can see the thing driving and running through the entire Act, other times you only see a few specific beats.

Did this response even address what you were talking about or am I way off base?

I disagree with this. You can have an example of any story point in any amount of screen time / words. When Vizzini shouts “Inconceivable!” it’s an example of OS Concern & OS Signpost 1 & OS Problem and probably Direction too. Of course you could never see that on its own, but it’s evidence you can use to figure out the storyform when you start looking at the commonalities throughout the story.

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So first off, if it seems like I’m picking on your method specifically, I apologize. I do kind of think of you as the face of it, but not as the one championing it or as the only one who does it that way. I think that is the direction Jim and Chris and probably Melanie push people in. So it probably is the best way to view things. But I think Mental Relativity almost demands that there be another perspective. One that is different, yet equally valid and such that when the two are combined equal something greater than the sum of its parts.

That said, that method certainly CAN be simple. But I thinks it’s also been shown that it can be extremely difficult, or extremely confusing. There’s no shortage of threads on here where someone was unable to see a given conflict as an example of a given process (Nevermind that many of those people were me).

Take Coco as an example. There was confusion about whether the MC story was Present or Past. For many, the story appeared to be about the conflict that arose from the Past. Sure Miguel is without a guitar right now and decides to steal one causing him to be cursed to the land of the dead, but none of that would have happened if his great great grandmother hadn’t forbidden music, a process of the Past, they might say. The same type of statement you made about Pitch Perfect (haven’t seen it so can’t use that one). But his great great grandmother isn’t there to stop him. Her past hate of music has nothing to do with him. But his family’s present hatred of music does. The process of taken a zoomed out view isnt wrong here, but it did allow for a mistaken view of the story which made things more complicated. All I’m saying is that a zoomed in view maybe would have shown that the Past wasn’t the root of any of that conflict and would have then allowed one to change that zoomed out view. I’m really in agreement with you, but just saying the process needs another view to complete it.

Correct. My fault for speaking in averages and generalities. I shall concede this one to you in theory, sir. However, are you saying that Vizzini shouting ‘inconceivable’ is the entirety of an entire throughline? I haven’t seen it in a while, but I’d be surprised if there weren’t more to it than that. Just that one line showing Conceiving may well be a broken down zoomed in view, though, which would mean you actually agree with me! (Here’s where you shout a reply of “inconceivable!”)

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