Knives Out Analysis

But isn’t this what the character thinks, not what the Author is saying? If we look at it as a whole, we see that it was all a misunderstanding, that she never poisoned him at all, right?

When people Speculate, Rian shows things go horribly wrong.

Harlan slit his throat because of Speculation about what would happen to her.

He killed himself for no reason—blinded by what might possibly occur to his friend.

Hmm, I can see that. And blinded by what could happen to himself, right? It’s not like he waiting to see if he starts to get short of breath or something. He just assumes he’s going to die.

There’s no proof that he’s been poisoned, but he kills himself anyway as a sort of precaution.
All those questions he asked Marta about what will happen to him if she can’t find the antidote.

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Yes, exactly. Ransom’s whole scheme was motivated by Speculation as well.

Is this the Memories>Falsehood part of her quad?

I think I’m still confused by the difference between Projection and Speculation. I mean, I kind of get it. But in practice I have a hard time deciding if a particular illustration is one or the other (e.g. was Harlan Speculating, or was he Projecting into the future).

So, the Premise for Jim’s structure would be something like:
“When you get out of your way and give up guessing what might happen you can work out how to stop something”

Which sounds pretty good.

I had pegged it as something like:
“Keep focusing on doing what is right and you can transform a particular group”

Which, to me, also feels good.

I can convince myself of what I think are compelling arguments for what I thought the OS, IC and MC were and for all the Story Dynamics… but… never fleshed out the RS.

Just for curiosity sake, and to see which is inaccurate, and why I went ahead and tried to find gists that I felt worked.

I had thought RS with mostly Marta & Harlan, Marta & Benoit:

Throughline: PHYSICS Playing the Game & Working the Case
Concern: OBTAINING Finishing what someone Started & Bringing the Guilty to Justice
Issue: MORALITY Making a Case for Doing the Right Thing
Problem: FAITH Having Blind Faith in Someone (Harlan with Marta, in terms of entrusting her with his will and being able to pull off the ruse beyond his death. And Benoit with Marta, he sees the blood on her foot right from the beginning, but pegs her as having a kind heart from the moment he meets her)
Solution: DISBELIEF Distrusting a Particular Group (Thrombeys)
Focus: CONSCIENCE Doing the Right Thing & Following the Rules (of the investigatoin)
Direction: TEMPTATION (unsure what this would be)
Catalyst: ATTITUDE unsure about this one too)
Inhibitor: CHOICE making a decision
Benchmark: DOING Enacting the Ruse & Working the Case

vs. Jim’s RS - Still with Harlan & Benoit?? Or is this supposed to be with Marta & Family?

Throughline: PHYSICS Playing the Game & Working the Case
Concern: UNDERSTANDING The Overdose Misunderstanding
Issue: CONDITIONING Overcoming Conditioned Responses
Problem: THOUGHT Brainstorming, Reasoning, Considering
Solution: KNOWLEDGE Knowing the Truth about Something
Focus: DESIRE (not sure what this would be)
Direction: ABILITY (being well suited for a job?.. unsure about this too)
Catalyst: INTERPRETATION making sense of something
Inhibitor: SITUATION Being stuck with/without someone
Benchmark: LEARNING Learning something the hard way

This is a Relationship between the privileged and the underprivileged, and it grows through Physics - through playing a game. It’s driven by the Thought that we are family – we love you like our own (desire), so what can we do for each other (ability).

There’s an element of Conditioning with the thought of, “When I say jump, you respond how high?” between master and servant. You see it in the board game, as they’re both conditioned to each other, and accustomed to it, and this is just the way it is.

In the end, we Know Hugh we are.


This was actually how I confirm all storyforms, and why I knew Speculation was at the core of the argument.

What you’re seeing is the discord between objective and subjective perspectives.

Harlan/Ransom is the Antagonist/IC with a Crucial Element of Projection.
Marta is Protagonist/MC with a Crucial Element of Speculation.

This does not mean Harlan is restricted to simply Projection within the story – it means that his POV is tied to the ultimate meaning of the Premise through Projection – in its relation to the MC Crucial of Speculation.

Another way to think about is that Harlan’s POV of Inequity looks like Projection from an Objective Point-of-view.

Looking at the divergence or convergence of the subjective view with the objective view, Harlan comes through as Projection (my kids will most likely f— my fortune up, so let’s make sure that doesn’t happen).

In terms of strict isolation and within the context of Conceptualizing, Harlan is blinded by Speculation just like everyone else.

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I’ve read this a half dozen times but every time I think I’m starting to understand it, I loop back.

So just to be clear, when you say “objective point of view” here, does that mean the Crucial Element, though expressed as an MC/IC dynamic, is “objective” insofar as it ties together the whole story (e.g. through the premise?)

This would explain then why in a change story, the IC’s crucial element is not part of his throughline and why Inequity from the IC perspective looks like Projection from an objective view.

This probably warrants another post, but the Crucial Element is only crucial insofar as it helps the Author understand the intention of meaning behind a Premise (the storyform).

Are we talking about Speculation or Projection here?

You can’t bring up one without the other, because it only means something in relationship to the other.

There is an inequity at the center of a story impossible to define. If you could, there would be no need for a story. I like to think of it as that empty spot between the Four Throughlines when visualized as towers. If you want, think of it as the “doughnut hole” of a story. :grin:

In Knives Out, this emptiness looks like:

  • Speculation from an objective perspective (They)
  • Speculation from a subjective perspective (I)
  • Inequity from the objective subjective (You)
  • Thought from the subjective objective (We)

The Premise of this story argues the giving up, or abandonment, of Speculation as an appropriate method for resolving this doughnut hole. You need Projection to know what that actually looks like. If I held my hand out at arms length and asked, “Is this higher or lower?” you would not be able to answer without understanding my context.

Same thing with Dynamic Pairs.

All this to say that yes–by objective I mean the Author/Audience’s understanding of the Premise (storyform).


Thanks Jim. That is actually super helpful. I think I finally got this with the premise on my current story, and this post confirms it.

I would vote for this (or for an article from you–put it in your queue :joy:). The Crucial Element is a topic that keeps coming up in the forums. I’m always linking to a couple of your older articles, but think this adds a Crucial (hah) additional perspective.